30 tips and insights for a successful exhibition

Attendees crowd round a busy exhibition stand

Trade shows can be a great opportunity to network and showcase your business. But they also demand a serious investment of your time and money - so make sure you're well prepared

Here are our top tips and insights to help you get the best out of exhibiting, from designing your stand to engaging with prospective customers:

  1. On average, 75% of visitors to an exhibition are there to buy or plan to buy in the future. It’s a highly-qualified audience - so make sure your pitch is up to scratch.
  2. Exhibiting is one of the most cost-effective way of getting your products and services in front of customers, as long as you maximise your presence and work hard.
  3. Exhibiting allows you to truly interact with potential customers, using all five senses. Exploit that with creative, hands-on stand displays.
  4. Decide why you are exhibiting and what you want to achieve. Have some specific, measurable targets in mind - for example, to get 300 qualified sales leads, or conduct 50 research interviews.
  5. Design your stand to help deliver your objectives. Make sure it is smart, attractive, visible and reflects well on your company.
  6. Have one person in charge of every aspect of the exhibition. Make them accountable, and ask for progress reports.
  7. 80% of stand success is down to your staff, so train them thoroughly and ensure they're working hard throughout the day.
  8. If you can invite people, do. Use social media, email and your website to get the message out and invite potential customers to your stand.
  9. Formulate a plan for how you will follow up all leads.
  10. At the show, let people know you are there - advertise. Don't be a shrinking violet.
  11. Don't ask closed questions. Open questions encourage prospects to talk about their business, issues and needs.
  12. Keep your conversations short and concise. Your aim is to speak to as many prospects as possible.
  13. Turn off your mobile phone or other gadgets, and focus on the visitors to your stand.
  14. Get all the contact details and information you can from your prospect, or scan their badge or lanyard if you can to capture their data.
  15. Make a staff rota, so everyone knows where he or she is and what he or she is doing, when.
  16. Always make eye contact and smile.
  17. Listen to your prospect and sell the benefits, not the features, of your products or services. Make sure you can explain how your business can solve their problems.
  18. Anticipate questions and objections and make sure you can quickly answer them without looking flustered, or saying "I'll come back to you on that"… you've already lost them.
  19. You and your staff need to look fresh and feel fresh. If you're flagging, take a short break or rota on another person with new energy - you don't have time to waste.
  20. Be creative to attract people to your stand - free samples work well.
  21. If it's a multi-day event, have daily team debriefs to help you understand what you can do better the following day.
  22. Classify all leads - don't just take details; ensure you know who the person is and what they're looking for, so your follow-up is personal and relevant.
  23. Don't eat whilst on the stand, or chat amongst yourselves - stay looking professional and customer-focused.
  24. Remember why you are there - stay focused on your objectives.
  25. Talk less and listen more to draw out your prospect.
  26. At the end of the event, conduct a show debrief with the stand team, and identify what went well and what didn't.
  27. Don't forget to thank the event organiser for a successful show. You may be able to help them with after-show promotion to further raise your (and their) profile.
  28. Follow up leads with a personalised message or call. You may need to contact them on average six times before they convert.
  29. Make use of all the information you have gathered. For example, use attendee feedback to drive future product development.
  30. Book early for next year, to get the best stand placement.

Written with input from Chris Skeith of AEO.

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