Exhibition stands aren’t cheap. The space in itself is significant, and when you add in the cost of building a stand, creating props, marketing materials, handouts and displays, and having staff to man it for days at a time it’s a considerable investment.
So it’s really important to consider “What’s your purpose in exhibiting?” Have you got a new product to launch? Are you trying to spread the word about your business? Are you looking for sales leads?
First things first. Be clear about what you hope to achieve by being there. It could be to make 1 or 2 significant business relationships. Or it could be about collecting hundreds of new names for your database. You might have a product to launch, or an important development to announce. Whatever it is, research the event carefully, make sure the right people are going to be there, and spell out your objective clearly before you go any further.
- Who do you want to visit your stand?
- How are you going to get them there?
- Why will they be interested?
- What are you going to show/tell them?
- How are you going to stay in touch afterwards?
Communicate with your customers and prospects beforehand. Let them know you’re going to be there, and why they should come and visit you.
Use all the tools you have – your website, your email database, your social media channels, personal invitations from your sales team.
Make some noise! Use all the tools the exhibition company offer. Make sure you provide good quality logos, company descriptions, adverts, and utilise the social media hashtags, interact with them online about the event.
Consider having some form of hosted event – drinks, canapes, coffee & cake etc. But do it at specific times so you can invite your favourite customers or prospects e.g. “Visit us between 10 and 11am for coffee and croissants” and perhaps have a couple of slots through the day.
Have some form of interaction – a display, a demonstration, samples for people to try – make it easy for them to be on your stand without feeling awkward.
Manning an exhibition stand for hours on end is tiring. For the sake of the people on the stand, these activities could vary throughout the day. Mix it up, and make it more interesting. Have shifts wherever possible, and set tasks for those not on the stand e.g. to research competitors or to get ideas for next year’s stand from others.
Important rules for staff on stands
No eating or drinking on the stand – nothing looks worse than people eating their lunch on an exhibition stand, especially if that involves empty drinks cartons, apple cores and sandwich packets lying around. Also, how are they going to talk to someone with a mouthful of baguette? Get proper cover for lunches and allow staff time to refuel.
Don’t chase people with a brochure – I was literally followed down a corridor at a recent exhibition by a man desperately trying to get me to take his brochure. He didn’t even know if I was a legitimate potential customer (I wasn’t), and I found myself feeling the need to escape.
Assess people before launching into a sales pitch – One exhibitor noticed me hesitate near the stand, and proceeded to give me a 10 minute sales pitch about the mobile, fully operational kitchen that I was standing in. It was of no interest to me whatsoever, and a complete waste of his time, and he might have missed several potential customers while he was talking to me. Try and gauge some level of interest/relevance with a few questions before continuing.
Have some qualifying questions ready – One reason that the above scenario happens is that exhibitors are unprepared with an opening gambit. Be prepared with some general questions that will help establish a prospect … or not. Even simple questions like ‘What business are you in?’ will give people a better opportunity to connect.