Attending an exhibition as a delegate is for many people one of the highlights of their job – they get to network, investigate new technology and procedures and get spoilt by potential suppliers. Working an exhibition on the other hand is for many people an absolute nightmare. Your feet hurt, the air conditioning doesn’t work properly, you miss sunlight and you have to talk to some people who under normal circumstances you’d run a mile from (and that’s just your co-workers).
However working on a stand is an excellent way of building your interpersonal skills, learning how to push back and to refine your sales patter. Nobody likes it if you just push for an outcome face to face, and so you need to know your product, and more importantly find out what the visitor to your stand wants. Yes, there’s a chance they are crazy and deluded, but so is your boss. I have known a casual meeting at an exhibition turn into a client worth a million in revenue a year – so, get interested.
And, no, there is nothing to gain by being rude, even to a fellow exhibitor who might be trying to sell you something. One day that person might well be the decision maker on a contract, or even on the other side of the desk when you interview for a job – and trust me they will remember. Besides being rude is just plain unpleasant so learn some manners before you book your stand, please! And, yes, it is you I am referencing, marketing manager for an e commerce solutions agency based in Slough. Or at least you deserve to work in Slough.
So – here’s a few tips on surviving an exhibition
1) Have a leads book – staple business cards or write down emails in an A4 pad, and make notes on your follow up actions – you will get mixed up otherwise
2) Social media – let people know you’re going to be attending – your company and yourself – use Linkedin, and Twitter – and use it over the course of the day commenting on events and seminars and the day itself – other attendees with see this and respond – and come over!
3) Prioritise your follow up actions – make sure you get back to your best leads within 72 hours – some of the others might just warrant a quick email and some credentials – but go to town with your top twenty
4) The night before get a good night’s sleep – you’ll need it. If you’re away for a few days save the big night for the last night – believe me sweating it out all day under the heat of exhibition stand lighting really isn’t a good look and you’ll want to actually die by midday
5) Drink plenty of water – your skin dries out and nobody wants to talk to a desiccated corpse
6) Take breaks – you and your colleagues deserve it – it can be busy – lunchtimes especially – but around that take 50 minutes and get some fresh air and some decent fodder – don’t eat on your stand, that’s just wrong
7) Smiling at everyone who looks over at the stand is actually a bit scary – look friendly by all means but grinning like a mad person makes you look like just that, a mad person
8) Keep work politics at work – you’re at a show – park any issues with colleagues or bosses – a stand isn’t a good place for sulks or arguments – draw a line under things before or have a clear the air session – just don’t go there with a bag of gripes! Work as a team at shows and you’ll look better and feel better about being away
9) Take your laptop – you might not get to use it but sometimes you will have a little hour or so and doing some work is a better look than reading the paper, plaiting your colleague’s hair, talking to your Mum on the phone, polishing your shoes or eating fried chicken – just some of the things I have seen exhibitors doing during a lull and thought better of talking to them
10) Let colleagues and clients know you are at an event. Your email might not work and your phone could go on the blink so have someone else in the office to take urgent calls on your behalf. Plus, you’re going to be busy you won’t have time to complete an RFI as well – exhibition time ought to be sacrosanct
11) Enjoy yourself – people are actually friendly, most the time. Don’t just talk, listen. I’ve had a great time at shows and met some brilliant people and heard some really interesting stories. We don’t get to interact with our peers and customers one to one very often so make the most of it but please don’t try so hard.
And remember, it’s supposed to be fun.