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4 Steps to Successful participation in Exhibitions and Tradeshows

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Small Businesses often face the challenge of limited advertising budget which inevitably leads to low awareness and the resultant low consumer demand. 

Participation in Tradeshows, Fairs and Exhibitions, both local and international, can significantly tip the scales in your favour as such occasions provide a strategic tool for promoting your goods and services to a wide audience including top Government officials, Captains of Industry, a pool of much needed potential customers etc. 

Here are 4 Steps to an impactful outing:

STEP 1: Selection (Check the Brides with broken teeth)

As you learnt in business school, not everyone is your customer. You must be very careful in selecting which Fair to participate in.

Asking a number of questions such as:

  • Who are the people behind the event and how much clout do they have?
  • How often is it staged and is it possible to read a report on the last episode?
  • How much pre-show publicity has been done and do you need to do more?
  • How many visitors usually attend? Will there be a language barrier?
  • What is the cost involved? This is especially important if it’s an international exhibition.

Take a calculated guess at who should be there and call up the person to find out if they will attend.

Carefully analyse the response to these questions against the nature of your product or service and finally, your target audience. You will no longer need a crystal ball to conclude on whether or not to attend.

STEP 2: Preparation (The head-less chicken stage)

There is something about Tradeshows and Exhibitions that always puts people in a frenzy. Sometimes the date would have been in the newspapers for a very long time, only for many to find themselves giving orders to the printers one “tight-rope” week before the event or printing a banner on the eve of D-day (not the World War II one, but pretty much like it!).

To save yourself the additional grey hair, try to do the following:

  • Take a sheet of paper and list all the items you could possibly need at the fair. This includes Flyers, branded souvenirs, shopping bags, Roll-up banners etc. The fancy name for this is a CHECKLIST. It’s a tool to help ensure nothing is forgotten.
  • Next, list out the arrangements that need to be made in sequential order eg. Pay for Exhibition Stand, hire and train staff etc. Preparing a 60second “Elevator Speech” to welcome your guests is also essential. Put a date against each activity and make a commitment to getting things done in good time – remember the sight of a decapitated chicken just before it hits the cooking pot if you can, it’s not  fun at all.
  • Another aspect of your preparation is gathering specific information on the Event. For instance, you need to know when it starts and closes. What exactly your payment covers is another important factor – you can imagine arriving with your bags and baggage on exhibition day only to be told in impeccable French (not like mine mate) that your payment didn’t cover the tables “S’il vous plait”.

 STEP 3: The EVENT Proper (Rule No.1- Don’t Panic!)

Finally, the much awaited D-day is here and you are roaring to attract a horde of visitors, capture their details and sell a lot!  Everything seems to be going round in circles – just keep your hands off the panic button.  Sometimes the situation could be the exact opposite – a slow and sleepy start. Don’t worry, things may pick up. Do all you can to get the Exhibition Publicity to cover your own little island and give it a larger than life image.

Ensure your staff are acting according to the training script and secure your valuables as people have different motives for attending a fair.  You may not make mega sales as such but seize the opportunity to identify new markets, potential distributors, products which are either complimentary or even in competition to yours.

STEP 4: Post – Event follow-up (Most Critical)

As the compere delivers the Vote of Thanks, you heave a sigh of relief – time for a well deserved rest. Hold your horses, it’s not yet over; the success and “green backed” cash is actually in the follow up. You need to sort out the contact details of your visitors into categories and decide how to convert such leads into sales.  This is the most critical part of attending exhibitions.   Experience has shown that over 75% of leads are never contacted which is really sad, the exhibitor might as well stayed at home. You can send a direct mail to my identified categories by email, SMS or hand delivered letters. This gets the communication flowing. Make sure you assign responsibility for this if not, it becomes “Mr Nobody’s” work within the organization.  Encourage yourself by celebrating the first paying customer from this effort.

Exhibitions and Tradeshows can help you:

  • Showcase your products and services in an exciting new way which will attract customers
  • Obtain an immediate feedback from Customers which can lead to improvement of the product
  • Bring your business to the notice of international players
  • Get the attention of influential individuals

Rely Supply Limited

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Goodness Oluyehun, Lagos, Nigeria  |  November 28, 2011