How to make an exhibition of yourself
We’re in mid-summer. Looking ahead the autumn is on our horizon. Autumn brings the business conference and exhibition season. So now is the time for you to begin to plan how to make an exhibition of yourself and your company – for all the right reasons of course. You'll want to Wow! your potential customers.
In March this year our company, Beyond Theory, successfully exhibited at a business exhibition. The event was successful for us not only because of the contacts and leads that we made but because of the valuable lessons we learned for future exhibitions.
Here are our learning points that we'd like to share and recommend:
- Start your exhibition plans early. There’s much to do and time invested now will save much effort and anguish later.
- Book your place at the exhibition as soon as you can. By definition popular exhibitions fill up early.
- Build a positive relationship with the exhibition organisers. If you can, negotiate a position that will suit you best – i.e. where will you be most visible? Don’t overlook the need for access to power sockets too.
- Plan your marketing collateral such a brochures, leaflets and any gifts that you’d like to use. Look to offer something of value – for example something that is both practical and memorable. Where you can appeal to each of our 5 senses: visual, hearing, touch, smell and taste.
- Plan for any equipment that you’ll need such as a pop-up stand or even a monitor. These need to be eye catching.
- Consider your dress code. First impressions count for very much and potential customers will make judgements based on your appearance. Make sure they’re the right judgements. And wear comfortable shoes - you'll be on your feet for a long time.
- Include an incentive to entice people to visit your stand. Having a competition, special offers and/or discounts may be something to consider. Originality is more likely to strike a chord.
- Plan and then begin your social media campaign to let others know that you are exhibiting. You may also want to email or write to potential customers to invite them to come and meet you at the event itself.
On the day
- Arrive early to set up – perhaps on the day before if you can. This will help you deal with any unforeseen surprises as well as making sure you’re 100% ready when the exhibition opens.
- Consider your layout and avoid the cardinal sin of seating yourselves behind a desk or a table. Exhibitions are very much about being approachable and a desk or table will only serve as a barrier.
- Keep your stand tidy by stowing away any unnecessary clutter. This includes your all important refreshments that you’ll need to keep you going throughout the day.
- Make sure you have at least 2 people manning your stand. You need to avoid visitors queuing to speak with you. You’ll also need to give yourselves a comfort break. Having the capability to meet with potential clients for informal meetings in the coffee area is another reason for having more than one person on your stand.
- Undertake a dress code check with your exhibition partner(s). Build this into your plans, which also need to include checking any technology and equipment that you’re using.
- Consider how you are approaching, engaging and then saying goodbye to your visitors. Choose your words wisely with lots of open questions. Body language will play an important role too – being open and inviting rather than being closed and unfriendly.
- Have a slick and easy process in place to record your stand’s visitors. Contact details are a must. Note down any particular areas of interest. This will help you follow up later.
- Make sure that your incentive for visitors to come and visit your stand is visible. Be as creative as you can.
- Your marketing collateral of brochures and leaflets will need to be well-positioned and easy to access. Treat these as a visual aid to explain the products and services that your company offers. Build your marketing materials into your 'elevator pitch'.
- Make time to interact with other exhibitors to spread the love that you have for your company. They may become valuable referral partners, suppliers and even potential customers in the future.
- Take the opportunity to broadcast your exhibition activity on social media. Include photos and updates (with others’ permission of course) to tell the world the success that you’re having. However, avoid at all costs using your mobile device at the expense of dealing with your visitors.
- Close down your stand at the end of the exhibition and not before. On too many occasions I have seen companies packing up too early which gives a very poor impression. A valuable potential customer may be your last visitor of the day.
- No surprises here: follow up, follow up and follow up. Use the information that you have gained intelligently to re-connect with the people you met at the exhibition. They'll be expecting your call.
- Continue your social media campaign. Thank the people you met. Thank the people who helped. Thank the people who organised.
- Evaluate your exhibition activity by undertaking a cost v benefit analysis. Establish the return on investment. Also consider any soft measures that may apply – for example increase in company profile, confidence levels etc.
- As we did in March, record your learning points and build in a review meeting with your team. This will determine how exhibiting at future events will feature in your future marketing strategy.