First time exhibiting at a major trade show? There is SO much to learn yet SO little help. I am going to touch the surface now and dig in a little later...
First, I recommend reading Paula Barsky's Book, "How to Start a Creative Manufacturing Business." There is loads of good info there.
Then, I would say, look big (always have the front you are big time) but on the tightest budget possible.
~Go for taught pipe and drape made with wooden poles and great fabric rather than walls.
~Buy carpet squares that can be used repeatedly rather than rent the carpet there.
~Don't be afraid of shipping your booth... There are many companies who do this just for the shows. FedEx Freight is pretty competitive too.
~Don't use a professional photographer to take pics. WASTE - OF - MONEY. My digital point and click took just as great shots of my booth as the professional.
Large catalog companies and retailers are great to have as customers so don't slight the little guys at all. They are better customers. They don't ask for major discounts. They don't require terms. They don't ask you to ship a gazillion different samples... overnight. And they don't (typically) cancel orders that leave you with tons on inventory. So, don't think they are that great. Treat the little guys as if they are your one and only.
Be wary of some of the Marts... they don't mind ripping off the little guy. They may want to work with you, it is possible. But lots of them have designers/manufacturers they work with who can create a 79% different product than yours and mass retail it. Why work with a new partner that may not bend over like their existing one?!?!
Manufacturing Reps can turn your business into a REAL one. Court them. Seek them out. I wouldn't do the "MFG REPS WANTED" sign, but it must be successful bc many do that. There is no better place than trade shows to build a network. This is the best marketing for your money... cause its on a portion of SALES. Not in hopes to get sales like ads, mailers, etc. Keep in mind, they like a percentage of the sale. So if you are selling a book for $20 retail, it would be $10 wholesale and with the average of 20-25% margin for these reps, you would get $7.50 - $8 per book. So, price accordingly. See my post on pricing.
Know that 98% of the very interested people will walk away and not order later. They are busy, they lose your brochure, they forget... no matter the reason, TRY TO GET THE ORDERS WHEN YOU HAVE THEIR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION. Come up with mantras or sayings that work to get them to buy on the spot. Maybe throw in free shipping. This worked for me a few times. Maybe no minimum first order. And it is always good to offer this on the reorder as well. But if you do this, bundle your products. Like 4 books per order. Buyers like to hear no min order. This way, you get the order and the foot in the door to sell more and start the relationship.
Don't go buying a ton of brochures. Print them yourself. Buy InDesign or Illustrator (Creative Suite) and design a nice looking take-away. Print them yourself or take them to a commercial printer... just don't get sucked into buying too much. For a show that has 14,000 attendees, you may only need a few hundred. YOU DON'T NEED 2000 like I bought on my first show! If you come close to running out, go to Kinko's. Trust me on this one...
And take a friend who is a natural sales person. Prep them before the show... just in case you freeze like I did for the first 3 hours.
Trade Show Etiquette: Pamela covers this well. (It is surprising how many people don't know the etiquette of shows.) Make friends with the companies around you. They will be valuable for brainstorming and advice.
This is such an exiting time. I look back at my first show very fondly. Yes, there are many things I would do differently or more of. But you won't know what it is until you do it. And you are 95% of the way by just doing it. Congratulations!