Custard Insight: Exhibiting

By Natalie Blachford

Exhibiting at a trade show is a fantastic way to put your business in front of an audience of buyers actively looking to invest, whether that’s hoteliers looking for the latest innovations in design at the Independent Hotel Show or event planners seeking out an exciting venue for their next big event at The Meetings Show.

It’s not as simple as just setting up a stand and waiting for business to come to you though – you will be one of hundreds of exhibitors in a packed exhibition hall, and so standing out from the crowd is key.

First of all, you need to make sure you pick a prime position for getting noticed. Look at a floorplan for the event and think about where will have the highest footfall, like a central walkway or near a main stage, and where you can easily be seen. A bigger stand will also help draw attention – at a cost – but this should be weighed against the potential benefits it could bring.

Take some time to consider pre-show PR; the more interest you can generate in the lead-up to the event, the more visitors you’ll get to your stand. Take advantage of every opportunity presented to you by the organisers of the show, whether that’s uploading your latest news to their website or letting them know of any special offers or product launches you’ll have at your stand.

Make sure all your contacts know that you’re going to be there; even for existing customers, seeing you at the show is an opportunity to strengthen your relationship and tell them about any new products or services you have to offer. Get active on social media too – join in conversation about the show and make sure you’re using any relevant hashtags and tagging relevant people.

Invest in your stand. Exhibiting at a trade show can be expensive, but for new customers this is their first impression of you – so make it count. You don’t have to create a towering jungle backdrop or serve cocktails from a bus, but good quality panelling, an eye-catching product display and clear branding can work wonders.

Staffing of your stand is also really important. You need true brand ambassadors who are passionate about your service or product and can convey that passion in a warm, friendly and professional way. Don’t be too pushy when it comes to sales, but also make sure you don’t forget the all-important data capture. Keep a notebook handy for details of the most promising leads – by the end of the day you’ll have collected so many business cards that seeing a name won’t be enough to remind you of the conversation you had. You can also get creative with competitions, interactives quizzes or even an Instagram photo booth to help buyers remember you.

Finally, don’t forget that having a stand isn’t the only way of getting involved with a trade show. If the show has a seminar programme, you could put a spokesperson forward to share their expertise with a captive audience. There may also be opportunities to host a VIP area or a post-show drinks reception – speak to the organisers and find out how you can get more involved.