Exhibiting at trade shows

My top tips to maximise your investment at a trade show.

I’ve been to some trade shows recently which cover different sectors.

All of the exhibiting companies involved invest a lot of money, time and resources into preparing their stands and looking their best. The hope is that this will be recouped with great meetings and new business enquiries.

… The hope

There are multiple factors influencing the success of these events, such as the day of the week, the time of the year, the venue, the theme, the quality of the speakers, the target audience, your stand location within the venue etc but that’s not my focus for this post.

It’s about standing out when you are there. It’s about getting people to stop by your stand and start a conversation. And this begins with your stand design and presence.

1. Can you do without pull ups?

What has struck me is that the stand design in isolation is probably OK. The assumption is that it will be on brand, have some graphic communication material, brochures and maybe giveaway merchandise.

But let’s assume that the majority of the other exhibiting companies are doing the same, which from what I see is mostly the case. We now have a room of homogeneity! If the art of marketing is to stand out, then this is failing.

What do I suggest to create an impact?

I recommend exploring other ways of presenting your company such as working with a designer to create a stand design that doesn’t involve pull ups, banners, branded backdrops and the like. Go for props, create a room-sets, use interesting furniture, develop eye-catching product displays, show your product in situ, hang it, build a pyramid with it, have a robot hold your product, … you get the idea. Challenge yourself or your team to come up with a creative way to lay out your stand.

2. Can you do without giving away anything?

Most exhibition material, giveaways, gimmicks, and your beloved company brochures end up in the bin. If someone is really interested in doing business with, they’ll make it their business to take a business card. They’ll take your mobile, they’ll show you they’re keen. Competitors will be more interested in your brochure!

As we focus on our individual and company’s impact on the environment, surely it makes more sense not to add to landfill by producing more items that we know will be thrown away. We can do without more plastic pens, stress relievers and gimmicks. If you must, select a recycled or a natural product that can be easily replaced. Make them happy. Tell them you’ll plant a tree instead on their behalf, and do it.

3. The follow up

If you’ve exchanged business cards, write one fact about that person on the back to act as a memory aid when you follow up. For example,

  • has an issue with their current supplier

  • liked the smaller format of our product

  • would like a meeting but on holiday for 2 weeks

  • mad about cycling

After the conference / exhibition / trade show, give people a couple of days to allow them to clear their inboxes before you send your follow up email. Write it as a personal email, and don’t use an email template.

Mention the distinctive thing you wrote about them within the context of your follow up. It must be relevant to your company’s service or products. The objective is that you said you’d follow up, you did, and now it’s over to them to respond. I’d send one more email if they don’t respond and then close off that lead. You might want new business, but not at the cost of appearing pushy or worse still, desperate.

But it is vital you do a proper follow up, or all of your team’s effort on creating a stand that stands out has been for nothing.