After an eighteen month hiatus, the UK's engineering exhibitions calendar gets underway again next week with the start of the Subcon show, which will run from 14th-16th September at the NEC in Birmingham. For many companies, industry shows are an intrinsic part of buying and supplying - as a majority of exhibitions were not able to go ahead last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many were left having to rethink the way they generate new business opportunities and find potential suppliers.
Therefore, the return of UK exhibitions will undoubtedly come as a welcome relief, though it's also completely understandable that you may feel a little rusty! Whether you're exhibiting in the coming weeks and months, or simply planning a visit, here are some quick tips to help you get the most out of your time at the UK's upcoming engineering shows:
If you're exhibiting…
Be sure to plan ahead:
The key to a successful exhibition is good planning.
The key to a successful exhibition is good planning, which means that it's always prudent to put in the legwork before the show to make sure you get the most out of it. Your show organiser will have emailed you a list of information they need to include you in their programmes, floor plans and website advertising - it's always best to get this information to them as soon as possible to ensure that you don't miss any deadlines. In addition, compiling a checklist of items to bring with you on the day, as well as checking that your stand display boards and equipment are intact, will help you to avoid any last-minute hiccups.
Why not invite your clients and prospects to visit you at the show? Exhibitions provide a great opportunity to put faces to names, which can go a long way towards establishing successful business relationships. Inform your clients of your stand number and set up some meetings ahead of time to make the most out of the show. Broadcasting your attendance on social media is also a great idea!
Ensure that you have enough staff to cover your stand at all times:
It's best not to take any risks by leaving your stand unattended.
One of the worst things you can do whilst exhibiting is to leave your stand empty; however, sometimes this becomes an inevitability if you don't have enough staff at the event. Exhibiting can sometimes prove to be a tiring experience, which means that regular breaks need to be taken into account to keep everyone on top of their game; therefore, it's best to factor this in when deciding how many staff to take with you.
Your next big customer could walk past at the exact moment you're queuing for a sandwich in the cafe, so it's best not to take any risks by leaving your stand unattended. Whilst you don't want to have too many staff on your stand at any one time, activities such as handing out leaflets can ensure that everyone has a job to do.
READ: How To Fly High at Subcon
Make sure that everyone is on the same page:
The whole point of exhibiting is to proactively promote your company and services.
Almost as bad as leaving your stand unattended is staff behaving in a way that is misaligned with the purpose of the show. The whole point of exhibiting is to proactively promote your company and services; therefore, it's no use to sit at the back of your stand with your arms folded and wait for buyers to come to you. We've even witnessed some exhibitors sleeping at their stands, which is definitely not going to win any new business!
Before leaving for the show, it's best to brief all attending staff members on show etiquette and make sure that everyone is on board for getting the most out of the event. Explain the need to actively engage with visitors so that everyone is on the same page. Exhibitions offer a valuable opportunity to present your company as a professional organisation that buyers want to work with - therefore, being approachable and friendly is an absolute must.
Remember to follow up afterwards:
It's absolutely vital that you follow up with each person you spoke to.
You may be lucky enough to have a new customer place an order with you at the show, but chances are that this probably won't be the case. Instead, the fruit of your labours will probably come about in the days, weeks and even months following the show, meaning that it's absolutely vital that you follow up with each person you spoke to.
When it comes to following up, email is a great way to contact your prospects; however, you shouldn't be afraid to pick up the phone and call the people you had the best conversations with. As you've already completed a lot of the legwork at the show, it's worth seeing if they have any upcoming projects you can quote, or arrange a site visit/meeting to discuss next steps.
READ: What Are The Best Ways To Promote Your Engineering Company?
If you're visiting...
Check out the floorplan before you arrive:
Taking a few minutes to study the floorplan beforehand will often save you time on the day.
Some of the UK's engineering shows are so large that it can be difficult to cover the entire event in one day. With so many exhibitors to visit and stands to peruse, a bit of forward planning will help to ensure that you get the time to speak to companies of interest and existing suppliers. Many shows will often include a floorplan layout on their website for visitors to explore prior to arrival - taking a few minutes to study this beforehand will often save you time on the day.
Most shows also offer visitors the chance to attend conferences and seminars, which often contain valuable knowledge from industry leaders. Check out the programme and book a couple of slots if you have the time - after all, it's not often that you get to hear from some of the biggest names in the game!
READ: Top 10 Things You Should NOT Do While Exhibiting
See if your existing suppliers are exhibiting:
Exhibitions can also be a great opportunity to catch up with your existing suppliers.
Although exhibitions are traditionally associated with finding new suppliers, they can also be a great opportunity to catch up with your existing ones. It's worth finding out if your suppliers are going to be at any upcoming shows and if so, arranging to pay them a visit. Putting faces to names is a great way to strengthen business relationships and you may also find out about additional value-adds that your supplier can offer you.
Remember - you don't have to spend all day with your current suppliers and neglect the opportunity to visit new ones, but a quick ten-minute meeting can pay dividends in the long run. It allows you to talk about what's working, what isn't and plan with your supplier for upcoming projects. After all, your existing suppliers already know your business and are tried-and-tested, so if you're happy with their work then it can never hurt to discuss additional opportunities.
Bring a notepad and pen:
It's a good idea to bring a notepad and pen (or tablet, or even your phone) to jot down a few quick notes about the conversations that took place.
We often speak to so many people during the course of an exhibition that it can be difficult to keep track of who offers what and which suppliers were a good fit for your business. Chances are that you'll come away with a ton of information, but often the recall and context of the conversations that took place can become jumbled a few days later - especially as the handling of literature such as flyers and business cards is minimised as a result of the pandemic. This means that it's a good idea to bring a notepad and pen (or tablet, or even your phone) to jot down a few quick notes about the conversations that took place during your visit.
If you've spoken to a supplier at length, then you can usually expect to hear from them in the days and weeks following the show. If you've taken down a few simple notes, then it will help you to remember who you're speaking with and what you've previously discussed, meaning that you can get the ball rolling on any upcoming projects even quicker.
READ: Your Guide To Engineering Exhibitions In 2021
Qimtek will be exhibiting at Subcon 2021! Throughout the event (14th-16th September 2021), we will be offering demonstrations of our Drag, Drop, Source! Service, which can put you in direct contact with UK subcontract suppliers in just a few clicks. Come and visit us on stand G57 to find out how we can help you with your upcoming sourcing requirements.