I have to confess that I really enjoy exhibitions both attending and exhibiting, despite the sore feet and the long days. You always meet interesting people and there are many opportunities to be had.
Whether you are an exhibitor or a visitor, trade fairs and consumer shows are great places to network
and forge good business relationships.
Plan, the more time and effort you put into it, the more you will get out of it.
Pre-register. Not only will you save money. most trade shows charge an on-the-day registration
fee, but you will also be first in line for the latest show news, offers and benefits via e-alerts. You
will invariably receive full show previews in advance plus invitations to networking opportunities
and details of special show promotions.
Give yourself enough time. If you are visiting a core show within your industry, then you will be
meeting people you should be speaking to in every aisle. Allow enough time for unscheduled
conversations as well as planned meetings.
Take advantage of free educational opportunities. The closer we are to an exhibition or industry,
the more likely we are to fall in the trap of "seen it, heard it, done it, got the t-shirt".
Don't be complacent. Look at what the organisers and exhibitors are offering in terms of
seminars and conference sessions; you may learn something new.
Be open to ideas. One of the great advantages of exhibitions is that we often learn about
concepts and ideas which we have never considered before. So, take a good look around and be
prepared to listen.
Expect to 'do' the whole show too quickly - allow more than one visit. Even the smallest of
events may need two days or at least two half days. By their nature exhibitions are places where
meeting people can fall naturally into place, but equally you can quickly become frustrated
when you keep missing the person you most wanted to see.
Just focus on the companies you came to see - visit some newcomers. You may be surprised by
the number of companies offering similar services. It's worth considering start-ups and lesser
known companies who have the drive and enthusiasm to win your business and keep it.
Book too many meetings - keep your diary relatively free. If you plan too much, to the extent
that you have arranged back-to-back meetings, you will only set yourself up to fail. While you
need to make the most of your time, over-plan and you stifle the opportunities for chance
meetings and the ability to be flexible.
Be afraid of being cornered by an exhibitor - keep an open mind. Make eye contact, smile and
remember a quick stop could result in an invaluable find or an enlightening conversation.
Waste the information gathered at the show - follow up on meetings.
To make the most of the opportunities to network at trade shows, some points to consider when
meeting people are.
1. Get people to talk about themselves first, so you know how to frame what you say about your
business to suit them.
2. Don't just tell people what you do, there may be hundreds of people doing exactly the same
thing. Tell people why they should use you. And think about this in an innovative way. Don't use
phrases like “the best/quickest/fastest/most efficient/most creative” - you might as well say
3. Makes sure you have catalogues available to show your product.
4. Don't give up because you didn't win business the first time you went. It is about building long-
term relationships - it's not a quick fix.
5. Always have business cards, and lots of them - you'd be amazed how many people turn up
6. Listen to others, and show you're listening. If you play with your phone while they're speaking,
they'll be less inclined to listen to you.
7. Follow up with personalised emails where appropriate - but don't spam.
8. Don't be scared if you happen to end up talking to a competitor you can talk about your
differences - maybe there's a business relationship to be developed through skills sharing.
9. Have confidence in your business - no one knows it better than you.
I would recommend looking at all the potential trade exhibitions, but initially I would recommend visiting andwalking the show before committing to exhibiting yourself.