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1. Comfort first, fashion second

Exhibition venues can vary all the way from being punishingly cold to far too hot. While you naturally want to make a good impression, having to take your shoes off after the first hour because your toes are turning black is not the way to do it!

Make sure you dress smart but comfortably as you will be on your feet for several hours, often without any chance to sit down.

A fabulous product display can so easily be ruined by scruffy stand-staff.

2. Be prepared…Check your check list

Make sure that you have everything you are likely to need, and mock up your stand before the exhibition. Mark out the space, set up your promotional material, make sure everything fits in your allocated area.

Common things you will need include business cards, blutack, sticky tape, brochure stands, lanyards for passes, pens, enquiry sheets, product literature, point-of-sale material and price lists. I would recommend making a list of items you will need, and packing things up the day before the event, as it will be far too late to start looking for these items once the event has opened and you get busy.

3. Don’t do it alone

If at all possible, never run an exhibition stand by yourself.  Every 5 minutes that your stand is unattended, your investment in the event will not be making you money.

This isn’t always practical with new and start up businesses, but it is well worth roping someone else in to help you.

If you do, make sure that you spend time with them before the exhibition, to acquaint them with the business, how you expect them to represent you, the kind of questions people might ask and some standard answers, and of course what to do if they don’t know the answer.

Having at least two people means that if you are tied up with talking to someone, there is someone else who can answer questions, restock your leaflets, maybe even get you a cup of tea!

4. Stand Display

NO clutter! (That includes NO half-drunk cups of coffee, a newspaper or half-eaten sandwich left on display! Or bored support-staff with nothing to do — send them round the exhibition to report back to you with highlights, or to stand at the entrance with an engaging leaflet and direct interested visitors to your stand!)

– not too much on display — it can all become ‘meaningless noise’ if you aren’t careful;

– not too little either — it may look as if you aren’t really in business for real;

– eye-friendly and exceptionally well lit displays — don’t forget, you are after your visitors’ ‘eye-share’ first!;

– something to taste, smell, listen to, watch or feel? This is your opportunity to showcase your business using all 5 senses so don’t waste it! 

– well-labelled displays — don’t let visitors guess what your business is all about.

5. Don’t pounce!

Some visitors will know exactly what they are looking for, and if you don’t frighten them away, they will tell you in their own good time. Many more may not know what they were looking for, at least, not until you have told them what you have to offer! But even so, please don’t pounce on them?

Perhaps the worst thing you can do is to ask: “Can I help you?” The simple answer for many passers-by is to say“No” and to go away. You can do so much better than that!

It is far more helpful to bring passing visitors in to your stand by: 

– first, just engage in eye-contact with all you can and smile;

– then, for those who return your eye-contact, ask something general and neutral such as:  “How are you?” or “What do you make of the exhibition so far?”. Remember, most people prefer to buy from people they like, and will run a mile from those they don’t, so the first task may well be only a gentle relationship-building exercise; 

– after that, try a more specific question (but NOT “Can help you?”!), such as: “What drew you to this event today?”; “Are you in search of anything in particular?”

– where you have a very clear product range, at this stage you can also ask: “Do you buy LMN?”; “Do tell me what interests you most about LMN?”; “Did you know we also supply OPQ?”; “Have you seen this…?”; and even: “Would you like me to tell you more about it?”.

6. Qualify your visitors

Some visitors may only be time-wasters, although you can never be too sure. You can’t know this until you engage with them and you most certainly can’t always judge by first appearances! Moreover, even if they may not be buying for themselves, they may still be buying for someone else. So however tired you are, however unengaged they may appear to be, let good manners and common courtesy always be your watchword.

But in the end, you need to focus your time on those who may be the most productive. The best way to do this is to ‘qualify’ them. You can do this by gentle but very direct questioning.

As the secret of a successful show is to meet as many good prospects and clients as possible in the time available. You will need to develop an exit strategy for each one so you can move on politely to meet others potential clients as soon as it is appropriate.

Lastly why not give serious stand-visitors ‘a little something’, if it is a) memorable, b) relevant and c) worth keeping, however small and inexpensive.

7. Prepare for the follow-up

After all the hard work of attending your trade show or exhibition, it is so tempting to pack up and go home, take a hot bath and rest your weary feet, and then deal with all the emails and post you have missed while you have been away!

For most exhibitors, this is when the ‘real work’ starts, converting all those precious qualified leads into sales. So do prepare your standard follow-up contact-messages and literature in advance, set yourself a deadline to get these out.

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