I’m Tosh Lubek and I’ve exhibited with Hashtag Business Events at business shows and EXPOs from Aberdeen down to Oxford and Milton Keynes, and many locations in between. However, I’ve also been one of Hashtag Business Events’ sponsors, providing a free video booth where any visitor could record a professional short video for their social media.
In the last twelve years of exhibiting at business shows, I’ve experienced great success and in the early days, some failures due to my inexperience. In this post, I’ll share my checklist of things to take to every exhibition, the contents of my “emergency box”, and quite a few tips for having a successful day at any business show.
First, my exhibition checklist.
Checklist of things to take
I always take the following items to each business show to “dress” my stand with the intention of attracting visitors and generating a list of potential leads.
- Business cards.
- Marketing brochure and promotional leaflets.
- Display stands for the above.
- Pop-up stands for behind the table.
- Bring a tablecloth (if not using the one supplied).
- Mains extension cord and block.
- Phone/tablet charger & cables.
- Display panel TV & stand for marketing video.
- Promotional giveaway items.
- Prize draw item.
- Bowl/Box for collecting business cards.
- Wheeled case or trolly for exhibition material.
- A5 notepad.
- Box of unbranded pens.
- Emergency Box.
The last item on the checklist is what I call my Emergency Box. You won’t not find any sticking plasters or bandages in it, but it does include items that have helped me fix pop up stands and generally save the day. This is especially important if, like me, you’ll be travelling a far distance to the business exhibition.
Emergency Box checklist
- Roll of Sellotape.
- Roll of gaff tape.
- Ball of string.
- Spare batteries for TV remote.
- Power bank USB charger.
So that’s my checklist and emergency box for every exhibition. Yours might be a little different, but you should find mine as a good starting point to ensure you can set up a good stand for the event.
16 Tips to maximise your exhibition experience
I’ve explained what you need to take to a business show as an exhibitor, now let me share 16 to make sure you have a successful day.
Get help at your stand. Although you might be able to cope on your own, you will find it much easier to have two, or possibly three, people on your stand. This will give you the opportunity to take a break or speak to other exhibitors while still having a functioning exhibition stand.
Arrive at the venue on time. This doesn’t mean just before the event is due to open to visitors, but when it opens to exhibitors so that you will have plenty of time to set up and correct any problems you may encounter.
Don’t leave early. Most exhibitions finish at 3.00pm, and although there may be a fall in visitor numbers over lunch, some attendees will deliberately come just for the afternoon. Packing up early is disrespectful to both visitors and exhibitors. Furthermore, you might miss speaking to that one person who could be your best new client.
Get connected at the venue. At some of the venues, you might not be able to get a good mobile signal due to poor network coverage. Fortunately, most venues provide free public Wi-Fi, and where possible, Hashtag Business Events will provide the SSID and password. If necessary, ask one of the HashTag Business Events team.
Don’t just talk to the room. Now that you’re connected to the internet, get onto social media, and let people know you’re at the event. When on Twitter, include the event hashtag in your tweets and two incredibly useful things will happen. The HashTag Business Events team will show your tweet on the venue’s display screens and retweet it to their tens of thousands of social media followers. Giving you extra exposure to those who couldn’t come to the event.
Speak to other exhibitors. It’s not just the registered attendees who are potential clients, that’s one reason why it’s useful to have more than one person on your stand. If you discover that other businesses in your niche have booked a stand, don’t get defensive or annoyed. I’ve found it can be an opportunity to make contacts, share information, and even collaborate.
Use professional exhibition material. If you’re going to spend time and money on a stand, don’t scrimp on leaflets, brochures, and promotional material. All those items promote your business brand and will reflect on your credibility. People visiting your stand may not have heard of you before, so they’ll form an impression of your business based on what they see at your stand. If they like what they see, they’re more likely to stop, chat, and ask questions about how you can help them.
