Ten Top Tips for First Time Exhibitors

Pixalytics promotional postcards

Pixalytics promotional postcards

This is the last blog in our quartet covering our first experience of exhibiting; and today we’re going cover the top tips we wish we’d known before arriving at the exhibition.

  1. Know your sizes: We had a 2m by 2m exhibition stand and in addition, we’d bought a furniture package and hired a TV. When we arrived on build day, the furniture and TV stand took up so much space we wondered if we’d get in the stand let alone any potential customers! It looked like we had bought far too much equipment for your stand.
  2. Don’t start stand building too early: We knew our stand would not take hours to build, but wanted to give ourselves plenty of time. Stand building began at 8.00am, and when we arrived at 10.00am the venue was full of construction workers, power tools galore and metal bars that looked like they should be on a bridge somewhere! Just getting to our stand was an obstacle course, so we had a look around Islington in the morning and came back to a quieter exhibition venue in the afternoon.
  3. Have back up plans – We had a stand design in our heads, but it started to unravel immediately. The furniture was bigger than anticipated – see tip one! The stand walls weren’t fixed, they flexed; this meant we could not get enough pressure on the solid canvases to lock the Velcro strips, which were the recommended attachment method. Hence, our canvases would not stay up. (During the exhibition, we saw other exhibitors had attached things by using hooks over the stand walls, giving us a future construction method).After a bit of brainstorming, we used our furniture as display stands instead! It was not our original plan, but worked.
  4. Take a bag of useful items – Having items such as scissors, tape, stapler, bulldog clips, etc, made brainstorming and changing our plans (see tip 3) easier as we had options. For example, we used bulldog clips to hold up our flag bunting.
  5. Movie, not PowerPoint – The hired TV took a memory stick, but only displayed pictures or movies, and not the PowerPoint presentation we’d prepared. We converted the presentation overnight, but needed a little bit of help from the onsite TV people to put it on continuous loop.
  6. Don’t beat yourself up – From previous blogs, you’ll know we’re a small company doing an economical stand, and we were concerned how it would compare with the big companies. Our stand was different, and it looked like no other at the exhibition. It did generate a lot of talk. Our flag bunting split the crowd; some had bunting envy, others didn’t like it. However, it provided a great talking point for visitors – see tip 9.
  7. If you’re stuck, ask for help – All the exhibition organisers, equipment suppliers and venue staff were really helpful, and we got great assistance on everything we asked about including missing table foot, help on setting up the TV (see tip 4) and we’d like to extend a special thank you to Sophie who drew the winner of our prize draw.
  8. Buy less promotional items – On a previous blog we mentioned our decisions on which promotional items to take. The postcards were very successful, the leaflets were useful and the pens were fine (although, almost every stand offered free pens). What we didn’t get right were the quantities, we had bought far too many! Small businesses are resourceful, so the postcards will become our compliment slips and we’ll use the pens in the office … for most of the next decade!
  9. Talk to the visitors – I know it’s an obvious thing to say, but you have talk to people. It’s easy to stand and smile at people as they walk past, but it’s when you start talking to them that things happen. We were able to attract people onto the stand with our postcards and prize draw, and then we could start talking to them, which led to a number of unexpected and interesting conversations and possible leads.
  10. It is tiring!!! – It is exhausting standing around and talking to people all day, particularly when you are more used to being sat in an office. At the end of each day we were delighted to take our shoes off!

So was it worth it? Regularly blog readers will know this has been something we’ve been wondering for our first exhibition.

On the business side we spoke to many people, some we already knew and some we did not; both groups generated conversations and potential leads. The question is whether any of these leads will turn into actual turnover over the coming months.

On the exhibition side, we learnt a lot! We’ve got a small business stand at the 2015 UK Space Conference in Liverpool in July, which is a slightly different approach as we only have a space with a table and chairs, so it will provide an interesting comparison. We look forward to meeting any fellow GEO Business exhibitors also going to Liverpool.

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