If you have large, heavy and bulky items for your stand, and are arriving by road to an unfamiliar venue, make enquiries before you arrive on how to find the drop off parking.
Sounds obvious in hindsight! Our first mistake was not planning how to use the valuable set up time to the best advantage. Much time was wasted navigating our way around the huge London Excel site, and physically carrying our heavy and awkward Shell-pac and furniture huge distances. Despite the fact that there was a drive in drop off zone at an exit not far from our Stand, we could not find the way in by car, and so parked in first one then another unsatisfactory parking space.
2. Wheeled suitcase
Even if your wheeled suitcases are packed away for a holiday that has not even been booked yet, make sure you dig them out for all your heavy leaflets and publicity materials. Re-useable supermarket bags are clearly not designed for this!
Comedy moments en route between the car and the Stand included us resorting to carrying the Stand Shell pac and a bar stool on our heads, and, unable to get out of a lift in time with all my luggage, I disappeared back down one floor before finally re-emerging.
3. Plan your time
Plan your time setting up your stand as meticulously as you have planned what your stand will look like and what you will need for it.
We had saved money by buying self-assembly furniture, but wasted time building the furniture on site, which we could have brought assembled. This gave us an unnecessary extra challenge! Predictably, we ran out of time and ended up taking some items back to the car again (more carrying) and we were not able to complete our setting up before we had to leave. Luckily we did do all the important things, like checking to find what had happened to some of the furniture we had hired and had not been delivered to our Stand and putting up the now infamous Shell-pac.
4. Arrive in plenty of time!
The big day arrived and apart from my panic about the time it would take to drive right through Central London during rush hour, we arrived in plenty of time. We found our furniture, TV and DVD player had been delivered and were able to make the final preparations before the show opened.
5. Show promotion
Spend time finding out as much as you can about the other exhibitors and the show you are going to so you can plan an effective show promotion which will work at that particular show.
At least we got this one right! Once the show began, it was clear we were going to have some fun! Our show promotion at The Business Show was a free professional portrait photograph for visitors to keep for their own use, but with the idea that it is a huge help for social media accounts like LinkedIn. A good photograph is the one thing that most easily elevates your personal profile and helps you get taken seriously online. It is also really useful if you are starting a company and setting up a website. This would not work at many local business shows, where professional photographers are exhibiting and advertising their corporate work.
6. Plan what you are going to say AND THEN SAY IT!
The idea of the show promotion was to get people talking, but we did not leave it to chance. From the time we had finished our coffees at the beginning of the first morning, we worked non-stop, talking to visitors passing our Stand and encouraging them to stop. It really took me the first morning before I got in the swing of talking to visitors about their business, and not wasting time explaining why an accountant would think of such a quirky idea for a show promotion and whether accountancy and photography could possibly be related. Unfortunately even if you have rehearsed the questions you intend to ask visitors, there is nothing like doing a show if you have not done one before. I had my ‘elevator pitch’ perfectly memorised, having filmed a website video earlier in the week, but it really took right up until the second day before I knew what to say!
6. Your feet!
If you are actively promoting your stand, it is likely you will spend more time than usual on your feet, and for a show which lasts more than a day, I would recommend gel plasters AND a pair of comfortable shoes for walking to and from the venue.
The most surprising thing was how much I enjoyed myself. It was even enjoyable to ask someone if they were interested in an accountancy service when I was told ‘No, I have an accountant already.’ So much better than standing doing nothing! And this is the valuable lesson I will take away from the show. Rejection is not a personal thing and it is not too bad at all. Better than not expanding your business or increasing your sales!
7. Visitors, are you for real?
There is always going to be one niggle, and this one was out of the control of the show organisers. It was bad behaviour of a minority of visitors! If you are visiting a show, respect the fact that the exhibitors there have spent a huge amount of time and money on their stands, and while the idea is to make connections and gain information and inspiration, using the day purely as a sales opportunity for your business is really disrespectful. We were amazed at how many visitors tried to sell their services or products to us! Bearing in mind that the exhibitors effectively fund The Business Show as the visitors’ tickets are free, this sounds unbelievable. The same visitors also planned to sell to other visitors during the networking and other events, but hopefully without the credibility of an exhibition stand, their claims must look somewhat flimsy. Politely give these kind of visitors the cold shoulder so you can concentrate on the real visitors!
8. Make sure you thank the organisers!
The Business Show was a big success for us, so a massive ‘thank you’ to Prysm who run the show. The Business Show is huge, 300 exhibitors and over 25,000 visitors, but as a new exhibitor and a small exhibitor, we felt that we never got lost in the crowd. The organisation was seamless. Jan Thomas is in charge of the social media for the show, and she is a friendly face to support exhibitors and worked tirelessly for the whole six months before the show on most awesome social media campaign for exhibitors that I have ever come across. We were also given a free webinar on how to exhibit, which was invaluable, even if some of the advice caused a few chuckles among the old hands like ‘make sure you look good and smell good!’ We did our best on that one! A bigger thank you to Jo James Media who collaborated with us on our show promotion and helped a huge amount on our stand in between filming our show website video.
The layout of the show is fantastic, we were not in a central or front position, but we were on a main walkway and right outside a seminar hall which was busy all day, so no excuses for not selling our services. Nick Woore really looked after us during the show. Thank you so much, we had a ball! We met some really interesting people, and chatted to lots of visitors who were really interested in our services. We learned a huge amount, and we even filmed a website video about our time at the show to record what fun we had!