With conference attendance and participation on the upswing, conference booth marketing can be an effective way for coaches to get new clients. What do you need to have in your booth to insure success?

Know Why You’re Going

First, it’s important to ask yourself, “Why am I going?” The obvious answer is to get clients and to connect with “door openers” to help you get clientele. Simply put, you’re going to make connections — to find, attract, and keep clients.
You only have limited time, and you must use the time at your booth judiciously. So, it’s important to strategize ahead of time. Asking yourself this question might help, “How can I connect with as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, in a fairly meaningful way?”
Clearly, you don’t want to spend too much time with one person. The idea is to connect with as many prospects as possible in the shortest amount of time. I’ve found its best to talk a few minutes to each person, just long enough to make a genuine connection. Ask for their card and follow up with an email or call once you get back.

Position Your Booth Well

Prime real estate in the exhibit hall can run as high as $10,000. But there are plenty of other spots available at a reasonable price.
When people enter the exhibit hall, they generally come in the main entrance and go to the right. The first several rows to the right and toward the front versus the back are premium spots for your booth. But anything on the right-hand side or at the end cap would be a good choice.

Draw Prospects In

You have approximately 10 seconds to draw a prospect’s attention once he or she is in the exhibit hall. You can cut corners in certain places, but the look and feel of your booth isn’t one of them. Do not give in to the temptation to create a do-it-yourself booth display.
You cannot run a for-profit business with a non-profit mindset. People will pay for what they value, and they will value what they pay for.
When it comes to running a business, it takes money to make money. Just be sure to tie every expenditure directly back to your business return on investment.
Go with a professional booth display, made of cloth not vinyl. And be sure to pay attention to lights and hardware as well. Today, most booth displays are self-contained and light enough to carry on a plane. Currently, I use Ace Exhibits for my booth displays and recommend them to others.
Before ordering your display, you need to determine your booth space. Usually a 10’ x 10’ booth space accommodates an 8’ long table and display. I recommend that you push the table against the back of the space and stand in front of the display. You want to remove all barriers between you and your prospects.

Sweeten the Deal

You should also purchase something sweet, preferably a nice quality chocolate, to place on your table to attract visitors. In my experience, chocolate draws more people than pens, key fobs, stress balls, and the like. Encourage everyone to take your chocolate. Most people will take you up on the offer.
Once they’re at your table, attempt to make a genuine connection. Good conversation starters are simple questions, “What do you do?” “What brings you to the convention center?” People are generally comfortable talking about themselves. As they talk, listen for where your coaching or other services might tie in.
I suggest purchasing a lock box for your booth where people can leave their business cards. For those that don’t have cards, consider providing tear-off sheets that leave space for the individual’s name, email address, phone number, etc. Just ask for the information you need.
Although you won’t connect deeply with someone at your booth in just a few minutes, express your desire to continue the conversation and suggest connecting some time soon. For example, “I would love to talk more about this. Are you free for breakfast tomorrow?” Or, “I’d love to chat more. Why don’t I give you a call after the conference when I get back?”
Conference booths can be a wise investment and effective marketing tool for coaches. Even if you gain only one or two clients from your booth, you’ll not only cover your costs you’ll make a lot of new contacts in the process. Who knows what doors that might open in the future?

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