Last week, I gave some tips on how to plan for exhibiting at an event, and now that you’re (hopefully!) ready to go, it’s time to do the thing. Much of what I’ve learned working on live event sites is supported by my many years of experience in retail, customer service and hospitality – it applies across many sectors and, ultimately, it’s about how to win clients and influence people. That sounds scarier and more corporate beastie than it is. Essentially, you’ve paid your money, so you have to get it back either in profit or in kind. Here’s how you’re going to do it:
- Look sharp – I’m the last person on the planet who advocates office dress codes being strictly smart. Particularly if business isn’t done face to face, I’m a firm believer in the fact that I can do almost any job in my pyjamas, and do it better even than I do trussed up in a suit. But appearance matters. Your stand has to look good, so particularly if you’re not accustomed to setting one up, make sure you have time to spend doing it. Never, ever think that turning up on the morning of the show will leave enough time to set up. What will actually happen is that you’ll get sweaty, tired, grumpy and be too busy unpacking boxes to pay attention to customers. Sort it out the night before, get a good night’s sleep and be raring to go. Personal presentation matters too: you don’t need to be plastered in makeup and have a fresh blow dry, but I’m a stickler for all staff looking like a team, and not looking like they’ve been whirled through a tornado. Dress comfortably but appropriately (NB: event venues and sites are always freezing cold or boiling hot – pick your clothes and footwear carefully!) And for the sake of my OCD, if you’re using a table, put a cloth on it and know how to box it
- Set the standard – you’ve made a lot of effort to be there, so avoid letting yourself down thanks to something silly. Plaster your happy face on and keep it there come hell or high water: delegates should not hear you moan about sore feet/coming down with a cold/being tired. If you can’t stand the heat, you don’t belong in the kitchen (hire someone to do it for you). Enjoy the experience of meeting new people, because you don’t know when the golden opportunity will enter your space. Always be standing ready to greet people, make eye contact and smile! Don’t be slumped in a corner texting or listening to voicemails. Store personal belongings at all times (this is for their safety as well as tidiness). Use gadgets only if they’re relevant – how would you feel if you got to the till at the supermarket and the assistant was using their phone? You texting your other half about how much you wish you were out to lunch with them instead of on your aching feet at a show? It’s the same deal. Respect your product and your business, and represent yourself accordingly. Other presentation pet hates: eating on the stand (never ever, not even mints or gum – make sure you have enough staff to cover lunch breaks, go away and eat somewhere else); drinking anything other than water (firstly, you might spill it on your stock or equipment, secondly it’s just offensive to customers); if you smoke, or desperately need to use the phone, find the most out of the way place away from delegates, and get it done as quickly as possible (you should also cover up any branding, so that you can’t be easily identified); when walking through the show, even if you’re on a personal errand, smile and be polite to delegates (you’re on show! They will remember! They may have been en route to find you and change their minds if you barge past them to get to the toilet – it doesn’t matter how desperate you are, they’re the guests, not you)
- Keep it up – maintaining the pace can be hard, especially if things aren’t going well. The easiest way to do it is to maintain hope. Have your reward for the end of the day or show in mind, and focus on that goal. Set sales targets and have a reward in mind for if you meet them. Whatever it takes to get you through the experience. When it goes well, it’ll be much easier, so set yourself up for success. Remember that the last person you talk to or the final person to walk through the door is doing so for the first time. Yes, it’s your umpteenth, but there are no second chances at first impressions, so the last opportunity has to be taken as well as the first. Maintain the presentation of yourself and the stand, make sure it’s tidy and attractive
- Deliver – this is in the planning, really, but there are always surprises. What I see most often is people underestimating their ability to succeed, so having a backup could be really important. The greatest issue can be service speed, and having enough staff to satisfy demand: there was a heinous example during the show I was at recently – my friend and I waited on a stand to talk to someone (two other staff were present and just chatting) for ten minutes, without the other staff even making eye contact or offering a suggestion of how long we might have to wait. So we gave up, business lost for them. Don’t let that be you. Greet everyone, even if all you do is say hello and leave them to browse. Make yourself as available as possible without being stretched too thinly. It’s worth having a good friend on standby and money in the budget for a last-minute ticket or travel (remember what I said before about receiving very few exhibitor tickets?) – in order to meet an unexpectedly high demand, the outlay of an extra guest ticket and owing someone a favour could be worth it…
- Interact – be available but not pushy, as I said before. Stands can be very claustrophobic, so greet your guests but give them the courtesy of space. Let them know that you are ready to help as soon as they need it, observe them and learn the signs of when someone needs assistance but doesn’t want to ask. Delegates love being involved and being needed, and technology is great here. Be social, use the event’s hashtag (everyone has one now!) if you’re a Twitter user, in order to gain more attention and drive traffic to you digitally. Promote your hook this way if you have one. Allow delegates to take pictures of you, your stand and your stock – they will then do your job for you! Be aware that the internet’s memory is endless, and you’re just as visible there as you are in person: stick to your branding, remain polite and have fun
- Be vigilant – many retailers sadly report problems with “misplaced” stock, and this is certainly my experience too. Much of my events work has been with cars, and fortunately they’re tricky to steal, but they do come with small pieces which may become detached… If you can limit the amount of stock you have out as samples (particularly with small items), do so. Displays should be accessible but minimal, in order to limit loss. It’s a difficult balance, and a sad state of affairs, but people will try it if they think they can get away with it. On a similar topic, hold firm on your pricing, and know your strategy. If deals are to be done or had, make sure the circumstances are set in your mind or on paper, in order to prevent arguments later!
- Enjoy it – lap up any praise which comes your way! Have fun meeting your customers: with the world being so online-based now, fewer of us are meeting our clients, or even talking to them on the phone; I for one love putting a face to a name, even if the person just says hello, they have taken the effort to find you. Ask questions, use the opportunity to find out how you can improve and what people really want. It isn’t always possible to take their suggestions on, and you will get far more opinions than you are practically able to cope with, but if there’s just one golden idea in the mix, then you can take it as a win
- It’s not stalking if you say hello – this is one of my favourite lines (it’s more of a joke than a legal truth, really!). If you’re prepared enough, you should have enough time to whizz around the show and see what everyone else is up to at least once. Either do it at the quietest time of the show (normally first thing on the first day – there will be very few delegates, so you won’t miss out at your stand) or at the very end of set up. Avoid doing this at the end – everyone is packing down and going home, so you won’t see what it’s really like. The other opportunities are when there’s a popular demo/show on, or if there’s an exhibitor networking event. Be friendly and courteous: this is often a much less combative attitude than corporate snooping! You never know when or where there might be a chance to partner with someone in a very positive way, so just like with delegates, remain polite and don’t force any issues. If someone’s busy, be mindful of that, and learn whatever you can, good or bad. Above all, if the show is open, make sure your stand is adequately covered – you can always go back to fellow exhibitors another time, your own business is your priority
Again, I hope that this has helped, whether you are venturing to your first event or already consider yourself to be a seasoned pro, there may be something you haven’t thought of! Either way, these basics should help you to achieve the best result from your hard work, and assist you in showing off your amazing product or service.
If you’d like to know more, please just get in touch. And if you’d like me to do it for you… well, I’ll consider offers!
Want to know what to do next? Read on to part three