It’s 18 days until the Learning and Skills Exhibition starts and we can’t wait! Are you going?

Creativedge will be there! As will more than 7,000 visitors, all set to enjoy 150 free L&D seminars, 250 exhibitors in two exhibition halls packed with the latest learning technologies, innovation and best practice.

This powerful two-event combination provides a unique and exciting environment for anyone and everyone involved in workplace learning.

But regardless of whether it’s L&S or any other trade show, running a stand at one of hard work and exhausting as everyone needs to stay bright and alert for the long hours they require.

It’s usually always helpful – and also just good manners! – if you can be pleasant to everyone you meet for the whole duration and then when you get back to the office, there’ll be all that follow up to do (well, at least there should be (see tip 5).

Here are 5 top tips to make your investment in trade shows or exhibitions more productive, more profitable and more rewarding:-

1. Never go alone

You probably already know that it’s a full time job running a trade stand – and it should NEVER be left unattended.

Every 5 minutes that your stand is unattended, your investment in the event will be waters as you miss out on meeting potential new customers. But to stay fresh you must get some breaks in, over what will probably be a long day or many long days at other trade shows. So even if you are a sole trader, take a partner with you, a family member a friend or even a student from the local college looking for some work experience.

2. Stand display

You will have your own ideas about what works best for you and what doesn’t.

You can also learn a lot from other exhibitors, both good and bad. Here are some thoughts that often apply to ANY business as the minimum of good professional practise:-

– NO clutter. (That includes NO half-drunk cups of coffee, a newspaper or half-eaten sandwich left on display! Or bored looking support staff with nothing to do. Send them around the stand to report back to you with highlights or to stand at the entrance with an engaging leaflet and direct interested visitors back to your stand.

– Clear Focus – on what you specialise in and what you offer. (This also means no other distractions for you or anyone in your team, such as an amusing conversation with a colleague, neighbour or next-door exhibitor).

– Not too much on display – it can all become meaningless ‘noise’ if you aren’t careful.

– Not too little either – it may look as if you aren’t really in business for real

. – Eye-friendly and exceptionally well lit displays. Don’t forget you are after your visitors ‘eye-share’ first.

– Something to taste, smell, listen to, watch or feel: appear to ALLL your visitors’ senses as relevantly as you can.

– Well labelled displays – don’t let visitors guess what your business is about.

– Themed product displays grouped intelligently to they relate to each other – not just a mish mash of odd assortments thrown together.

– Something for good prospects and general enquirers to take away and remember you by.

3. ‘Qualify’ visitors

Some visitors may only be time-wasters – although you don’t know this until you engage with them – and you most certainly can’t always judge on first appearances.

Moreover, even if they may not be buying for themselves, they may still be buying for someone else. So however tired you are, however unengaged they may appear to be, let good manners and common courtesy always be your watchword.

But in the end you’ll need to focus your time on those who may be the most productive. The best way to do this is to ‘qualify’ them. You can do this by very gentle, but very direct questions; in a business to business transaction, this can be easier than you think.

Just ask: – “Can I just note which company you represent”; “Would you mind telling me your job title?” “Can I ask what that involves?”; “Does your organisation use our type of products/services?” “May I ask whom your company uses at the moment?”; “Is there anything you know of that could be better?” and then: “Could I have your card?”; “Is there anyone else you suggest I could contact in your company about this?”

– Selling to general public is often much more difficult because ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ can be so much more ambiguous, but we may all still be consumers to consider asking:- “Have you ever bought the GHI before?” “Could you see yourself ever buying the XYZ? What would you be looking for if so?” Could you see anyone in your family circle wanting the XYZ – what would they be looking for?”

As the secret of a successful show is to meet as many good prospects and clients as possible in the time available, however you might rate each visitor, you will need to develop an exit strategy for each one so you can move on politely and meet others as soon as it is appropriate. So consider grading your visitors into:

– Time waster? Goodbye “Thank you for your interest: I do hope you enjoy the rest of your visit here”

– Weak prospect – polite closure for the moment “Do take a card/leaflet/sample”

– Good prospect agree a net action before they go – e.g. a future appointment or call “Let’s make a date to meet again to talk in more detail when things are less busy”

– Hot prospect – not to be let go of, or near your competitors! – “Let’s go and grab a cup of coffee so we won’t be disturbed by others”

Another reason why you need at least two people on your stand!

4. Keep a note

For most professional businesses, exhibitions and trade shows are far more about finding well-qualified prospects, rather than finding buyers there and then.

Your prime goal may then be to win repeat business – not just one-off sales, so capturing the details of those you meet, who show an interest of any sort, must be a prime goal to support your future marketing and promotion.

This requires real discipline when your stand is busy and you can help yourself by designing a pro-forma enquiry sheet to record every live enquirer, even if you then do no more than say you will be back in touch. Take a brief note of what you have promised to do – before you turn to meet and greet your next visitor.

And if you are really busy, introduce your moderately warm prospect to your assistant to take their details for you as you turn to your next visitor.

5. Follow-up

After all the hard work of attending the trade show or exhibition, it may be tempting to pack up and go back to your office to deal with all the emails and post you have received whilst being away! Big mistake! For most exhibitors, this is when the real work starts, converting all those precious, qualified leads into sales.

So do prepare your standard follow-up contact messages and literature in advance, set yourself a deadline to get these out – within the next week? And do make time for all those invaluable top-priority follow up calls.

Measure the investment ALWAYS calculate the cost of your attendance at a trade show or exhibition and keep a track on its pay-back for you.

Don’t go because ‘you always go’ and don’t go because you were told there was a spare place at the last minute. Go because it was worth your investment.

Second, learn from others. Ask your exiting customers what they liked and what they didn’t from the event where they first saw you. Ask why they bought form you at the first time.

Ask similar suppliers who will tell you, what works best for them.

Also, ask your exhibition organiser for their thoughts. Their interest will be in winning your business back again, so they least they can do is to tell you who attended and what their wider feedback was.

Need more tips on maximizing trade shows and exhibitions or tips on a range of other management and L&D issues from experts?

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