Getting the Best From Events And Exhibitions

Events and trade shows are a tried and true method of networking and drumming up potential business. But if you’ve never attended one then they can also be complex and confusing. Most pertinent to any start up: they can also be expensive. This expense varies on whether you attend a show or have your own booth but the goal is always the same: get your business out there and find some new contacts. So how can you be best assured of a return on your investment? Here are some helpful tips and tricks from a business that’s grown large enough to attend ten exhibitions a year.

Relevant Preparation

The first step is finding the best event to present your business, the best foyer for your pitch. There are events and conventions big and small that literally cover every topic imaginable, so there’s bound to be one that fits your needs. It’s down to you whether you’ll aim for a larger national exhibition or stick to something smaller and local. This choice is likely to depend on what works best for your business model. If there’s no benefit to attending a local exhibition then take the plunge and get ready to do some travelling.

You should also think about the construction of your business card. If you have a number of skills or your business has a variety of goals then focus on where your skills are the greatest or what will be most relevant to a new consumer. Business cards that feature lists often suggest that you’re a jack-of-all-trades unless you have the skills and experience to hand to back them up. Play to your strongest skill first.

You should also take careful consideration of your goals when prepping for an event and what you’re hoping to get from the experience. The worst reason for attending an exhibit is “because I should” or even “because other businesses do it”. What do you hope to gain and how can you go about achieving it? If it’s your first trade show then you’ll likely want to attempt to network, so your goals should be how many connections you’re able to make. The quality of these connections will also depend on their value. 20 meaningful connections hold far greater value to your business than you dropping your business card into 100 fishbowls.

Wearing comfortable shoes cannot be stressed enough, you should be on your feet all day.

Vufold exhibition stand

Image Credit : Vufold

Knowledge and Introduction

When attending a business exhibition for the first time you’re likely to feel anxious, perhaps even shy. The best kept secret of business events is that you really can fake it until you make it, so many people grit their teeth and take part even if they’d rather be working alone on some code. Here are the best ways to prepare for a business event:

Perfect that elevator pitch. You know your business inside and out so make sure you can bring potential interested parties up-to-speed as quickly as possible. Practise out loud over and over until you can whip it out without even thinking.
Avoid talking about the background of the business if it is irrelevant to the overall message. I once saw a funeral agency waste valuable space at an event by taking an entire wall to promote the history of their business. It was a great presentation but unlikely to be a primary concern for someone who needs to choose between funeral directors.
Consider yourself on the clock and working for your business. Time is money and this is a valuable opportunity for promotion that doesn’t come along everyday. It’s better to go home and feel you did too much than not enough.

Don’t forget that this is a learning experience and not a make-or-break event. Approach each encounter ready to learn and try not to beat yourself up if you make mistakes or get tongue tied. To some extent, this learning experience is just as valuable as the potential contacts you’re hoping to make. Like everything else, promoting yourself is something that gets easier the more you do it.

Level Up With Your Own Exhibit

If you have a business model already in place then you can also make an even bigger investment with the potential for even greater yields: your own exhibition space. Depending on the size of the event, the cost of presenting yourself can vary greatly and there are all-new challenges to face. Here are a few tips relating to just your booth presentation:

Stay on your feet, it makes you look more attentive and engaged. Put your phone away, it gives the impression that you don’t want to engage with anyone else.
Take the time to give yourself an attractive booth that is accurately tied in with the branding of your business. Creating a well choreographed booth that also matches your website will give a professional first impression.
Have a huge breakfast and grab a snack where you can. If you’re working with others then your chances of a break are better but you still might find yourself swamped. At a recent event our team were so rushed off their feet that a big breakfast and chocolate biscuits had to get them through the day!

Being an exhibitor puts you under different demands as people are more likely to come to you. Rather than initiating the conversation every time, you need to know how to respond to questions about your service and/or products with authority and certainty. Once again, this is something that you get better with over time, especially if you take note of what really works.

The Continuous Evolution of Your Business

Whether you attend an exhibition as a viewer or exhibitor, the key is to continually learn from these interactions. What elements of your pitched worked best and generated the most interest? Was there a topic that you weren’t intending to cover in detail but turned out to be the most in-demand subject? Did some of your examples fall flat and not generate the interest you hoped? All of these observations are valuable to the continued growth of your business so make sure you write them down before you forget anything.

It’s also surprising how many small businesses and startups will take the time to attend a business event, grow their contacts list and then simply neglect to follow up on these new connections. Ensure that you drop a line to those you met and chatted with, keep those connections fresh!

The most important element of business exhibitions is that they’re an opportunity to learn, not just how to present yourself but how best to present your business. Keep learning and evolving and your startup is sure to mature.

Author Bio

Kayleigh HerbertsonKayleigh Herbertson works for Vufold, who enjoy attending more than 10 exhibitions a year and have a tight-knit team of attendees. She can be found on Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, where she enjoys posting about her favourite blogs.

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