How to make a (positive)
exhibition of yourself

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It?s exhibition season again.

What do exhibitions mean for you? Starting at the crack of sparrows, erecting (or trying to erect) your stand. Remembering that you forgot your stapler. Smiling all day until your face hurts. Standing all day until your calves feel like they are going to explode.

Finally, after finding the energy to dismantle your stand, you drive home and position yourself on the sofa. What have you got to show for your efforts? A collection of random business cards; memories of half conversations.

How can you make exhibitions work? Working with our friend, exhibition consultant Ian Hawkins we have compiled a top 10 lists of what to do (and not do) to ensure you get the ROI on exhibition investment.

What to do:

Do set goals and targets. Before the exhibition ask yourself what is your purpose for being there? Is it to raise your company's profile or is it to generate leads? Make a list and set targets around them. Charge each member of staff with roles and responsibilities for the day.

Do ask viewpoint questions. Be prepared with a stock of questions that don't require a yes or no answer. Try these for starters: What brings you to the exhibition? What seminars and demonstrations are you looking forward to?

Do let people know that you are exhibiting. Let your clients and contacts know when, where and your stand number. Exhibitions can be great places to meet up and do some extra networking. Send a series of countdown emails 6 weeks, 3 weeks and 1 week before the event. Post out on your social media platforms in the weeks leading up to the exhibition and if the organisers are using a hashtag then use it to engage with other exhibitors and delegates.

Do keep mobile phone, tablet and laptop use to a minimum. Nothing says uninterested and unavailable more than a lowered head glued to a screen. Unless you are using any of the devices to enhance your pitch or make the occasional post on social media then keep them safely stored away. If you do need to use them then keep one eye on the stand and acknowledge anyone who comes by, so they know they are important to you.

Do follow-up after the show? The exhibition has no doubt cost you a great deal of time, money and effort so make it worth your while. Have in place a system for visitors to leave their details with you and then follow-up with a personalised email within a week. Mention what they discussed with you and how you can help. Add them to your database and let them know that they can subscribe to your regular newsletters.

What not to do:

Don't have too many staff working the stand at once. Too many staff can have a negative effect and instead of the stand looking busy it can be intimidating for prospects. It's always easier to chat on a one-to-one basis without an audience listening in.

Don't eat on the stand. Whether you're settling down with a sandwich or chewing gum it doesn't give the impression that you are able to give a prospect your full attention. Make sure you have enough people to be able to let each one take a break away from the stand and eat. And it's an obvious one but when you do get your lunch break steer clear of highly flavoured food like onion, garlic and curry!

Don't do all the talking. This is where the 80/20 rule comes into play. Only by listening to the person's needs will you be able to establish if and how you can help them. By asking the right questions and listening to the answers you'll quickly find out if they are potential clients or time wasters.

Don't be afraid to blow your own trumpet. Genuine enthusiasm is infectious, and you will quickly get people on your side when they see how you feel about your product or service. If you're staff are slightly lacking in this regard then nurture their interest in the product/service, give them the knowledge they need to be confident in talking about the product/service and install in them the belief that it works.

And most importantly:

SMILE! Even if your feet are throbbing and your head is pounding, a welcoming smile can put potential clients at ease and make it easier for you to engage with them.

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