Alex Shah

Ten ways to make the most of your day exhibiting at a trade show

January 13, 2016

Trade shows can be tiring, but there are ways to ensure that you are doing the best you can with the time you’ve got.

If, like me, you suffer from museum fatigue, exhibitions are not for you. A day on a trade stand will sap the life from your blood, and if the show spreads over more than one day things will get worse thanks to the unavoidable alcohol abuse as overnighting exhibitors are thrown together far from home in hotels where the bars never close. If you’re in property, this will be a familiar scenario to you in the form MIPIM, the industry’s annual binge in the south of France. To date, I have never dared make the trip.

My wife is made of stronger stuff and frequently attends shows across England and beyond. She is a natural people person with amazing stamina and enjoys the social side of the show business. Some of these tips come from her. Others come from my own experience, but number one and two are from the very first business training course I ever attended back in the late Eighties.

1. Stand up. Do not sit on the stand, and don’t hover at the back. Position yourself in the aisle where you can accost (sorry, interact) with passing punters.

2. Don’t waste time trying to close a deal with everyone who ventures in. Get their business card, make a note of what they’re interested in and follow up afterwards.

3. If you’re staying overnight, check where the hotel fire exits are before you go to the bar.

4. Make sure you know the rules (and the tricks) for setting up and breaking down. This can save you from miserable hours hanging around in the car park or frustration fits when your visuals won’t stick to the stand panels.

5. Watch out for hidden extras from the organisers, such as additional fees for power sockets, lighting and insurance.

6. Put up your stand at your premises, as a practice, and so that you know it fits the space you’ve hired.

7. Have a rota of people so that you avoid fatigue. You won’t perform if you’re tired, and you’ll put off visitors if you look like you’ve been there all day and have had enough.

8. Do business with other exhibitors. There’s often a sense of camaraderie between exhibitors, some of whom may be in the market for your products or services, or interested in a partnership with you.

9. Seek out the press. Shows are often sponsored by one publication so the editor and publisher are there, and it’s your chance to meet and build a relationship with them. Bigger shows may have a press room where you can leave press packs and look out for journalists.

10. Check out your competitors. Shows are a fantastic opportunity to benchmark your own marketing against those who market against you.