We’re heading to Collision in Toronto next week. Publisher and EIC Bobbie Carlton will be sending back interviews and insights. The event will bring together thousands of next-generation entrepreneurs, investors and journalists from around the world.
Tradeshows and conferences are often touted as an important part of getting visibility for your startup or young company. Still, it’s not uncommon to have a serious case of sticker shock when you investigate what it costs to go.
Big conferences may require a tradeshow booth that can run in the thousands (even before you tack on the expenses of buying a space on the tradeshow floor). Then there’s the cost of getting your team to a faraway city (flights/trains/gas), hotels, meals out, as well as time away from the office and their regular work.
If you’re considering tradeshows as a part of your marketing strategy, here are some helpful tips for startups from the Lioness team.
Where to start when you’re going to a tradeshow:
- Look for special deals. Sometimes there are “Innovation Pavilions” or “Startup Villages” where groups of startups are clustered together in smaller booths. Sometimes the booths are provided, and you won’t need to provide your own booth and signage. Show up with your collateral and demo and you are ready to go.
- Do you have a partner who could showcase you in their booth? Larger companies will frequently invite their smaller partners to attend with them. You get use of their bigger booth, and they get more foot traffic and look busier.
- Get creative with your booth set up. You might not need the fancy formal booth. One creative option we saw in the past was a booth area set up like a living room with a sofa, rug, easy chairs and side tables piled with books. The company said they bought all the “booth” materials onsite at a used furniture store for a fraction of what they would have spent on a booth. Lots of people relaxed on their squishy sofa and comfy easy chairs while the sales team shared information about their product.
Or maybe you want to bypass exhibiting completely.
- Consider “walking the floor” (getting a ticket and attending instead of exhibiting). This can be a good way to meet people (an important aspect of tradeshows and conferences) without the big budget of maintaining and staffing a booth. This can help you decide if the expense is worthwhile next year.
- Apply to speak. Speaking at an event can be a terrific way to get visibility. Look for the Call for Speakers months in advance and see if you can get onstage. Access to the speakers’ lounge can have you rubbing elbows with other VIPs that you might otherwise only see from a distance.
- Today’s hybrid events might give you lower-cost online options. Instead of a booth at the show, look into virtual booths that you can staff remotely.
See you in Toronto!