Successful Exhibiting Training Seminars


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Exhibiting at trade and consumer shows can be extremely rewarding – or extremely costly. This is the first in a series of articles exploring what it takes to make “shows” really work for you – and some things to avoid too! The information is as relevant and effective in London, New York, Sydney or Auckland as it is in Beijing, New Delhi, Abu Dhabi and Buenos Aires.

The decision whether to exhibit at a show or to use other methods can be a difficult one. It’s considerably helped by first writing down exactly what your Objectives are. Yet surprisingly, that is exactly where the first hurdle lies.


Studies[1] show that less than 50% of exhibitors actually have appropriate objectives – and of those that do, many (officially 25%) forget them on the show floor. Check this for yourself at any show you go to. Consider many of the activities you see at shows and ask just what is achieved? I recall joining a line for a sample of delectable coffee – with a slug of Bailey’s Irish Cream - which a hassled exhibitor was giving away. It was delicious and I asked him where I could buy the coffee. Could I buy some from him? Did he have a list of retail outlets on hand? Imagine my surprise when he asked me to move on as he had a long (and growing) line of people, each to serve a sample to!

It’s extremely easy to lose sight of Objectives in the hustle and bustle of the show. This is not an isolated example. It’s critical to know why you’re there – and to keep your Objectives clearly in your sights.


It’s just as critical to know who you are targeting. I recall an Australian exhibitor at a show in the USA expressing considerable satisfaction with the leads they had gathered. The future was bright! Three months later the same exhibitor was counting the costs as almost none of the leads had come to anything. The problem was that while “collecting leads” was a priority objective, any potential buyer stating to be a “distributor” was collected. It’s essential to know the “demographic face” of the people you want to make contact with and focus only on those people. Company size, area of operations, sex, buying authority and niche are examples.

Exhibit at the Right Show!

A no-brainer? Perhaps – and sometimes it’s not quite as straightforward as it seems. I’ve seen major companies exhibit at the wrong event and making considerable improvements in their results when they made the change. For example, do you seek a Trade or a Consumer show? It makes a very great difference yet it’s not always entirely obvious what the focus is – and shows often change during the event ( eg “Trade” on days 1-4, “Consumer” on day 5).

When you determine exactly who you’re targeting, obtain the list of media that the show organisers are using to attract buyers to their show. Would your Target Market be reached with that media list? Every magazine, newspaper, radio and TV stations knows their own Target Market. Match that up with yours!

Promote Smartly before the Show

“Smartly” is the key. Everyone knows that “pre-show promotion” is important – but it’s a strain on time and budgets. And where there is strain things tend to be left undone.

Strangely, very few exhibitors marry their existing promotions to their exhibition presence. At “Best of Show” we’ve been analysing various large shows to see how many exhibitors that are actively promoting their Show presence in their normal advertising activities. We don’t have the figures quite yet but it’s miniscule! We’ll share results in a later article.

What does it take to change an advertisement to make it clear that readers/listeners can actually meet you at the show? Or to list shows you’re exhibiting at on your web page? What a perfect opportunity to “humanise” your traditional, day-to-day promotions, meet your market and overcome lingering objections!

Statistics[2] show that most buyers (aka “targets”) at shows have “must see lists”. Exhibitors they really want to call on and consider doing business with. Advertising is (presumably) designed to persuade buyers to consider you when making their purchase decision. What better time to clinch that sale than at the show? How easy is it to invite them to meet you in every advertisement and editorial they read?

Make Your Stand “Glancable”

Everyone at shows develops “exhibition glaze”. Buyers and exhibitors alike become dazed and tired and the ability to comprehend is greatly reduced. To stop your Target Market your stand must be as simple and attractive as possible. Not necessarily expensive or glamorous – attractive to your Targets.

They need to “get it” simply by glancing at your stand. What’s in it for them? Why would they stop? What do you have that they need? That message must be instantly clear.

Aim to stop your Targets – not “booth beggars” that seek your give-aways! Be very clear about that!

If you’ve promoted before the show you become doubly attractive – your company and stand is familiar to your Target.

To the Target, your company name is far less important than their requirements so in order of importance your stand needs to reflect…

  1. What you Offer

What’s in it for them? If people ask “what do you do”, it’s not obvious. Change your message – quickly!

  1. What you seek them to do

For example, “Show special” says “buy now”. “Agents wanted” is pretty clear…

  1. Who you are…

Of course they want to know your company! But after they know why they want to know!

Craft “Open Ended Qualifying Questions”

What will you say to people that approach your stand? Your opening phrase is vitally important to obtaining their attention – and in revealing your Target Market.

Prepare “Open Ended Qualifying Questions” - designed to reveal their interest yet not invite a relationship – quite yet. Your questions will be based in your show objectives and in the needs of your Target Market. “Who”, “what”, “where”, “how” questions are perfect so that targets can’t sensibly answer “yes” or “no”. “What style of red wine do you most enjoy”? Or “These lobsters are the finest that Tasmania produces. What courses do you offer featuring lobster”?

“What did you come to the show to see?” is NOT a great question as it invites a conversation that you probably don’t really wish to have…

Apply Yield/Urgency Codes

Code every lead as an “A”, “B”, “C”, or “D” based on their worth and urgency. Categorise too eg “Distributor” or “End User” and maybe add product interest too. You can then easily follow up the most valuable leads in the order of importance (eg, all “A” “Distributors” for “Widgets” followed by “A” “End Users” for “Widgets”).

Bullet-Proof Your Closed Loop Follow-up System

Create and monitor a “closed loop” that specifies what aspect of lead follow-up will be achieved by which specific date(s). It’s not enough to say “we’ll follow up” – that’s “open ended” and invites delay until “tomorrow” – which we all know never comes!

It’s generally accepted that in excess of 80% of leads are never followed up – and “open ended” is a major contributor given the great pressure on exhibitors after the show.

Nail Your Tail!

Exhibiting is a very special type of marketing. While it’s expensive, your rewards are outstanding when you do it well. The big secret is in doing it correctly!

Nail your tail! PLAN to exhibit really well – and do it! PLAN to follow up your leads – and do it! While your competitors are chasing their tails right after the show, with all the things that got behind while they were exhibiting, YOU must nail your tail to the floor! Follow up your leads urgently and review your performance to do ever better next time.

Remember, you are on display more than with any other type of marketing and real, live flesh and blood people are forming opinions about you. Some of those people can make a very big difference your success.

[1] Center for Exhibition & Industry Research ( “Staggering Stats” p3
[2] Note CEIR reference 76%

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