Make sure you’re noticed. At most exhibitions, you’ll be provided with a 6ft table with a white tablecloth, and a couple of chairs. That’s identical to every other stand, so consider being different. You can fill the space behind you with pop-up banners and displays. Then replace the white tablecloth with one that’s a different colour or even printed it with your own company logo and corporate message. It’s not as expensive as you might think and a worthwhile investment if you plan to attend a few exhibitions.
Take photos and record video clips. At any business exhibition, the first thing people do after setting up their stand is to take photos and/or record short video clips to post on social media. You can also use video clips to tell your business story, provide updates, and share client testimonials. In fact, if you some of your customers come to the event, it’s a great opportunity to get them to record a video testimonial. It’s not wasting valuable time at the business show, you’re creating a good sales tool that can be used repeatedly.
Give people a reason to stop and engage with you. You can give away something valuable, although that doesn’t mean something of great monetary value. It should be something that has value to a potential customer visiting your stand. It could be a branded promotional item, but an industry report or checklist might be even more valuable to a client. For instance, if you’re an estate agent, give away a checklist of all the things a buyer/seller needs to do would moving business premises or home.
Collect contact details. You’re at the business event to find new sales leads, so make sure you collect the contact details of people visiting your stand. To do this effectively, give people an incentive to hand over their business cards or contain details. You could run a prize draw for a bottle of bubbly, chocolates, etc. To enter, you could ask people to drop their business cards into a box. However, to avoid any friction later, ensure they understand that by entering the draw they consent to be contacted.
Don’t be a nuisance. I’ve come across some stands that play product videos, and I would encourage you to do so, but do not turn up the sound to the point where it becomes annoying to neighbouring stands.
Get out from behind your stand. Sitting behind the table at your stand is imposing a barrier between you and potential customers. If you need to stay behind the table, at least stand up, which demonstrates you’re interested in speaking to those visiting your stand. If you have two or more people at your stand, ensure one of you is on the other side of the table. It’s easier to engage with visitors and feels more friendly.
Put away your phone. For the five or so hours of the business show, you are an ambassador for your company or product. Sitting at your table and scrolling through your phone doesn’t demonstrate enthusiasm for your product or service, so why would anything stop and chat? You may be out of the office but it’s still a workday, so let people see that you want to talk.
Don’t ignore people. Some people visiting your stand will never become customers of yours, but don’t make them feel unwelcome because you don’t know who they know. I have been contacted after an event, sometimes many months later, because a person I had spoken to recommended me to a friend or colleague. That’s how I ended up working with the University of Strathclyde’s Genealogical Unit on the “Who Do You Think You Are? Live” event at the SECC in Glasgow. So be nice, it frequently pays dividends later.
You’re not finished at the end of the event. I’ve heard some business owners say that business exhibitions don’t work for them. That’s largely due to the amount of time and effort they were willing to commit to exhibiting. Business shows aren’t about selling on the day. They are a means to generate interest and leads, selling comes later. At the event, you should have collected a list of contact details, after the show you need to follow up on each of those leads. Without the follow-up, you’ll not maximize the return on your investment.
I have found that I get the best results from business shows and EXPOs when I treat them as part of my sales funnel. This includes making an effort before, during and after an event. If you do the same, you should have a positive experience and will want to book again for next time.
Use my Exhibition Checklist and Emergency Box Checklist to ensure you don’t forget anything. You might not need everything I’ve listed, or you might need more, but the checklists are a good starting point.
Finally, as well as generating sales leads at the business show, remember to use the event as part of your online marketing efforts. Use your phone to take photos and video clips at your stand to use during and after the event. If you need more information about creating content see my article: How to create trade show social media video posts.
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About the author
Tosh Lubek spent 30 years working in broadcasting prior to setting up Tosh Lubek Productions in 2010. He has won number of awards in the UK and New York for his work. Tosh has been a regular exhibitor and sponsor of the video booth at Hash Tag Business Events across the UK, giving visitors the opportunity to record professional videos for their social media channels. Since 2020 Tosh has been busy creating and publishing a portfolio of websites, DIY Video Studio, Kitchen Acorns, and Backyard Passions.