Exhibitions, often exhausting, potentially rewarding and definitely eye-opening, can be a very effective way to network, increase your organisation’s marketing profile and, very importantly, sell. However, unless you invest time, effort and hands-on resources for the duration of the exhibition, results may be disappointing, to say the least.

Here are some practical tips to make the most of your exhibition experience.

Book early. Most exhibition organisers offer an early bird discount. This applies nationally and internationally. If the exhibition is say, in Paris, consider that hotels fill up quickly, and the prices may rise as the exhibition draws near.

Prepare a budget. If the exhibition is out of town or overseas, include travel and accommodation costs and don’t forget to factor in exchange rates. If you are travelling, using a reputable travel management company (TMC) with their negotiated rates can save you money and time.

Choose good people. Unmotivated, untrained staff at your stand can cost you. Select an engaging person to greet, a competent person to manage and a knowledgeable person to conduct negotiations. And make sure your stand is never unattended.

Bring plenty of business cards! When you hand yours out, do so deferentially. Many cultures view business cards with great respect.

Preparation is paramount. Once you’ve arrived and the exhibition is underway, you’ll quickly discover how meticulous preparation has made your experience easier and more enjoyable, saving you time and helping you achieve better results.

Qualify your visitors. Make sure that you and the staff at your stand identify your potential customers and their need for your product or service. The way to ensure this is by asking for their business cards or getting them to fill in a contact form.

Add value to your experience. Be curious. Attending relevant events running alongside – receptions at other exhibitors’ speeches, presentations, workshops, seminars or panel discussions – will not only increase your knowledge, you will open yourself up to making potentially invaluable contacts.

Network. Exhibitions are ideal for networking. Everyone is wearing a badge and is there to talk business. Introduce yourself. Ask questions. Be a good listener and show interest in what others have to say. Make sure you’re wearing your badge and have enough business cards to hand out.

Once the party’s over. Perhaps all you want to do is spend time at home and rest those weary feet. Don’t! Respond immediately to customer enquiries. Information is still uppermost in your mind and a speedy response will give you a competitive edge.

Develop contacts. Maintain and develop contacts made at the exhibition. Who knows, they just may be the beginning of long, mutually rewarding business relationships.

Examine objectives. Identify if your objectives were met and if the cost of attending has had a positive effect on you and your business. Also, evaluate if you had not attended the exhibition, what would have been the cost and time to achieve the same amount of business.

If you had planned your visit carefully and carried out your follow-up activities properly, chances are the exhibition was money and time well spent resulting in many great future returns.

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