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SMILE – If You’re Exhibiting

Why would you even consider exhibiting when, according to Robert Craven, in terms of generating sales it ranks 8th out of 10; marginally more effective than direct mail and email?  Especially when you think of the cost – the exhibition stand, the promotional material, preparation time as well as the man hours!

Is exhibiting really right for you?  Is your product or brand naturally visual?  Do your customers or potential customers really buy this way?  Do you have the time and resources?  Will it really be worth it?   Consider what the cost per lead is vs. other methods available to you to generate leads


1 Exhibition space = £2,500+ 1 Display = £1,500 + 1 Prize = £500 + 1 Set of literature = £1,000 + 1 Lost Weekend = Priceless

20 leads generated divided by £5,500 = £275 per lead

Versus Employing a Lead Generator

@ £10 per lead multiplied by £5,500 = 550 leads and you still have the weekend to follow them all up!!

Think about your strategic aims: what do you want to achieve?

  • Get actual business
  • Get appointments for business
  • Get appointments for prospecting
  • Get prospects for the future – names and addresses
  • Or build brand awareness perhaps?

And … whatever your answer to that work out what your break-even point is.

What type of exhibition should you consider?

Finding the right trade fair is essential. If the area of interest it covers is too specialist or too broad, it is unlikely to attract visitors who want to buy what you have to sell or exhibitors offering the products and services you are looking to source.

Exhibiting at dedicated trade shows; that are directly relevant to your marketplace you will be showing along side all your major competitors. Whereas, you may find shows that are associated with your marketplace or those likely to appeal to your customer base may prove to be more effective, as you will stand out from the crowd. 

Other opportunities may include local multi trade exhibitions or indeed you could put on your own exhibition.  Why not take a room in a hotel near by to a major exhibition hall where your clients will be visiting and send them their personal invitation to take time out with you?

Take a look at the most likely trade fairs for your industry sector, and try to match them with your target client base. A useful resource is Exhibitions

What will you need to consider when setting out your stand?

The design of your stand must catch a passer by’s attention.  How your product will be made visible to the public.  Does your display theme match your plan and the type of exhibition?  Do your graphics tell people who you are, what you do and give passers by a reason to notice and talk to you.

Light, movement and activity generates interest – (See Peter Wardell of Brand Magic with networking author Andy Lopata does to attract attention for his clients.  Peter has great info-video on Trade Show Magic)

Have a quick clip board ‘fact find’ process or you could run a competition.  Don’t provide a rest area for staff – keep everyone on their feet.  Instead of a desk use a shelf for leaning on to write the order.

Use all the senses especially touch.  Give them something to take away.  Promotional merchandise is designed to remind customers of your business, and reinforce your brand. Make sure that yours stands out above all the other free pens, coasters, plastic bags, badges and mouse mats; otherwise it will be a waste of money. Choose something your customers will use that creates the right image of your business.

Mystery shop your competitors at exhibitions

If your competitors do it – it might well work but – don’t just copy and hope.  Go to an exhibition to find out what is out there.  Be critical of what you see, hear and feel.  What’s being done well and what’s not?  Consider how you would like to be approached and that’s your starting point for planning ahead. Always use lull time for working the room.  Look for collaborators, suppliers and influencers.

Your Delivery Plan

  • Make certain everyone in your exhibition team knows the plan of action.  Define roles and responsibilities and agree a method of approach – your ‘script’. 
  • Clear understanding of detail (e.g. how to manage competitor shoppers, difficult clients,
  • Be active, proactive and smile – this is pure networking.
  • Set a review time & revise plan accordingly; be prepared to change tack if the timing is out or there are fewer visitors than expected or you are inundated.

After the exhibition follow up promptly with your leads.  Do it within three days.  Every day thereafter your contacts lose interest.  


PS Don’t forget to SMILE all the while! You are exhibiting after all!


  1. Laura. Interesting article.

    Harsh treatment of staff though, not giving them a rest area.

    I know exactly what you mean, However it’s tough on your knees being stood up, and fairly static all day.

    Regular breaks needed at non-prime times, preferably at central cafe location (they can also take guests there & network too).

    Timings & locations should be agreed in advance.


  2. Time flies when you are busy, busy and having fun. So if you are exhibiting well staff (wearing well fitting shoes) shouldn’t feel the need to sit. However, as a good exhibition manager you would ensure proper breaks are taken and that there is a rota for working the room. Also, I did hear a great tip. Make sure you get the stand near the coffee shop or better still the bar where better to write up the deal?


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