Specialized trade shows allow small-business owners to promote, sell, network, and check out the competition in one location. Recent growth in the trade show industry has spurred organizers to launch smaller, more specialized business-to-business events. These types of events cater to much narrower, more vertical audiences. Even if your budget is small, there are low-cost ways to exhibit at a trade show or networking event. Here's how to get started.

Research trade shows online. Two top sources: TS Central and the Trade Show News Network. These sites can help you identify most of the 4,000-plus annual North American trade shows, along with information on event dates and locations and show contacts. You can also study exhibits by industry, date, and geographical region.

Study the show's prospectus. Event organizers should give you a detailed information package about the show. It should list exhibitors and supporting associations and groups, and provide attendee profiles with job titles and levels of buying authority. Use this information to determine whether it would be worth your while to participate: Will the event provide you with opportunities to sell your offering, generate leads to follow up on later, or expose you to your target audience?

Finagle expenses. Early-bird registration deals can reduce exhibition fees by 10% to 30%. Consider coexhibiting with others whose target audience is the same as yours. You can also create an impressive display with used exhibit materials. SecondLife Exhibits (617-884-7455), for example, procures used tabletop, portable modular, and custom displays from companies that no longer need them. Find a local dealer in the telephone directory under "Display Systems" or in the Thomas Register.

Helpful resource: 120 Ways to Successful Exhibiting. Request a free copy from Nomadic Display at 800-732-9395 ext. 1116.

Copyright © 2000 Kimberly Stansell. All Rights Reserved. Do not duplicate or redistribute in any form.