The best exhibition stand lessons from The Apprentice so far

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Poor exhibition stand design, bickering salespeople, going for the hard sell…Read on for the top 5 lessons The Apprentice can teach us about exhibitions and trade shows.

This year’s The Apprentice was one where exhibitions/trade shows didn’t make it onto the task list (perhaps because product owners don’t want to chance the often car-crash approach of the contestants). Yet with the finale airing tonight (and talk of the show being axed), we thought we’d our top takeaway lessons from over the years.


1/ Don’t go dull on exhibition stand designs

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It may be out of The Apprentice contestants’ hands most of the time, but their exhibition stands are usually far from captivating.  The budgets and space may be tight, but a lot can be done with small spaces to stand out. 

The Wedding Show episode was a prime example – one team’s stand was one of many red and white numbered stalls where the luxury £2k+ wedding dresses were simply bunched together in a row. Imagine the difference if they had had an on-brand captivating design, with digital displays showcasing how the designs look in person and wedding dress trends? 

Sir Alan Sugar may want to test the contestants’ sales patter abilities but the overall sales would surely have been higher  if they didn’t have to fight for their audience.


2/ Know your audience

The success of most of The Apprentice expo and trade show tasks comes down to which team has selected the product which fits the audience. (Or which one managed to flatter the creators of the obvious on-trend product, rather than trying to haggle them down on price first!)

Every trade show or exhibition will attract different audiences, so it’s important to select your venue carefully, Does it match what you offer? Should you feature certain services or products over others? 

You should also consider which salespeople are best suited to each. For example, in the Caravan Show episode, Neil clearly thought that his technique was better than Jason. However, it didn’t work on the older audience who lapped up what Karen Brady described as “theatrical” and “over-sincere” charm.


3/ Engage visitors with interactive strategies

According to  Exhibit Marketing and Trade Show Intelligence, 58% of visitors will wait less than 60 seconds at your stand without engagement and 6% won’t wait at all. 

Whilst one of the main reasons that people attend exhibitions is to experience a product first-hand, getting them to stay long enough to do so can be half the battle.And almost every stand offers a demo of their product. 

As well as a bespoke exhibition stand design, consider other ways to captivate your audience whilst they wait, such as virtual reality or interactive, audience-generated content – or even fun ice-breaker activities. 

Imagine how much more engaged  the brides attending The Apprentice’s stand would have been if they had been provided with a “What’s your wedding dress style?” product selector.


4/ Don’t bicker, huddle or pounce

The Apprentice contestants are often so busy scoring points with each other that they fail to realise that their bickering and fights for attention are off-putting. Whilst most of your salespeople can be relied on not to fight in public, you would be surprised at how many salespeople huddle together on exhibition stands or even stare at their phones. 

Just as off-putting is being pounced on and almost pulled into an exhibition stand (a favourite ‘trick’ of The Apprentice contestants). Instead you should let your stand (and a friendly hello) draw people in. Consider creative giveaways that people can’t resist, like branded phone bank chargers, car phone holders or the interactive strategies above.


5/ Think of the long game, rather than the hard sell

Many of the contestants are far too aggressive with their sales tactics, pushing away customers that need more time to consider emotional or high value purchases.

It’s hardly surprising that The Apprentice Contestants resort to hard-sell tactics when their success or failure depends on the sales they generate over just one or two days. Yet the reality for businesses is quite different.  

If you can sell, that’s great, but your focus should be on building relationships, educating and capturing warm leads. (A popular tactic now is scanning exhibitor badges to provide personalised product detail follow-ups.)

As these lessons show, you may have the best product or service at the exhibition or trade show, but your success  relies on a solid right strategy to help you engage your audience from the first impression to closing a sale.

We can’t help you with bickering salespeople but we can help you create stand-out exhibition stand designs and features.  Get in touch today to find out how we can help with your next exhibition.

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