by Tim Jennings | August 3, 2017

tim jenningsWhether you're handing out information sheets, T-shirts, stress balls or something more exciting at a trade show, making sure your promotional and ancillary materials look new and professional is a top priority for any exhibitor. After years in the custom shipping and transport-case business, this is a subject near and dear to my heart — and one to which I've given perhaps too much thought.

Trade shows are big business — and a big business opportunity. With increasing competition driving the rising costs of exhibiting at shows, your company wants to ensure that its investment is protected, and that means making sure your promotional and decorative booth materials don't get damaged or look shoddy. Here are some steps to consider:

1. Banish wrinkled banners.
Banners, posters, tablecloths, etc., are most often the first thing potential prospects see of your company, and could be reason they approach your table in the first place. But regardless of the money invested in these visual materials, if they don't look crisp and neat, they won't be nearly as inviting. Keeping a few household items in your kit will guarantee a good look at every show: A hair dryer can be used to remove wrinkles from vinyl banners; an iron or hand steamer can tackle the creases in your tablecloth; and in a pinch, even a spray bottle of warm water can get the kinks out of a backdrop.

2. Don't give dog-eared handouts.
It's fine — even encouraged — to reuse promotional materials, but even handouts need to look fresh and clean. Studies show that up to 70 percent of giveaways are thrown away in the host city. Don't give your prospects a surefire reason to toss your opportunity in the trash.

3. Offer something enticing.
You have staff to engage and network with potential clients, but in many ways your trade show materials are the public face of your business. These (hopefully) will go back home with your prospects. You're beginning a conversation with a potential client that will hopefully end with a lasting business relationship; your giveaways should be consistent with the importance of that aspiration.

4. Check for damaged goods.
Make sure imperfect materials doesn't make it onto your table in the first place by doing a quick but thorough check as you unpack. When putting the day's items away, do another check so you can remove anything that's been damaged during presenting.

5. Invest in quality.
The easiest way to avoid damage is to begin with quality items created just for this type of use. Trade show materials can take a licking. Choosing vendors that specialize in creating promotional goods that will stand the test of time. Similarly, be sure to use a suitable case to store and transport your stuff. I always remember that old saying, "Buy cheap, buy twice." A sound investment now can prevent a disaster — and extra expense — later.

6. Pack up carefully.
Double check that T-shirts are properly folded. Make sure flyers, brochures, white papers, etc., are stored in a neat and secure fashion to prevent damage in transit. Take the extra time to arrange your prizes or giveaways safely, so they don't break. If you are transporting the same materials each time you exhibit, custom cases can provide an efficient solution to your traveling woes, and help ensure that you arrive to the show with crisp, perfect items every time.

Successful promotional items keep the conversation going. Don't let laziness or poor planning sabotage a potential opportunity. I'm always excited to hear about other techniques exhibitors have developed from their experiences. Please share your personal strategies in the comments.

Tim Jennings is president of Custom Case Group, a collaborative enterprise between Engineered Packaging Solutions of San Dimas, Calif., and SCS Cases of Crystal Lake, Ill.