Visiting exhibitions is an invaluable way to immerse yourself in your industry. Not only are you ‘seen’ within your industry, but you are able to network with others in the industry and see current trends. However, some people waste the opportunity, either by seeing it as a sales opportunity or as a ‘jolly’ from the office. I share my top tips (and don’t dos) for making the most of the opportunities presented to you, when you visit an exhibition.
When I first started my business, I mentioned I was attending an industry exhibition. “You must set yourself a target to get rid of 50 business cards when you are there!” replied a contact. “You need to make sure you speak to everyone and give them your card, and get theirs”. I tried to do this, and failed miserably: only getting rid of 6 cards. People on stands were understandably reluctant to take my card, and they weren’t interested in my business as they were there to promote theirs. They had paid a lot of money to be there, and quite rightly, it was their aim. Earlier this year I attended another industry show and we were transported by Double Decker bus to the venue. One of the other guests, a DJ said “I’m targeting all the venues and event companies with my services. I want at least 5 YES responses today!” I cringed internally.
Having exhibited at trade shows (and weddings but that’s a completely different story), I know how much work planning, setting up, exhibiting, the energy on the day and then the follow ups afterwards, takes. Any exhibitor is principally there to promote their business; show the industry what they do; have a presence within a trade show and network with the industry. They DON’T want to be sold to. Not only is this a waste of energy you risk missing someone that is genuinely interested in finding out what you do. However wonderful a singer is, I’m not interested in finding out their vocal range, when potential contacts are walking past, unwilling to wait until the conversation has ended.
So how can we make the most of an exhibition if we are a business; after all, time and money is invested when you attend. Here are some things you can do:
- Arrange to meet people in your industry whilst at the show. Either a general tweet to say you’re happy to meet people, or arranging to meet contacts is useful.
- Checking what your competitors are doing. Particularly if you are able to go incognito is a very useful exercise.
- Discovering what the current trends are within your industry.
- Creating more ideas. You might discover a gap in the market for example.
- Research; are there potential companies you are interested in targeting; get their details and contact them after the show ends.
- Bumping into contacts; it never harms to be visible
- Visiting stands of existing clients; it is a great way of reminding them you are there!
But please, don’t sell to any of the companies exhibiting; that is unless you want your business card to go in the bin!
Visiting exhibitions and shows is great fun and invaluable if you make the most of the opportunity, but put your cards away unless you are asked for one! Do you have any tips, do share them below.