1. Book into the right show
Make sure your buyers are coming along to the event and are not just a small component. Ask the organiser for a show report. Talk to previous participants and go to the show. Remember smaller focused events can be more effective than big general shows. Be careful of new events with no track record.
2. Book early and start planning
Many of us book a show and then put it aside, or book late. It is much better to book early and start planning a few months out. Set up a separate folder in your computer and a physical one on your desk. Then start organising staff, promotional items, travel, stand layouts and follow up. A good organiser will send you an exhibitor manual with checklists and order forms to help this process.
3. Set some objectives
Have a chat with your sales and marketing people and set some objectives. They should be objective and realistic. They might include generating a specific number of leads, meetings, sales or samples. They might be to find a distributor or attract media attention. Of course you might want to do all these things, but think about the key priorities and how to measure them.
4. Engage in pre-show promotion
The organiser will run a promotion campaign to attract industry buyers, but research has shown a huge advantage for exhibitors who promote their own presence at the show. It draws traffic to your stand and shows how active you are in the market. Consider mailing a ticket to all your current and potential clients. Provide links on your website. Include a note on your invoices. Talk about the show on social media.
5. Train your show team
Staff are often thrown into a show. A little bit of training can make a big difference. Bring everyone together before the show and talk about your objectives, talk about the products on the stand and suggest some good ways to start and end conversations with buyers. The main points can be reinforced with a brief meeting each morning of the show.
6. Motivate your team
Working at a show can be hard work. Create a positive team atmosphere. Offer individual and group rewards for meeting targets.
7. Be professional
Your company is literally on show. You don’t have to have a big stand but you must be professional in everything you do. Make sure your display is neat and your people are well dressed and attentive. If you have posters then frame and mount them – or even better have them reproduced on the wall panels. Try not to eat or take calls on the stand.
8. Be obvious
Visitors will walk past your stand in five seconds. Make sure it is obvious what you do. A wall of product is much better than a picture of your factory or lots of furniture. If you want a distributor or have a new product put up a sign that says ‘distributor wanted’ or ‘new product’.
9. Be Positive
Go into the show with a positive attitude and you will get a much better result. Smile at every visitor and get them excited about your products. Have some fun with your team. If you look grumpy and complain about everything then nobody will want to talk to you. This simple point is probably the most important one here!
10. Ask questions
Ask questions and listen carefully to answers. This will help you to engage with visitors, identify genuine buyers and to present your products in the most appropriate way. Good questions start with when, why, who and how. How could you use these products in your business? Where do you currently source your fresh foods? When are you thinking of starting a business? What would make you consider our brand?
11. Capture details
You want to walk away from the show with a list of names to follow-up. Make sure you record them accurately and make some notes. You might print lead forms for your people to complete, or have a book where you can staple business cards and make notes. Some shows offer a scanner that can read visitor badges. This is worth considering if you think you will be busy.
12. Follow up
One of the biggest complaints from visitors is that exhibitors do not follow them up. Make sure you capture details and send something within seven days. The only way to make this happen is to prepare before the show. Have packs ready to go and someone in the office to make it happen. For a three day show you should allocate at least days for follow up.