How to prepare your housing authority for a successful trade show

Regional events, like senior expos, are opportunities to strengthen your reputation while reaching your target audience. Your booth has one shot, a few seconds, to capture the right attention. Throwing together your organization’s brochures and applications along with an outdated photo board doesn’t cut it. In Forbes, Morgan Kelleher writes:

“Planning a successful trade show requires organization, creativity, and resilience.”

Preparation begins long before you fill out the registration forms. Plan for maximum outreach by addressing the needs of your nonprofit and developing a marketing strategy ahead of time.

1. Determine the target audience of the expo.

Expos and convention demographics vary, so it’s essential to know if the event targets specific groups, such as the elderly, veterans, or families.

An event like the Good Life Senior Expo in Texas is meant to “inform seniors in the local community about different options that they have in health care, living assistance” while other trade shows target families new to the area.

Your signage and design for an event like this differs from what you’d use to attract property owners and investors at an industry convention.

2. Define why your non-profit is there.

Understanding the expectations of your executives and board members drives impactful design and marketing. According to the UCEDC, a private non-profit Community Development Financial Institution:

“Clear goals guide your focus and priorities before, during, and after the event.”

Do you need to fill vacancies at specific properties? Are you’re looking to grow your waiting list or attract families new to the area? Set specific, tangible goals before signing up for the trade show. 

3. Verify your keywords for brand messaging.

Many housing authorities use similar signage at all events. While having your public housing logo prominently displayed directs the neediest to your booth, you may be losing out on families and seniors who don’t know that they qualify for your services. Jules Sowder, an executive marketing advisor, writes in Entrepreneur that:

“You only have about three seconds to make an impression and turn a prospect into a viable lead.”

Consider the benefits of adopting keywords specific to your targeted audience. For example, housing authorities at a senior expo might display a different banner than what they’d use for a convention geared toward families.

4. Choose your theme.

Whether you go with a timeless design, based on strong contrasting colors, seasonal design, or a style specific to your audience, make it memorable. Nathan Yerian over at HubSpot reminds us that:

“If you’re not interesting, people will not be interested.”

5. Review your booth signage.

Once you’ve determined whether you want the terms housing authority, affordable housing, senior living, or another specific phrase, look at your materials and see if it’s possible to update your current signs for better viewing.

  • Is your information up-to-date?
  • Do your signs convey the correct message?
  • Can you read an essential tagline from 10 feet away?

Updating your trade show booth with a new banner or overhead sign is an inexpensive way to keep your stand looking fresh.

6. Designate a marketing strategy for the trade show.

Marketing starts as soon as you register your civic organization. A strategic plan means you can begin promoting from day one. Consider what James C. Gibson, marketing and sales manager at Metro Exhibits, wrote in the Huffington Post:

“The biggest success stories come from the companies with the most thought out marketing campaign at the show.”

With the right preparation, you’ll get your message out to community members and attract attendees to your booth. Get the results your organization needs by brainstorming your purpose and goals before registering your trade show booth.

Management consultant and brand strategist for small teams. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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