How to get the most out of exhibiting at events

This week I attended the North East Expo at Newcastle Falcons and as always it was a well organised event and I had many useful and interesting conversations.

However, it never ceases to amaze me when I attend this type of event just how many business pay to have a space and then don’t make the most of the opportunity. What do I mean by this? Here are a few considerations when planning your activity:

  • An engaging stand – stands that don’t look like every other. Pop-up ✓ business cards ✓ leaflets ✓ bottle of bubbly and glass jar for business cards ✓. That’s all you need, right? What about a reason for people to engage with you? Unless your pop-ups say something really interesting, what is going to stop visitors in their tracks and make them talk to you, rather than the next stand? Be creative and don’t be afraid to use props. I love this example from The HR Dept:
  • A stand with clarity – don’t go the opposite way and cram in as much as you possibly can! This can be really difficult to digest in a glance while passing, so again visitors are probably going to keep walking by. Keep it tidy and just have what you really need on your table/stand. Any additional information can be kept under the table and pulled out when required. Here’s a lovely example from Digital Allies:
  • A business card draw – ok, I’m not saying don’t do one, they’re actually a great idea. However, think about what benefit it offers. You get to collect all the business cards of people who are desperate to win the prize. If this is a bottle of bubbly, how does this benefit your business? Are the people entering potential clients? Perhaps it would be better to give a prize relevant to your business, so that only potential clients enter. Here’s a great business relevant from North East England Chamber of Commerce:
  • Sitting down or staying on your feet – I know it’s a long day, I’ve done plenty of these events myself! But if you really must rest your feet, sit down while no one is around and stand up as soon as someone approaches. As a visitor it is difficult having a conversation with someone sat behind a desk in a noisy environment.
  • Body language – smile and make eye contact! This sounds obvious, but I am truly baffled by how many people don’t do it. Here’s our lovely friend Tracy from Emirates, who has this nailed!
  • Speak! – you’ve spent all this money on a stand, you’ve invested time and maybe money in an engaging activity, you’ve taken the day out of the office and potentially driven miles, you need to make the most of it! And you can only do that if you speak to people. Every visitor is there because they want to make contacts, and they don’t have a table to hide behind. Make it easy for them, make the first move and say ‘hi’. I promise they’ll respond!
  • What you’re going to say – once you’ve introduced yourself you’ll need to talk about your business. Think about the key information you want to get across before they move on. If you need to, practice your sales pitch in advance. And please, don’t forget to ask about the visitor.
  • Integrate your activity with other marketing channels. Use social media to let people know in advance that you’ll be there, where to find you and if you’re doing something interesting let them know what – give them a reason to seek you out. Post pictures of the day, connect with people you’ve met on LinkedIn and if you’ve got something valuable to say, write a blog or perhaps a LinkedIn post about it.


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