Trade shows and exhibitions aren't just marketing opportunities – they're significant investments. Let's be honest: It costs a great amount of money, time and energy to make a presence at a trade show. Particularly if you're new to the game or an emerging business, it's critical to maximise the benefit of attending these events.

Here are a few strategies you can follow to approach an exhibition with confidence and optimise your trade show experience.

Understand how the trade show works 

You can do a lot to boost your ROI simply by better understanding the lay of the land and the processes of the particular trade show you're attending. Find out where in the overall layout your booth will be located – or choose strategically, if possible. Are you close to the centre? On the sidelines? By a busy aisle?

You don't always have control over where your display will be, but you can adjust your strategy to make the most of your particular placement. For instance, if you're on the outskirts, but the main hall doesn't open until the second day, plan for greater activity during day one. If there's a special event happening, assess how it will shape the demographic likely to stop by your stand.

Know your audience 

The look and feel of your display will have a huge impact on whether people are intrigued to stop by your booth and take a look at what you're offering. Consider your target audience and what will grab its attention. In today's tech-savvy society, for example, taking a modern approach and integrating interactive elements can make all the difference.

Knowing who your prime market segment is can also empower you to choose a more ideal venue, location and event for your trade show appearance. Similarly, this information will help you promote your presence ahead of the event, as well as follow up afterward. For instance, if your target audience is particularly active on social media, connecting on that channel could be more effective than email campaigns.

Focus on long-term benefits

You might not take enough orders to make a big profit during the trade show, however, exhibitions are still more than worth the trouble if you've focused on building long-term business relationships instead of just quick sells. These are the visitors that are more likely to become loyal customers for years to come.

Another way you can profit from trade shows in the long term is to drive strategic decisions. The event is a great opportunity to interact with industry experts and representatives of your key market segment – listen to their feedback, advice and responses. You might just discover the insights that lead to your next great business ideas.