Today I'm privileged to speak at the NY XPO for Business, which is an expo with classes and seminars for small and mid-sized businesses from all over the NY area. They're expecting 30,000 people or more. (Notes from my panel on Social Media for Small Businesses with be on my business' website.)

I'm going to be looking out for trade show booths, good and bad, and have posted a few pictures (bad booth, good booth). When you spend thousands of dollars for a booth at a trade show — what are you doing to attract people into the booth? Will your signage have your logo, the name of your company and your tagline or motto? Great. But what about telling people what your company does? I'm often amazed by companies who spend money for large signs telling you they're the "Industry's Leading Solution Provider" or the "Top In Our Field." Which field? What Industry? What are you solving?

When I've been to really large trade shows, done at Javits in NYC or the Los Vegas Convention Center, I've always come away a little shell shocked. It is overwhelming to walk literally miles of aisles trying to find a booth with a company that solves a problem or provides a new service I didn't know about. The booths tend to blend together. Therefore, what you put on your sign is very important and relevant. Ask someone who's not in your industry to look at your design and see if they can explain what your booth is for just by looking at the signage.

Once prospects are in the booth, someone knowledgeable should be there to help them. Having 'rent-a-booth' people often isn't usually helpful for closing sales. Those folks may be attractive, or extra bodies, but they probably don't know your industry or your business. They can do little more than get leads that you hope you can follow up - they can't usually qualify the lead. Use those people to help prospects fill forms, do very light hospitality, and move them to your sales person. Having your actual employees, who can turn contacts into warm leads, which turn into sales, will maximize the value of what you've spent. What are your trade show tips? Comment below, please.

Small business trade shows are always exciting for me because I get to interact with lots of startups and business owners, and find out what they want from my column. I hope people will talk to me after my panel and let me know. Feel free to tell me more about your business in the comments below — and let me know what I should be writing about for you.