By Emily Suess

Now is the time to set your event schedule for 2015. As you plan to attend industry trade shows and conferences in the coming year, use these suggestions to draw event registrations to your small business’s booth.

1. Identify Your Target Audience

Before registering for business conferences, identify your target audience. Prioritize those events where your target audience will be in attendance. Your ability to reach potential customers is more important than whether or not you can save a few dollars on lodging.

2. Pick the Most Relevant Events

After you’ve narrowed the field down, it will be easier for you to choose two or three events that are well-suited to your audience and business goals. Choose the most relevant; don’t worry if you don’t have the resources to go to them all.

3. Define Your Business Purpose for Attending

Do you hope to generate leads? Make sales from the floor? Introduce a new product? Your business purpose will dictate how your team interacts with booth visitors.

4. Outline Your Event Budget

In addition to travel, lodging, and registration, you’ll have to budget for expenses related to marketing and promotion. Earmark enough money to cover signage and brochures, staff meals, promotional giveaways, and other costs.

5. Tweet from the Event

Tweet using the event’s hashtag to let your followers know where to find you and announce any in-booth events like demonstrations or giveaways.

6. Prepare Your Message

The message you promote at the event is closely related to your purpose for attending. Work with your team to outline key talking points to cover when interacting with attendees, making sure to emphasize what sets your business apart from the rest of the competition.

7. Consider Event Sponsorship

If you have room in your budget, event sponsorship can really boost your presence at tradeshows. Most shows offer sponsorship tiers to enable businesses with varying budgets to help financially back the event. The payoff for businesses is that their brand is more visible to anyone who attends.

8. Create an In-Booth Video

Not everyone in attendance will want to engage in a one-on-one conversation with someone from your business. By setting up a looping video, you can introduce your product or service to people who prefer to peruse vendor booths more casually. Shoot for a 3- to 5-minute video with captivating visuals and captions that promote your event message.

9. Plan Extra Time for Setting Up and Testing Equipment

Use all the time you’ve been given to set up and test your equipment before the event opens. Wi-Fi connections, laptop and tablet settings, and intricate displays that you’ve set up a hundred times before always seem to cause the most trouble when you’re in a hurry.

10. Set and Track Goals

If your purpose for attending the event, for example, was to generate 100 new leads, then keep track of how many you actually get. You can compare the event cost to the number of leads you generate to determine whether the event was a success and whether or not it’s a good idea to attend again next year.