How to make the most of your exhibition stand

A few weeks ago, I got a call about 6:30 in the evening from a friend and ex colleague.

“Sally … I’m at an exhibition and we’re not making enough connections. I’m desperate … this cost a fortune and the team just aren’t getting the footfall … can you give me any suggestions for making tomorrow [the last day] work”?

Now I’ll be the first to suggest that a desperate call half-way through an exhibition is never going to get you the support you really need (that would have meant involving me weeks ago) but the least I could do was give them 10 minutes of my time and see if there was anything I could help with.

It turned out that they were suffering from three problems that LOTS of exhibitors suffer from … and as exhibiting is coming back into vogue, here are the three problems and solutions for each.

  • 1. Some of your team look like members of the security team.

They are standing at the front, arms folded or behind their back, trying to look at the names on the badges of those passing by.

Don’t have all your team on the stand at the same time.

Give them all plenty of breaks so that they are fully focussed when there. And then make sure they aren’t standing like bouncers at the front … it’s intimidating and stops people seeing your signage.

Don’t worry about who you are talking to; looking busy is a good thing and will attract people passing by. Have someone just off the stand who can mop up the important people who slow down to see what they are missing and/or are in your top 20 businesses to meet.

  • 2. Some of your team are worried they will appear too salesy.

I don’t believe you can be too salesy. You can be too pushy, obnoxious or full of yourself … but none of those are sales behaviours.

No one goes to an exhibition without expecting to be approached and if they really aren’t interested in your product or service, they will tell you.

Ideally have something to give or offer so you can start to have a conversation about something else. Or at least have some great open questions about the show or the topic that will draw your passer-by in.

And have some responses in hand so if someone says … “it’s not within my field of responsibility” you have an immediate response … maybe “do you know what role within your company, does have responsibility for this?” That may well get you chatting about the other role (and maybe the name of the person with that role) and at the very least you will know who to contact after the show.

  • 3. Some of your team don’t really want to be there.

You’ve bought the wrong people to the show. They see the role as difficult, scary or not in their job description.

Not much you can do on the day apart from tell them that you have bought them along to build relationships and these will start with them saying hello.

Once they have made great eye contact, smiled and said hello … it is up to them what they say next.

  • How has the show been for you?
  • Have you seen anything useful today?
  • What’s the most interesting stand you have been on today?

It doesn’t matter so long as they can start to chat. Then (and only then) should they ask about interest in your product or service.

Point out that they aren’t trying to sell the product or service today. If they can just find out if what you do is something the visitor might be interested in and if it is, get permission to contact them … the rest can be left to your sales team.

Obviously, there is a lot more to making the most of your exhibition stand and if you plan to exhibit, I’d be happy to chat through how the team at Partners With You can help.

But whatever you do please plan ahead so you know who you want to meet, how you plan to meet them and what you are going to offer those who take the time to stop and talk.