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A series of articles about all facets of event planning with helpful hints, planning ideas, sample schedules and budgeting tips from the B&E Team.

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How To Develop An Exhibit

 Tradeshows and exhibits are great ways to increase company visibility and, ultimately increase sales. However, the cost of travel, shipping, time away from the office, booth rental space/supplies can be significant. It is imperative that you maximize your limited time in the booth to get the best return on investment.


Develop An Exhibit

As a professional speaker and former meeting planner, I have attended hundreds of exhibitions and have observed tens of thousands of exhibit staff. I regularly see glaring examples of what to do and what not to do in order to maximize exhibit sales. This article will cover some of the key points to keep in mind as you staff your booth.

Good moves

1. Invite your clients to stop by your booth with advance postcard mailings, personalized email notifications, and web site announcements. Advance invitations to your clients will, without fail, increase your traffic.
2. Hall placement is important, as parts of an exhibit hall will often get better traffic than others. Perimeter and front placement are often best so sign up early to improve your position in the queue.
3. Stand at your booth and greet people warmly - engage them in friendly conversation before you even think of selling your product. Comment about their name or where they are from. You need to establish a personal contact before you do business.
4. Ask about their needs - what are they looking for? Do not assume that you have the answer before assessing their needs.
5. Be able to state what your unique selling proposition is within ten seconds. Focus on client benefits (not features).
6. Have an inviting booth that is tasteful, attractive and barrier-free. A table desk at the front often blocks people from entering. Extra carpet padding is a subtle way of adding a welcoming quality to your booth. Demos, hands-on displays, pictures, interactive activities draw people in. You have about five seconds to capture the visitor's attention before they are gone.
7. Work out a system for capturing, qualifying and following up on leads. In a large show, use the lead retrieval system provided by the show manager. In a small show, it will be worth it to use a business card scanner to easily get the person into a computerized follow up system.
8. Have sufficient staffing to allow for rest and eating breaks. Your booth should always be staffed with fresh staff ready to put their best foot forward.
9. Make visitors feel happy that they stopped by. In many industries, it is the relationship that is the start of the entire sales process. Thank each visitor for stopping by.
10. Maximize the power of email marketing. People that have given you your contact information are fare game for helpful, personalized email contact.

What to avoid

1. Do not sit at your booth (unless there is absolutely not a potential lead in sight).
2. Do not eat, read or otherwise be distracted at your booth. Avoid anything that inhibits your ability to engage the potential client.
3. Do not engage in conversation with your fellow booth sales person whenever there is a possibility to engage in conversation with a potential client. The customer should in all cases take precedence with your attention.
4. Do not stand with your arms crossed at the booth (the palace guard position). This position is unwelcoming and tends to drive potential engagement away.
5. Do not stand with your hands folded low in front of you (the "fig leaf" position) or behind you (the military "at ease" position) for the same reasons as above.
6. Do not hand out brochures until you have qualified the lead and they have expressed an interest. Handing out brochures at initial contact inhibit the possibilities of deeper conversation. Often, it is a conversation stopper -- the potential lead will say thank you and move on. Instead, wait until you have engaged and qualified the lead before handing out information as the last point of contact.
7. Do not fail to assess the client's needs before providing a solution.
8. Do not fail to be impeccably dressed and groomed. You only have one chance to make a first impression.
9. Do not leave the booth unattended and do not take your stand down before the exhibit ends. You have made the commitment for the time. Often attendees will make a last minute rush of the hall and dismantling the stand shows a lack of this commitment.
10. Do not fail to follow up on requests for information. It is imperative that you do what you commit to in the booth

By Corbin Ball ©2002 Corbin Ball Associates