Do you expect too much of a trade show or business expo?

On the 11th of November, I took a stand at the South West Business Expo, run by the Great British Expos. It was wonderful to be able to be back in the room, physically, with hundreds of other business owners, after such a long time.

I have taken a stand at each of their expos since they started running them. At first I had to save up for taking part, and it was a big deal for me – and a big risk.

Why? Many people in a business community don’t participate in such shows, or they do so once and then they back off. They expect that big bundles of cash will walk up to them to shake their hand just because they’ve invested in a stand. It simply doesn’t work like that.

Why should you invest in such an event?

Taking a stand at a business expo, shows you mean to be taken seriously as part of the local business community or as a member of a particular business sector.

You are someone who has ambition to get your brand in front of others and you are in it for the long game.

By attending and taking a stand, you are making a statement about investing in your business and your local, geographic, or sector specific community.

Also, remember that your biggest audience are often the other stand holders in the room who are as ambitous – or perhaps more so – than you!

What to expect…

To be on your feet all day, ready to chat to everyone and anyone, fully engaging with them.

To set some clear and realistic goals for the day for you, and your team, to achieve. Ensure they have the tools to deliver on those goals.

These goals can be varied – in a nutshell though it’s about starting a relationship, maintaining relationships, connecting and getting to a next meeting.

To show interest in people who attend or other standholders, asking them about their businesses, listen and learn. Tell them about your business or brand when asked. Make it about them before it’s about you.

Some people will walk on by quickly. Some will be just interested in freebies, just smile and be polite.

It may be slow at times, but you still need to be present and keep your energy up. Think of what you can do to get people to visit your stand…

You should end up with aching feet, your face hurting because you’ve been smiling all day, and a sore throat through talking…

Tips for making the most of the event:

*Have someone else with you, or even better, having a team helping you to man your stand is even better.  This gives you as a business owner the opportunity to talk to others, give a talk, attend someone else’s talk; take part in networking events; have meetings with clients you know are going to be at the event, and meet new people.

*Plan what you want to get from the day. Tell your team exactly what you want them to do. At the recent expo I attended, I told my team, ‘we’re not here to sell, we’re here to build and start relationships. My aim was for them to chat, get people to sign up to my mailing list, and invite them to my free PR group on FB.

*Make sure your stand looks inviting – not just your banner and lots of fliers and printed materials about what you do. To draw people to my stand, we did a charity raffle. I’ve done this before, and it’s brilliant. People love to win a prize.  We told them a little about the charity, and what it does and they were happy to buy a ticket. When people win, take lots of pictures on your phone for social media – your PR!  We managed to raise around £180 on the day.

*Follow up – the most important action is to follow up with everyone who left their card, which means I’m increasing my circle of contacts. If there’s a real ‘A’ list opportunity follow up within 24 hours and get that next conversation in the diary.

*Something not to do, is to have chairs behind the table and sit there all day, looking at your phone, or be so busy talking to each other, potential future clients walk on by…

What would be unrealistic?

Many people approach the shows with the wrong mindset.  If you are a business owner for whom ROI means how much money can I make on the day?  Don’t even bother, an expo is not for you!

For me, ROI is about playing the long game. I want to work with people who understand what I do and I want to work with them long term. With this mindset, an expo always works for me.

Expecting to make sales, or expecting to sign new clients immediately is completely unrealistic. It can happen however it would be extremely rare. It is about starting conversations and making sure you follow up afterwards!