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  • Adam Grey

8 things you should never do at a trade show

Over the years our team has gained a lot of insight from hundreds of trade shows and a lot of the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of exhibiting have become second nature. That’s why it’s always surprising for us to see a few common (and some obvious) mistakes being made time and time again.

Whether you’re new to trade shows and not sure what to expect, or whether you’re a seasoned exhibition pro, we can all benefit from remembering some of the common mistakes and how to avoid them.

8 – Sit down

A controversial one to start with. Some people will even advocate having no furniture for your staff so they cannot sit down (we’re not those people). Don’t get us wrong, exhibitions can last several days and can be very tiring. Taking the occasional seat is fine and necessary, but sitting down all day while people wander past can make your business look disinterested. It’s always better to be on your feet at the front of the stand ready to welcome people.

Exhibition stand chairs
Staying on your feet will make you appear dynamic and attentive

7 – Unprepared pitch

You’re going to meet hundreds, if not thousands of people throughout the course of your event. Presenting confidently and professionally will directly reflect on an attendee’s impression of your company and can make the difference between a new client and a missed opportunity. Taking the time to rehearse certain details pre-event can help you avoid any awkward interactions during it, e.g:

  • Various Introductions – Standard, witty, compelling

  • Answers to the more common questions – “what do you do?”, “Tell me about your company?”

  • Specific product/service information

  • How to efficiently qualify the people you're talking to, helping to avoid wasted time pitching to someone who will not benefit your business

6 – Constantly being on your phone / laptop

This should go without saying, but I once exhibited at an event opposite a business that had 3 representatives, all of whom spent the whole time looking into their phones & laptops. I noticed all the people who stopped to look at their stand and then walked past, but they certainly didn’t. Any of those visitors could have been a potential client that walked past because the business looked completely uninterested in them.

Exhibitions are an opportunity to meet people, be prepared to meet them!

You wouldn't stare at your phone during a business meeting, don't do it at a trade show!

5 – Building late

If you visit a show at opening on the first day, I’m sure you’ve seen some empty stands with furniture in wrapping, or others with sweating staff frantically trying to get everything ready. How does that unfinished stand reflect on your business?

Build up to an event is a stressful experience with tight deadlines, unexpected hiccups and lots of logistical challenges. This is where having a dedicated project manager on site to manage the process and ensure your stand is ready to shine.

4 – Leave early

We understand, it’s the last day of a 3 day event, you’re tired, you’ve spoken to thousands of people, the crowd is starting to thin, it’s tempting to start thinking about packing up. But there’s a reason why a lot of organisers frown upon it and stipulate times you must remain until…..It looks bad! Not just on your business, but on everyone else too. Like boarded up shops on a highstreet, nobody wants to be next to an empty stand.

Make the most of your time

Your business has also paid a lot of money to exhibit at an event and you should be trying to maximise every opportunity.

Take my experience as an example; I once got to the final half hour of a 3 day exhibition and there was barely any attendees left. Most of the exhibitors had packed up and I was ready to do the same. Rather than waiting for them to come to me I took to the floor and approached some of the last visitors, 1 of whom became a client and generated enough business to cover our investment for the entire event. You never know what you could be missing out on.

3 – Be hungover!

Exhibitions are not just a chance to meet potential clients, they’re also an opportunity to network within your industry, often over a few drinks at a networking bar. Throw in the fact that most exhibitors are staying in hotels away from home, and it’s easy to see why at almost every show you’ll meet people who have taken this ‘networking’ to the extreme.

There’s nothing wrong with having a few drinks, but just keep in mind that the next morning you’ll be up early and on your feet all day talking to people.

Networking bars can be great......In moderation

2 – Not taking enough details

It’s the first day of the show, you have a positive interaction with a potential client and you exchange business cards. Fast forward a few days and hundreds of conversations later, do you remember all the details from that conversation?

What about the old method of scribbling a few notes on that business card? It’s better, but still easy to miss a lot of vital information.

Put simply, one of the best things you can do is to prepare for this and come up with a quick and convenient method to get the necessary information that will benefit you during the crucial after event follow up. Failing to do so is a common issue that many companies make time and time again.

1 – Forget to take enough water…..And mints!

Exhibitions are often hot and busy venues, you’re going to be on your feet all day talking to hundreds of people, and you’re going to thank me for this tip later.

Nobody wants to run out and have to pay upwards of £2 a bottle for water at the event. Think of how much you might need before the show, then double it.

Dry mouths x (conversations + little personal space) = Mints are everyone’s friend.

Your soon to be BFF at any trade show

Now that you know some of the things you shouldn’t be doing, be sure to check out our other blog posts for more tips on exhibiting, with everything from stand design to shows you might want to visit.

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