Graham Marley, Chief Executive of the Let’s Do Business Group, knows a bit about exhibitions, having been involved with the highly successful Let’s Do Business brand since it started in 2002. The Hastings Expo in September is the thirtieth held under the brand name and, unless you can prove otherwise, Graham is the only person to have attended all of them!
Over the years, I have seen a lot of well-presented exhibition stands but, equally, I have seen far too many that are unengaging, with people sat at desks looking glum and, more recently, on their phones. Though we rarely have complaints from our clients about the lack of interest from visitors, if we do, it is nearly always from stand holders who have made little to no effort. Exhibitions aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but, if you are giving it a go, here are my top tips for a successful experience:
- Preparation – As with anything in business, the better you prepare, the more success you will have. You need to make sure your stand and marketing collateral are ready in good time and are a good match to your audience. You need to think about the key messages you want to get over to visitors; this has to be reflected in your stand. It is also best to have set yourself some targets – it may not be the number of sales on the day (although that is always a bonus), but it might be making contact with a number of new prospects.
- Dare to be different – The stands at our exhibitions that attract the most interest are generally a bit quirky, so perhaps have an interactive activity. In Eastbourne, we had a spot the ball competition and, in the past, we have had people with Wii games, bacon rolls, a roulette table, chocolate locusts and a Harvey’s bar – you can guess the most popular. You don’t have to spend lots of money to make your stand different, you just need to use your imagination. Equally important, however, is what you do with the people who crowd around your stand – many use a business card drop and a bottle of wine to entice people to leave their detail-, that’s fine, but you need to then follow up!
- Ask questions and listen – When someone stops at your stand, it’s more important to listen than to talk. Find out what the person’s needs are and then see how you can help them (rather than just tell them what you think they need). Sometimes, visitors will be more interested in selling what they do – accept that, listen politely and allow the relationship to develop, then you will have a better chance to sell your business.
- Stand, don’t sit – I always find that someone sitting, especially behind a table, puts me off approaching a stand. Generally, it shows a lack of interest from the exhibitor. If you need a break, get a colleague to cover you and find somewhere to sit (networking areas are good for this!).
- Smile! Unquestionably the key to a successful exhibition is a friendly face. It will attract people in to talk to you and sets a positive tone for any discussion.
Please do come along and meet the Let’s Do Business team at the next Let’s Do Business exhibition, on September 29 2016 at the Hastings Centre letsdobusiness.org/hastings