Being successful at a business expo requires a lot more than sitting there with an amazing banner on your stand. These 8 tips on running a successful stand at your business expo will improve your return on investment.
What do you hate about business exhibitions?
OK, an odd place to begin, but think about it for a moment.
- Pushy sales people thrusting leaflets in your face.
- Great slick looking stands, with nobody to talk to.
- Disturbing someone (yes, we are British) to ask them a question
- Being jumped on because you looked as if you might be vaguely interested
That’s quite a common list, so the trick is to make sure you’ve dealt with all of these problems.
Related ‘expo’ articles
This article is all about running a successful stand at your business expo. There are some other important elements, as well as what you do on the day.
- 5 Things NOT to do at your business exhibition stand
- The best freebies for your expo
- Planning your expo stand
Having an interactive and interesting stand doesn’t mean putting out more leaflets!
1: Don’t hide behind the table.
I’ll repeat that – NEVER sit behind the table on your stand, for any part of the day.Yes that makes it hard work and your feet will ache. If you’re not in for really interacting with people, don’t get a stand. Make eye contact and smile.
I was not prepared to talk to people sitting behind their stands who couldn’t be bothered to engage me in conversation.
It was nearly the end of (what felt like) a long day on an expo stand. I met and started chatting to a lady (simply asking her how she had found the show so far), the conversation turned to my stand, we walked to it. That’s when she said “I am happy to talk with you as you have shown an interest in me”. She had walked past every other stand and most hadn’t even looked up from their chairs behind their stands while she browsed, one had said “hi” and no more. I was the only person to chat to her, from in front of my stand. As a result I asked a couple of screening questions, and then we talked business. She become a good lead.
2: How to start conversations
On the one hand you don’t want to be pushy and put people off, but you need to talk in order to get leads. Conversations are the only way, handing out leaflets is a last resort.
Open questions encourage prospects to talk
- Stand in the aisle, never “on” your stand.
- Chat to passers by, start with simple show related, general, questions (‘How have you found the show so far’, ‘I thought the last speaker was great, what did you like about her’, etc).
- Have a 20 second statement about what you do. After starting conversation some people will politely move on, others will ask what you do – so have a simple version ready, then 1-2 simple questions you can ask to see if your offer is relevant to them (NOT- ‘is that of interest to you’).
- Be ready to then discuss some more about them. Don’t ask closed questions. Open questions encourage prospects to talk about their company, issues and needs. If your offer is relevant, go on to arrange a more detailed discussion and encourage them to enter your competition.
- Keep your conversations with prospects short and concise. Your aim is to speak to as many prospects as possible.
- Turn off your mobile phone and focus on the visitors to your stand.
3: Book yourself busy.
If your stand is busy, others visitors will be more interested.
Before the event starts spread the word to clients and friends. Use all your marketing channels: email, website, social media, phone, etc. and get people to visit you one the stand. You might even have a discount for clients who visit.
Have a diary for the day where you plan to meet people. Fill some of the slots beforehand by setting appointments to meet existing clients at the show. It could be a good time to catch up with loyal clients (remember they are valuable too).
4: Drive traffic to your stand
If you are in the main traffic flow, it’s easy. If not, what can you do to get out there, provoke discussion and get people to come and visit your stand? That means somebody walking the other aisles (specially the busy ones) doing something (maybe gimmicky) to engage in discussion.
5: Expose yourself to the exhibitors
The best contacts in small business expos often come from chatting with the other stand holders. They probably have the same type of clients as you, they have the same outlook as you (that’s why they’re there) and remember the networking rule “associations always”. I’ve often got additional leads from just the conversations I’ve had on the day – let alone longer term networking benefits.
6: Data, data and data
Gather contact information from prospective clients at the event, don’t just pass out business cards. It’s your job to follow up, not theirs to follow up with you!
You will be shattered at the end of the day, and will forget the follow ups you promised to make. Capture data (being aware of GDPR) and use it to follow up. Even if you don’t speak to everybody you can email them and say thank you for visiting. Ask them to sign up, for something they are interested in (any thing that’s valuable and related to your business e.g. I might offer a tip sheet on Expo’s, or a guide to networking).
[Blockquote]One good way of dealing with GDPR, and saving yourself work, is to get them to fill in a data capture form on your laptop[/blockquote]
7: Breaks and rest periods.
You and your team should be fresh at all times, so plan breaks. Give yourself time to wander round the other stands, and get your team to do the same.
Don’t eat on the stand.
8: Use social media
Before the expo starts follow any event hashtags on social media to do some pre-show networking. During the day, keep it up (or get somebody in the office to keep doing it for you).
Being active on social media in the day raises awareness. Share pictures of your stand so your followers know you’re there. How about photos of your visitors or saying thank you to them on social?
A social media based competition can work well (best photo of the stand, best photo of the giveaways, best question asked on your Facebook page, etc.).
You expo stand can be fun, and very profitable, but you have to engage visitors. What’s your favourite trick to engage visitors?