Every industry has its marketing events throughout the year, covering niche and broad topics alike. Many allow for exhibitors from the smallest start-ups to the largest conglomerates and often the central difference between each exhibitor is how much floorspace they’re willing to buy.
Here at Flamingo Marketing Strategies Ltd., we’ve attended our fair share of events through 2023 and it’s been a great opportunity for us to network, build our brand, and expand our database with relevant and engaged contacts. We like to think we’ve got this whole exhibiting thing down to a T. We’ve even helped clients with their events assets, from banners to stands, brochures to video presentations.
But just because we’re events masters, doesn’t mean everyone is. In fact, we see a lot of people making the same mistakes over and over at the events we’ve been to, and we want to help you make sure the next time you’re exhibiting you’re getting the most out of the event.
So here are our tips on what NOT to do when you’re exhibiting at an event:
Don’t sit down
Now, truthfully, sitting down at your stand isn’t the end of the world. If you’re spending a full day on your feet, the occasional break won’t completely tank your exhibition but if you’re spending more time stuck to a chair than out at the front of your stand with a smile on your face, you’re not going to bring anyone in. You’d have to have real confidence in your roller banners to get those conversations started for you!
When we’ve spoken to people exhibiting, our least favourite thing to do is stand in front of them whilst they stay seated – it’s not a village fair raffle! You’re exhibiting for a reason. Get up – it’ll create a more balanced dynamic, allow you to make eye contact and truly engage in the conversation.
It would be easy if all your team had to do was stand up, but there are a lot of ways you can put people off approaching your stand and one of the biggest ones is how your stand is laid out.
If you’ve got a huge range of products, leaflets, merchandise, or anything small enough to fit onto a standing surface, you likely will jump at the offer most exhibitions give – a table! Of course, there’s not really another way of showing the range of your products and services in an engaging way… right?
Well, if you have brochures, you could keep a limited number on a display stand for people to help themselves to and restock them when they’re running low (like we do), or you have a range of more specific flyers or other print that won’t necessarily be relevant to everyone, keep the stand by you and then your team can locate the relevant one when a prospect seems interested.
The real issue here isn’t having a large table to display your products; it’s wasting the small amount of floor space on something that will only serve to separate you from your visitors. If you think you NEED a table, really evaluate whether it’s worth halving your exhibitor space just to save you a few seconds filling up your display every hour or so.
Layout plays a huge part in how visitors might assess your stand and it’s just as powerful as the way your team is acting. We’ve touched on not sitting down, but there’s a lot more to how your team should approach an event than just that.
Don’t be half-hearted
Exhibiting at an event is first and foremost an investment and it must be treated as such. Just like everything else in marketing, you have to commit to it – especially when you’ll likely be spending a lot just to exhibit.
Whether it’s you showcasing your business or you’ve sent a few of your team, you have to make sure everyone is fully committed on the day. It can be tempting to look at your emails, make a few phone calls, or get that last bit of work done whilst you’re out of the office, but Outlook lets you set an out of office for a reason – so you can be out of the office.
At an event, you should be doing one of three things: talking to people visiting your stand, talking to people at other stands, or attending any talks or presentations that might be useful – it’s that simple! That means: don’t be on your phone, don’t be on your laptop, and spend as little time as possible talking to visitors along with your team – you’ve got a business to show off and a prospect list to build!
Don’t keep it to yourself
When you’re exhibiting at an event, you’re marketing your business, and any good marketing strategy should involve a number of interconnected activities and content to effectively promote it. If events only come around every few months – or maybe even once a year – you don’t want to waste the opportunity.
So let people know!
Before you exhibit, post about it on social media, email your clients and prospects to tell people where you’re going to be. You could even share the link to buy / register for tickets to the event to encourage your followers to attend. The more friendly faces at your exhibition, the more opportunity you’ll get to talk to people who might already be engaged with your products or services AND the more attention your stands getting, the more curious those unfamiliar with your business might be. It’s also really useful to find out who else is attending and reach out to them. Just a simple ‘I can see you’re also at the event next week. I’ll make sure to pop by your stand and say hello!’ can go a long way to establishing relationships.
But the posting doesn’t just stop once you arrive at the event. Talk about it whilst you’re there, post pictures when you meet people, share your thoughts afterwards – write a blog post about it, share pictures of it on social media and if you post round-ups of what you’ve been up to in the year, attending events are a great source of inspiration.
Don’t forget your business cards
If there’s one thing we encourage every client to do before they go to an event it’s this – bring enough business cards for EVERYONE (and a few spare). There’s nothing worse than having a conversation with an engaged prospect then when you go to share your details you reach into your pocket and realise you left your business cards in the office.
“No worries,” you might think, “I’ll just connect with them on LinkedIn.” So, you get out your phone, ask them for their last name, open the LinkedIn app and… there’s no signal, you’re at a busy event, the Wi-Fi is being used by hundreds of people, it’s barely crawling along at a snail’s pace. So, you’ve only got one option, take their business card instead – but they’ve not got one either – they’ve got a handy app that shares their details to you instantly. It just needs to connect to the internet first…
…You see the problem!
Business cards are a miniscule investment, and even if you’re trying to go paper-free, there are plenty of sustainable, recycled options that will do the job just as well as anything.
Designing business cards isn’t that hard either. Sites like Canva have plenty of free templates you can use, you could reach out to a designer online, or if you work with a marketing agency, they’ll mock up some designs for you.
So that’s what you shouldn’t do during the event, but you can’t forget the impact when you decide to call it a day can make. That is why we say…
If you’re at a marketing event that only lasts one day, there’s a pretty consistent trend to the number of visitors you might see on the day. It will quickly pick up in the early morning and then peak around lunch. But after lunch, most people decide they’ve spoken to everyone they wanted to talk to and leave.
During the last hour of the event, it might feel like you won’t speak to anyone useful. You might even see your exhibiting neighbours starting to pack their things away, but there are always people looking for conversations at marketing events, even to the very last moment – and the only way you can be sure they’re not future clients is by being there when they approach you.
If you’re exhibiting, you’ve already committed to a full day at an event. Even if you only have a handful of conversations in that last hour, those are still future prospects you wouldn’t have met. The best way to get your money’s worth is to see the entire day through.
And if you think it’s quiet, and attendees aren’t coming to your stand, go and speak to other businesses at their stands – even if they’re packing away!
Exhibiting at a marketing event is a big investment, and everything you can do to make sure you make the most of it is vital for the success of your business. Whether you exhibit at a handful of events each year, or wait out for that one large industry event that happens annually, approaching exhibiting with a strategy and your full commitment is the only way you’re going to get success from it.
We might have a whole lot of DON’Ts when it comes to exhibiting but there’s one key DO that you HAVE to do in order to be successful at a marketing event – STAND OUT. Whether it’s by demoing your product, having a uniquely presented stand, or by having your most charismatic team members drawing people in, each stand at a marketing event is competing for attention; and to win that competition and draw the right people in, you’ve got to set yourself apart from the crowd.
And if you want to see how it's done... come along and see us exhibiting at Coventry Building Society on 29 February. Emma will be up on the stage again, and after a VERY full room at Aston Villa, we're sure she will deliver a talk that you won't want to miss. More details to come, for now - book your tickets here.