The Art of Trade Show Presentations – Do’s and Don’ts

Do's and Don'ts

Trade show speaking opportunities provide a rare “stage” for businesses and individuals to showcase themselves in a way that goes beyond just their products and services, instead allowing them to connect with potential clients and foster industry relationships through thought leadership, vision, and market understanding. However, presenting at a trade show can be challenging, and certain mistakes can undermine the effectiveness of your presentation. As experts in storytelling for growth stage companies, with extensive experience in public speaking and crafting amazing narratives, the team at TXN Advisors has seen the big mistakes and the big opportunities first hand that come from that opportunity of being on stage. This article will share our findings for the best and worst things you can do when given the amazing opportunity to speak at a trade show.   

Don’t: Pitch Products   

This is far and away the single biggest complaint from audiences attending trade show speeches. No one joins these sessions wanting to hear a product presentation. Leave that for the show floor, your own booth, or a private customer meeting. If your presentation includes more than ONE slide on your company’s offering you are already in the danger zone here. There is a time and place for selling products, a trade show stage is neither.   

Do: Pitch Thought Leadership   

On the complete other end of the spectrum from pitching products is the concept of pitching “ideas” or said another way conveying thought leadership. People attend trade show presentations with the HOPE to learn something new or a new way of thinking. And most of the time they come away disappointed. Use your speech as a way of sharing your thoughts about the industry or market and what it will take to move it forward.   

Don’t: Be Vanilla   

Most trade shows have 50+ speakers across multiple days. Many of the show organizers have grown so weary of boring “lecture” type presentations that they began to move these slots to panels and then the panels became vanilla and scripted. In many ways trade show speeches have been so weighed down by corporate marketing polish that they no longer are worth attending.    

Do: Be Controversial   

Ok, we are not saying create a scene here. But these speeches are important and the participants need to hear things that will challenge the status quo. What is working in the industry and what isn’t? What are the customers doing that are making it hard to do business with them? What are the suppliers doing that they need to correct? Don’t be afraid to call your industry out a bit. We can assure you that the speakers that do this well are the ones that have lines of people waiting to speak to them when they come off stage while the vanilla presenters leave to an empty room.    

Don’t: Wing it   

One of the biggest mistakes presenters make is failing to clearly define their objectives and adequately prepare for their presentation. Without a clear direction, the message can become convoluted, leading to confusion among the audience. Lack of preparation can also result in stumbling over words, forgetting key points, or running out of time, and leaving a negative impression. At TXN Advisors, we emphasize the importance of clarity and preparation. We define our objectives and craft a well-structured presentation that conveys our message effectively. Thorough preparation and rehearsal ensure a smooth and confident delivery, capturing the attention of our audience.

Do: Weave a compelling story   

If you have the opportunity to speak at a tradeshow and grab the standard product or sales presentation your company uses you have already set yourself up to fail. Trade show presentations are DIFFERENT. They are equal parts corporate and individual. The presenter matters and therefore their story and their views must seamlessly weave their way through the presentation. These presentations are “one off” more often than you think with their own presentation, own story, and unique presenter. At TXN Advisors we specialize in building crowd-pleasing trade show presentations tailored to the presenter and the company they are representing, all driven by our myopic focus on telling an amazing story first and foremost.  

Don’t: Pack slides with content   

Look at your presentation. If more than 10% of the slides have more than twenty-five words on them then you either need MORE slides or your design and story is flawed. A common pitfall for trade show presenters is relying solely on verbal communication (often found as bullet points on slides) without incorporating engaging visuals or interactive elements into their presentations. Before you walk on stage you should do three review cycles with the sole purpose of removing words from the presentation and replacing them with simpler wording or better yet, with visuals that convey the same information. 

Do: Treat slides like jokes   

You are probably confused by this one…but think about it. Comedians spend minutes building suspense and backstory all for the final payoff of delivering the punchline. Watch that same comedian another night and the backstory might be a little different but the punchline never changes. Comedians know something that slide designers have forgotten…don’t worry about HOW you tell the backstory, just make it lead into the punchline. Slides should be treated the same way. Every single slide should have a SINGLE punchline. Want to convey two incredibly important pieces of information? Add a second slide. Oh…and that backstory…well that is what the slide is used for. Put JUST enough on the slide to remind yourself of the backstory while presenting, and then make sure you deliver the punchline clearly and concisely before moving to the next slide. 

At TXN Advisors, we understand the significance of capturing and retaining the attention of our audience during trade shows. By addressing these Do’s and Don’ts discussed above, our experienced team ensures that your presentations effectively communicate your mission, expertise, and value. Through meticulous preparation, relevance, accessible language, engaging visuals, and passionate delivery, you can  captivate your audience and foster meaningful connections. Let us know how we can help make your next trade show speech amazing!

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