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Trade shows and Expos: How to prepare for exhibiting

expo hall
R.Classen, Shutterstock

Trade shows and expos. They are big, they are exciting, they usually attract hundreds if not thousands of people. With a potentially large audience, a lot of buzz and excitement, they can be exciting places to be, a chance to network and gain exposure. But is it worth it? How do you prepare for exhibiting and what do you need to consider before taking a stand?

Purpose

As part of how you prepare for exhibiting, establishing your reason for attending a trade show should be one of the first things you do. Are you there purely to shout about your brand and get your name out there to a wider audience as part of your marketing? Are you hoping to attract sales, clients, and use it to generate revenue? Do you want to make connections and meet people with whom you could potentially collaborate?

Your purpose for going will help you decide whether the financial cost, time, and effort is ultimately worth it.

Preparation

If you are looking to exhibit, you will want to find out:

• Who is going to be attending? Are the visitors going to be a match for your target audience. Are you B2B or B2C? Knowing who is likely to be there will help inform whether it is the right show for you, and how you show up and promote yourself at the show.

• Who else will be exhibiting? Will you fit in with the other stands (or will you stand out – which could also be a positive)?

• The layout of the hall. Where would be a suitable location to take a stand? Think about where would be good to position yourself in relation to different parts of the expo. Networking areas, food and drink hubs, and speaker stages often attract crowds. Some stands will have more than one open side. Also see which other exhibitors have taken stands to see where is popular and which exhibitors you might want to be near.

Once you have decided to take a stand and exhibit:

• Get in touch with some of the exhibitors before hand if there are any that would be good to connect with or that might make good partnerships. Check out who you will be exhibiting next to and make an introduction first.

• Be strategic about who you want to speak with. Are there exhibitors you could collaborate with? It might be wise to arrange visiting a stand to speak with someone, or schedule a coffee if you think there could be some mutual benefits. Are there particular speakers or visitors you want to chat with as well?

• Find out who is speaking. Is there anyone you want to listen to or meet? Plan your day so you don’t miss the talks or seminars that interest you.

Your Team

Who will you take with you? Making sure you have the right people with you on the day is crucial part of how you prepare for exhibiting. Ideally, you won’t go alone as it means you are very restricted. Leaving your stand empty for long periods is never a good idea either as it leaves a poor impression or you may miss opportunities.

You will need people who are friendly, approachable, and knowledgeable about your product or service. Visitors can be put off by people who are too pushy but you want people who are engaging and can get into conversation easily.

Make sure you have a team brief beforehand so everyone understands the goals and approach you want to take. Having friendly faces around you allows everyone to take a break, gives you company on the day, and makes the experience more fun for you as well.

Costs

The cost of exhibiting is often more than you expect if it is your first time. There are obvious upfront costs, such as the stand, but when you are preparing for exhibiting, there are other expenses you need to factor in as well.

If your reason for attending is purely exposure and to get your name out there, the expense may be part of your marketing budget. If you are looking for a return on investment in the near future, you will need to look at the costs carefully.

The stand

The cost of a stand at an expo can be very high – thousands of pounds. Usually this will pay for the shell, the exhibition space only.

Add to this the extras you need:

• Kitting out your stand. Furniture, power, branded panelling or installations. At large exhibitions, these orders often have to go through their preferred supplier and can escalate the cost significantly. If you want bespoke furniture setups or any changes to the basic shell, these amendments will also cost extra. You can often find a ‘basic pack’ with a table and chairs and you may want to bring your own furniture if you can transport it. Most venues will also charge for a power socket so bear that in mind if you need electricity (charging devices, running any laptops or online demos).

The Homeworker expo stand - preparing for exhibiting
A basic stand setup, The Homeworker

Extras

• Marketing materials. These can include printing costs, banners and any merchandise you want to take with you.

• Insurance that’s required. The organisers may require that you have exhibitor’s insurance, at least public liability to protect you from any injury claims. While these are unlikely, some expos will require proof of insurance.

Travel and Accommodation

• Travel. Whether driving or getting public transport, make sure you factor in the travels costs. For expos and shows that run over several days, you will need to make sure you are can find longterm parking and be prepared for the costs (especially in city centres).

• Accommodation. If you are exhibiting and the expo lasts more than one day, you may need to budget accommodation. Look at setup times and when you can access the venue so you know whether you need to come down the night before as well.

It can be an expensive business so make sure you’re fully aware of the costs beforehand.

Marketing

If you want to leave a lasting impression, you are likely to want marketing materials. People will want something to take away to remember you. You and your stand represent your brand so you will want it to look visually appealing and coherent with your brand identity.

From basic business cards to flyers, brochures and posters, make sure any visitors to your stand have a way of contacting you after they’ve walked away.

For your stand, you might want roller banners, posters, or even TV displays.

Think about merchandise you might want to buy such as pens, notebooks, or tote bags. What products are relevant to your brand and will be used by the person? I’ve seen wellbeing companies give away branded tea lights and stress balls and tech firms give out branded USB sticks.

You might just bring people in with a bowl of sweets.

Consider again how important this is and whether it is something people will use that keep your brand name in mind.

When it comes to attracting people to your stand, you might also offer a fun game or prize draw. An effective way of collecting contact details from interested visitors is to enter them into a giveaway competition. Perhaps you have a hamper, or a luxury product or experience you’re prepared to giveaway after the event. Use this as an incentive for people to stop by and pass on contact details.

After the event

Make time to follow up and organise. You will potentially receive a lot of emails and connections requests after the event.

You may have taken a lot of business cards, as well as given a lot out so make sure you give yourself time to follow up on any leads.

If you get a lot of connections and leads, it might be helpful to make a note of them while fresh in your mind. Populate a quick spreadsheet with contact details, why they stopped by, and a note of the conversation you had to remind you when you get back to them.

Finally, remember to celebrate. Trade shows can be tiring, physically and mentally. Make sure your schedule isn’t too hectic after the event, and you celebrate with your team for a job well done!

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The Homeworker
The Homeworker

Dedicated to helping you thrive when you work from home, The Homeworker publishes articles that are designed to keep you healthy, happy, and more productive in work and life.

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