Maximise your time at your next exhibition with our trade show tricks!
Posted by Tom Oakes
Anyone who has exhibited before knows how frantic it can be. The exhibition and trade show industry is fast paced to say the least. With only a few days to attract visitors, sell product, network and achieve all your targets if you are not using your time wisely then you should really have considered staying back at the office.
When exhibiting it is not enough to simply rely on your exhibition stand design. You need to learn to maximise the short amount of time you have. In this blog I am going to look at some hints and tips to make sure that you make every second count at your next show.
Plan, plan, plan and then plan some more… Then plan
Yes you have heard it a thousand times but it cannot be over stated. Planning is the absolute essential ingredient in the success pie you are hoping to bake at your next show. To start thinking about how to plan lets first assume you have already found an exhibition stand design and you are satisfied you will be able to turn up and your stand will be built and ready.
Planning should start way before the show. Everyone staffing your stand should be fully briefed and energised to attend. The devil is in the detail and making sure your staff know where the stand is, travel arrangements, flights and hotels etc is essential. Don’t just assume everyone is on the same page, lead and ensure that memos have been read and that time is set aside for briefings prior to the show.
Know the schedule
First things first, are you familiar with the shows schedule. What time are events planned? Speakers, lectures, seminars and competitions. Knowing what is on and when will help you to decide how to staff your stand, where to target your marketing material and even schedule breaks. If a particularly big event is scheduled for the show make sure someone from your stand attends and fully briefs everyone, it’s a great ice breaker for visitors who may attend your stand afterwards.
Who is attending? Do you know? Full floor plans and exhibitor lists are often available pre –show and you should have downloaded and studied yours like a hawk for several months prior to the show… Which of course is an exaggeration but really, you should have had a look. What’s the flow of the show, which way will people generally be exploring. Who will they have visited prior to you, this will help you prepare your conversation, counter act your competitors and ultimately help use the limited time you get with a visitor more wisely.
Goals and performance measures
By setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely) goals for your next show you can help make sure you and your team are always using their time wisely by recognising and avoiding delegates, visitors and activities who won’t contribute towards you achieving them. With such a short period of time to network, sell and promote it is vital that your staff remain courteous but always on the lookout for those visitors you want to attract.
Share and share a like
Here is one out of left field. Share your contacts. Approach your competitors and turn your 1000 business cards in to 2000 business cards. There is nothing wrong with a bit of healthy competition. Show a little confidence in your product and service and potentially double your take home.
Which leads us nicely on to how to recognise good positive leads at your next show?
How to recognise good leads
A key component in using your time wisely is recognising when your time is been spent positively with a good lead that will help you achieve your show goals. As discussed in this great article via the-exhibitor.com website visitors to your website can be broken down in to 6 categories hot leads, cold leads, media, potential partners, time wasters and competitors. The trick to using your time wisely is to limit the amount of time you spend engaging with the last 2.
Hot leads are visitors who are visiting the show and your stand with a specific purpose, to make a deal or do business. They are looking to buy or use your product or service and all you have to do is convince them that you are the right people to do business with.
Cold leads although similar to hot leads will require more convincing. They have attended the show looking to be convinced as opposed to looking to buy.
At any major event or trade show there will often be a media presence. Keep your eyes peeled always for media reps and be sure to do your up most to impress them. A feature in a trade or show magazine can do wonders for your reputation and is a great source of free advertising!
Potential partners are those visitors you could potentially do business with, suppliers or potential marketing partners. Although probably not precisely what you will be looking for at your next trade show, exploring options outside of the box is a great way to spend some of that precious time and there are very few opportunities to do so outside of a trade show or conference.
Let’s face it, trade shows can be full of them. Being able to recognise a time waster quickly and being able to deal with them swiftly and courteously is an essential skill in making sure you use your time wisely. This ties in nicely to making sure you set yourself some SMART goals and ensure everyone on your stand understands what they are and who you are targeting. Having a strategy for dealing with time wasters is a great idea. Practice the conversation. Help your staff work together, “Can you help me in the back a moment Jack?”. That type of thing…
Inevitably your competitors will come a calling. Wolves in sheep’s clothing the lot of them. As discussed, if you have decided to adopt a more cohesive strategy to data collection you might welcome the odd visit from your rivals however, if not then again dealing with them swiftly and courteously is essential.
So, what can we do?
Now you and you staff understand the types of potential visitors that you may encounter, the next step is making sure they are trained to deal with each type. Planning the conversation ahead is definitely beneficial. You want your interactions with visitors to feel natural but there is no harm having some pre-determined questions prepared to quickly establish who you are engaging with. Your staff should always be looking to obtain information to make sure they are utilising their time properly.
Some questions to think about are:
- What is your purpose for attending the show?
- Have you visited many of the stands?
- Where are you attending from?
- What has bought you to our stand? Where did you hear about us?
Some exhibitors choose to have a tightly worded script but this can often feel unnatural and we would encourage a more relaxed approach but never the less focussed.
Most importantly off all, in order to make sure you have maximised your time at your next show always be capturing data. Data is big business these days and your staff should be under no illusions how important making notes regards their conversations are. Ideally you will have a pre made form accessible via an iPad that your staff can access quickly however, if iPads are a stretch then pen and paper will suffice but make sure you have devised a filing system.
Once hot and cold leads have been identified been able to follow up quickly is essential. You should always have a plan for how you are going to use the data you capture at your next show. Remember, every visitor to your stand may also have visited a competitor so stay a head of the game by having a post-show plan.
The key message from this blog is to make sure you have planned properly. Just turning up at a show is a sure fire recipe for disaster. It is simply not enough to just rely on your exhibition stand design and expect to be able to achieve your goals.