Exhibiting is expensive when you factor in all of the applicable costs. It’s also a fantastic way to generate new business. That's why it's important to maximise your ROI by using your time at the show effectively and that means never doing any of the following:
1 - Don't sit in your stand...
It's all too often I walk around a show and see people sitting at the back of their stand. They are often found arms crossed and very unapproachable. Not everyone is great at face-to-face, but if you book to exhibit you at least have to try. Do something different; stand up, smile at passers-by and hand them a flyer at the very least. It's hard to estimate the amount of orders I’ve generated by giving a prospect a leaflet and asking one simple question: Do you know what we do?
2 - Don't work on your laptop or your phone...
Whilst it's important to keep on top of things that are going on back at the office, it should never be at the expense of potential business at the show. Be aware that whilst your head’s down looking at your email - or worse, Facebook - people are walking past your stand unnoticed.
3 - Don't be afraid to invite your clients and prospects...
I totally understand why people are nervous to do so… if I bring my customers along with me, will they meet other suppliers? Be confident in your relationship with your clients and the service you provide. Most buyers require additional services which fall outside of your capabilities. If more exhibitors took the responsibility to help bring footfall, then more business would prevail. Personally, I wouldn't invite my top customers – rather the accounts that I would like to develop. I would however, invite everyone I want to do business with, where no official relationship currently exists.
4 - Don’t put promotional items at the front of your stand…
On many occasions, we have put our free promotional material at the forefront in an attempt to bring people over. It worked, but not correctly. By having the promotional items at the front, we missed tracking the all-important data that sheds light on the demographic of our visitors. So, if you plan on giving people a freebie, then do it in a way that helps you to capture their details.
5 - Don't enter someone else's stand to do business… unless invited.
This might seem obvious, but entering someone's stand to tell them about your services is considered bad form at an exhibition. What's worse is when visitors attend to pitch to exhibitors, as it is the exhibitor who has paid for the airtime. I have even witnessed people being thrown out of a show for doing this.
6 - Never leave your stand empty...
This happens more than you can imagine. I have tried to introduce buyers to suppliers at exhibitions, only to find they have nipped off to the coffee shop. Opportunity missed. Almost every time this has happened, the buyer has promised to return in five minutes - yet they seldom ever do.
7 - Don’t leave the show early, even if it is quiet.
We all have this… The days are long and something aches, be it our feet, back or legs. I can only assume that this accounts for exhibitors leaving half an hour before the day ends. Granted, the show has slowed right down, but the odd buyers are still walking around. What happens if the buyer of your dreams drops by, five minutes after you have left?
8 - Don't leave the planning to the last minute… it’s harder than you think.
Planning an exhibition is not simple. More often than not, someone will book a stand a few months before the event, but leave it until two weeks before to prepare. Start planning the second you sign up and have a clear idea of what needs to be done, before you sign your booking form. It should look a little bit like this: 1) Book stand, 2) Plan travel and expenses, 3) Prepare preshow marketing campaign and finally, 4) Plan your in-show approach and marketing.
9 - Don’t ignore the emails from your show organisers…
Normally upon signing up to an event, you will start to receive emails from the event organiser. Try not to file these until later, as the earlier you can do the things they need you to do, the quicker their marketing will work for you. For example, most shows these days provide exhibitors with portals to upload their information; the quicker you do this, the quicker you will be listed as an exhibitor. That way, you maximise your exposure in the all-important run-up to the event.
10 - Don’t sleep on your stand…!
Believe it or not, I have seen this happen more than once. Usually it's one of the stands in the back corner which receive little footfall. These are the guys sitting at the back of their stand, arms folded, who are not taking a proactive approach to promoting their company.