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How To Get The Most From Exhibitions

Good Exhibition Stand

I have a lot of industry exhibitions coming up.  With this in mind, I have decided to create a blog post with useful tips for anyone who finds themselves attending exhibitions.

Create an Events Strategy

Don’t attend exhibitions randomly, spend time researching all the exhibitions you could attend which relate to your business/niche.  Then, once you’ve identified these, attend all of these – but only as a visitor.  Other than your time, this won’t cost much; attending an exhibition as a visitor is always cheaper than being an exhibitor.

Visiting exhibitions allows you to get a feel for them and you will be able to ask current exhibitors about the quality and quantity of leads they normally come away with.  Keep notes of all the exhibitions you attend using a scoring system.

Once you have decent knowledge about all the events you could exhibit at, select the ones which are likely to provide you with the greatest ROI and exhibit at these. It may only be one or two exhibitions in the first year but adopting a strategic approach you will give yourself the best chances of success with events.  If you don’t adopt a strategy like this, you might go to one or two events and conclude that they don’t work, which could be inaccurate (it may be that you simply haven’t been to the best exhibitions for you).

Plan Beforehand

Never turn up ‘cold’ to an exhibition.  It’s important to have pre-meetings to any exhibition to ensure you and your colleagues work as a cohesive team when you get there.  As a manager, the more information you can impart to your team before you go the better.  For each exhibition, make sure everyone in your team understands why they are going, what you plan to do while you are there and what you are hoping to take away from it.  It’s often best to agree roles – who is doing what – and make sure everyone understands not just their own role but those of other people in your team.

When attending exhibitions it’s critical to pay attention to timing – everyone in the team should know what time they need to be and where, including when you are arriving, where you will park, where you are staying and ultimately how you intend to spend each day.  Depending on the number of people attending it could be worth giving someone the task of managing other people while you are there.

My company created a Gantt Chart for attending lectures at one exhibition

Another great tip is to pre-arrange meetings.  Have a good look through Exhibitor lists beforehand and identify any critical organisations you want to talk to.  From my experience, companies are often very receptive to pre-arranging meetings.  This needn’t be reserved to customers, either; there can be tremendous value meeting with companies up and down the supply chain.

What Else Is On?

Most exhibitions nowadays are much more than a simple exhibition.  Seminars are common.  For visitors, it’s worth taking a look at any lectures or classes which are on while you are at an exhibition and attending those which are of most value to you.  For exhibitors, getting involved in speaking engagements can be a very effective way to connect with a highly-targeted targeted audience.  Other events which run within an exhibition include things like live demonstrations, networking events and dinners.

Don’t Try The ‘Hard Sell’

People are smart – they understand when you are trying to sell them something – don’t be overtly salesy.  Many people just walk away from a hard sell.  Be more consultative, speak to people about what their needs are and what they are hoping to get out of the exhibition.  Then, tell them the same about yourself.  If you can’t help each other out directly, you may be able to point each other in the direction of someone who can.  Again, don’t focus on solely customers; there are people up and down the supply chain which might be of massive value to you.  Exhibitions are great for great for networking and anyone can give you a referral, even your competitors.

Don’t Scrimp On Attendees

Exhibiting is not cheap.  In fact, it can be extremely resource-hungry for SME’s.  Every person who attends is out of the office for a day and you still have the cost of their wages.  Then there is transport, accommodation and food to pay for, plus the cost of any exhibition stand, tickets and any add-ons (from furniture to name-badge scanners).  Exhibiting is not a cheap gig!

That being said, I frequently see companies spend £5,000 on an exhibition stand but scrimp on the number of people they send to represent the company.  This is illogical – if you are exhibiting I recommend having a minimum of two people on a stand at all times.  Ideally, I would recommend another two employees so you can operate a 2 x 2 rotation system.  This allows for breaks and keeps the people manning the stand feeling fresh and performing at their optimum, which you need to get the most from the exhibition.  It also allows people who aren’t on the stand to attend seminars, demonstrations and networking events.

Be Recognisable

When there are  a number of people on a stand it’s difficult to know who is a visitor and who is working there.  This can be a problem when two people are talking – the two people may be manning a stand – but to a bypasser they may think the two people are busy and walk straight past.  The solution is to wear something which indicates you are associated with your brand.  Attendees normally wear lanyards but these can be hard to read.  Some companies have corporate uniforms but this can look a bit cheesy.  A better option (which I employ) is for the people on your team to wear name badges with a company logo on them.

Characteristics of a Good Stand

[Tweet “Business isn’t rocket science”]
Neither are exhibition stand stands.  Yet so many people get it wrong!

Your exhibition stand should be simple and uncluttered.  Any information on the walls should be clear concise.  Don’t put too much text on your display (so many people do this!).  Props like a TV, product samples and machinery are great at attracting people to your stand.  Meeting space is also valuable if your stand is large enough to accommodate it (if it’s not, don’t fret, all exhibitions will have public meeting areas).

If you want to learn more about the characteristics of a good exhibition stand read this post on my company blog where I explore it in greater detail.

This is an example of a great exhibition stand I saw last year: open-plan design, a concise message and plenty of meeting space

Don’t Forget The Basics

The tips above are pretty important but don’t forget the basics.  Keep your stand neat and tidy – keep anything non-essential out of sight and consider giving someone the task of housekeeping and picking up any litter.  Be approachable.  Be nice.  And don’t wear new shoes – you’ll be on your feet all day!

Hopefully that gives some useful advice for anyone else attending exhibitions.


p.s. for anyone interested, here are the events I am attending this year (if you are attending any of these and would like to meet up please contact me):