Making an exhibition of yourself
Sharon and I have a stand at the Invicta Chamber B2B Exhibition at the Ashford International Hotel on Wednesday.
I always say that exhibitions are a really great way to meet lots of new contacts, generate lots of leads and sell your products and services – especially if you’re not exhibiting!
The thing about exhibiting is that you have to spend most of the day in one place – on your stand. If you’re not careful you become a hostage to fortune. You become reliant on who passes by your stand. Even then the fates could conspire against you. The perfect customer could pass by while you’re talking to someone else, when you’ve nipped to the loo, or when you were restocking the leaflet display.
Here are my top seven (not entirely serious) tips for a successful exhibition.
1/ Location – choose the perfect position for your stand only when you are sure of the exact location of the toilets and the coffee shop. I like to be very close to the coffee shop - I don’t NEED to be close to the toilet. Some of you may prefer it the other way round!
2/If there are people you’d really like to meet at the exhibition then invite them to your stand in advance. Bribes, sorry, inducements are perfectly acceptable here. The offer of freebies especially VIP freebies which are much better than the freebies you have for the hoi polloi work really well. This achieves two important objectives: firstly it means that there is a good chance they’ll come by and secondly if done properly you can create a constant stream of people visiting your stand and staying to talk. This will really annoy the exhibitors around you who are not having your success!
3/ Some people have freebies and they generously hand them out to anyone who visits their stand. Some people have give-away’s that they hang on to as if they are family heirlooms or the keys to the safe. Let me be clear, the measure of success of your day at the exhibition is not the number of boxes of your freebies you can take back home. Exhibition karma works – give (freebies) and you will receive (contacts).
4/ Never work with animals, children or untried exhibition equipment. Always, always make sure you conduct a test run of any audio visual equipment at the office before the big day. Know which box connects to which box and with which cable. Always check that any discs in your DVD player are the discs you think they are. There are too many stories of careers being ruined by an impromptu showing of “What we got up to with our new camcorder”.
Stand furniture should be put through the same rigorous pre-show testing. If you haven’t assembled it before you won’t know which bit needs pushing and coaxing and which bit needs a hammer. Taking lumps out of your flesh is an ever present danger with stand equipment and no one is going to hold on to your blood stained business card for long.
5/ Take plasters (see 4 above).
6/ Have a good first line. When you catch a visitor’s eye have a good line ready to encourage them to pause a while. Come up with four or five first lines and trial them over the first hour or so and then use the ones that work best. Be a bit creative. “Hello” or “Can I help you” are unoriginal and don’t really do it. “Have you heard of our company?” “Can I show you our new super Widget?” are better. “Can I offer you a freebie” gets good results. “Do you have a plaster?” should be avoided.
7/ Have a nice looking note pad available to record important information about the contacts you make. Who they are, what their business is, what were they interested in and why. Apart from looking more professional it keeps all the information you need for personalised follow-up in one place. Trust me – it’s hard to get all the information on the back of their business card and even if you can make it fit you won’t be able to read it when you get back in the office.
Finally enjoy your exhibition and keep smiling. Even though by mid-afternoon your feet hurt, your back aches, you’re wired on vending machine coffee and the serious visitors are becoming outnumbered by school kids cruising for sweets, keep smiling. You never know, the snotty school boy with his hand in your choccie box may be there to meet his businessman father with the million pound contract in his pocket.