Exhibiting this month or next?
Here’s a checklist of 10 things you and the team can do (and not do) to improve your impact at the show.

1.Know the event schedule and stick by it
Be ready for customers as soon as the doors open for business. In the exhibition booth that is, no need to wait by the entrance thrusting leaflets into their hands. Also, be prepared for the show’s end time, and don’t start dismantling before the official end of the exhibition. You don’t want your potential customer to have to talk to you while you’re up a ladder taking apart a lighting rig. Many customers do leave visiting exhibitors till late in the event, due to conference sessions or pre-arranged meetings, or because they’re terrified of your new sales demo. You don’t want to be gone when they do stop by.

2. If the person your customer or potential customer wants or needs to meet is deep in conversation, have the team been briefed on how to keep them engaged?
Make sure every member of your stand team has been briefed on good open questions to ask potential customers. We don’t mean how do they like your stand, your tie, your sweet selection, or photos of your holiday in Sardinia. More along the lines of: What is it that brings them to the event? What other events do they find useful? etc It shows total professionalism in your ability to attract new customers and teamwork. A dance routine might not work so well, depending on your skills in this area. Consider a coffee machine if you haven’t already, so that they can take a break whilst waiting. Hiring an Italian barista champion to serve coffee would be a bonus. Perhaps have a member of the technical sales team on hand specifically for new arrivals to the stand, to handle a Q&A session or give a product demo whilst they are waiting.

3. Scheduling Follow Ups
All conversations with prospects should end with the promise of a follow-up call to discuss their specific needs after the event. Schedule these during the show with an on-line calendar if possible. As well as business cards, do you have a suitable gift to hand out at the end of the conversation? – It will make the meeting stick in their minds. High quality paper notebooks, USB sticks, torches etc – ideally something that says something about your brand, are cost effective handouts. Free Dunelm gift vouchers are best avoided. Restaurant vouchers might also make an impression, but you don’t want them to get the wrong idea.

4. Standing, rather than sitting
A three-day event can be hard on the feet, and everyone will need a break at some point, but best results will come if your team are standing near the front of the booth ready to engage. Standing in the aisle in front of your booth also clearly shows you are ready to talk to customers, but probably best not to hold your badge scanner like a gun, Jedi-warrior style at the approaching visitors. For your seating, consider higher chairs closer to standing eye level. Apart from anything else, it ensures you will stay awake rather than be seen snoring in an armchair overcoming your jet-lag.

5.No eating in the exhibition booth
If you eat in your booth, potential customers may think twice about stopping to talk to you, and if they do approach, they may struggle to find anyone to talk to at all if the team are eating at the same times. Consider whether a Mexican Fajita, even though the guacamole is superb, is more important to you than your next $1M piece of business with an aerospace client. Best to eat elsewhere, work lunch shifts, and only be in the booth when you’re ready to do business, perhaps after putting on a clean shirt.

6. Is at least one member of the team planning to walk the show floor, or at least, the most relevant areas?
It’s surprising how many exhibitors don’t make the time to do this. Review the show floor plan as a team a week or two before. Benefits: Meet potential partners who could be exhibiting elsewhere; Get to know how your competitors are displaying their products; Gain new ideas from other exhibitors on lead generation; See who won the “ Best in Show “ and why; getting noticed by potential customers by asking a thought provoking question of a keynote speaker ( don’t forget to announce who you are and where you are from first. Your company that is, not your home town ).

7. Do the team have enough Business Cards?
Obviously hand writing on the back of an old receipt wont get the team noticed, and depending on where they’ve been, might get someone fired. Cutting shapes to write on out of a competitor’s brochure, whilst fun, is probably best avoided.

8. Attendee Lists available?
Many organisers are able to hand out lists of confirmed attendees prior to the event. Some events have schedule-a-meeting type apps. Are there opportunities to schedule meetings in advance with specific attendees? What other ways can the organisers help you to get more engaged with the audience?

9. Pre-Show promotion
Have all the promotional opportunities with the event’s media partners been explored? Are there any opportunities to distribute brochures on seats before a conference session? Are there any exhibitor spotlight email opportunities? All “ Come and visit us on stand… “ opportunities should be explored. Having a travelling circus make the announcement outside venue hotels might also be effective, but it also might not work out.

10.Late speaking opportunities?
There are usually one or two speakers who drop out of conferences at the last minute, or there needs to be a schedule change. Even if you are not a scheduled speaker for an event, it can be worth having a slide deck at the ready. Let the organizers know you will be available to step in, should their planned speaker need to drop out at the last minute, having accidentally double booked with a visit to the Santa’s Elf Masterclass for example.

By Ricky Purnell

Lexa Research provides intelligence and analysis on B2B events to help make your marketing plans be more effective.

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