How to Rock a Tradeshow

For those of you who follow me on Twitter you’ll know that this week I attended The East London Expo in Dagenham. It was a great event but it highlighted a few things for me which I felt were worth blogging about this week. Hopefully if you find yourself getting ready for an exhibition, you can take some of this advice and use it to your advantage.

First things, first – Expo’s are not cheap. You have the price of the stand, the cost of travel, the cost of the equipment and printed material and (don’t forget this one), the cost of your time. If you’re going to invest in this, you need to be sure you’re going to make proper use of it.

So rather than tips today I’ve made a list of thoughts for you

1). Prepare, prepare, prepare – Think out your stand well in advance, work out the dimensions, what you’re going to have on there in the way of furniture and plan it properly (we marked ours out with tape first to see what space we had).

2). Watch out for the ‘snatch and grab’ brigade – Yes, those people who walk round and take every bit of literature going as if it were to be part of a collection or something – placing expensive material near the front of the stand allows this group to do this and guess what, you’re not going to get any work from them – don’t waste it.

3). Seminars – Many shows I’ve been to over the years have had seminars running at them. These are usually unpaid speaking gigs but they give you the ability to raise awareness of yourself and your company. I highly recommend putting yourself up for these talks, at which you can of course invite people back to your stand afterwards to chat further.

4). Dress Appropriately – Suit and smart clothing may be best for your business but if you have branded clothing this goes down especially well because you’ll be walking about a lot. At the expo this week I even saw someone dressed as a spark plug!

5). You’re there to learn, not to sell – POW – you weren’t ready for that one were you? I lost count of the times that I walked around shows and people on stands practically accosted me and pulled me into their stand and waffled at me regarding their service or product. Sound familiar? What had these guys done? They’d spent their valuable time telling me about their business (which by the way I wasn’t really interested in) while their perfect client walked past, saw they were busy and walked on.

6). Them not you – A quick cursory glance at your stand name and then the inevitable, ‘So what do you do then?’ Heard that one before? Crikey, I must have heard that 300 times this week. I almost always respond in the same way (this works at networking events aswell by the way) – ‘We run a web design and online marketing agency, but hey that’s not important, what do YOU do?’ Turning the question around on someone allows them to talk about themselves and for you to learn…that way you’re far better placed to work out which of your services might be able to help them.

7). The next step – Work out what your next step is for the show. What is the perfect outcome for you? Do you want hundreds of cold lead business cards that will probably take you ages to follow up and get back to or would you like fewer, but more serious appointments or at least phonecalls booked? I know which one we go for.

8). Follow up material – If sending out follow up material is important to your business then make sure it’s prepared before the show so all you need to do when you get back is hand over the addresses and away you go.

There are probably hundreds of hints and tips for tradeshows so I could go on but I’ll let you guys take the stage and add some more

Now Your Thoughts

  • What howlers have you seen occur at these events?
  • What’s made you smile and think that’s innovative?


  1. Robert Pickstone on 22nd October 2010 at 4:00 pm

    Great post – all very good tips.

    Point 6 is my favourite and one that really allows you to learn and spot opportunities. Why don’t more people do this?

    An observation from previous networking events is that a stand can appear quite intimidating if a large number of staff are standing in front of it. This may sound a bit over the top but it certainly feels that way to many people who attend tradeshows. If you see a stand with one or two people present, then a quiet or reserved person if far more likely to approach and talk than if there are four or five people in attendance.

    The quality of the stand can make a difference too, especially if it directly displays the services you offer. If you provide graphic banners or stands – make sure they look amazing. If you provide electronics equipment – make sure your set up and equipment look amazing. Obvious I know.

    Sorry I can’t spend a bit longer giving more observations (I could talk about this all day) but hope the ones above are handy, and the ones you have shared are excellent.



    • Banksy on 22nd October 2010 at 4:31 pm

      Thanks Rob – always enjoy your comments – thanks for stopping by 🙂

    • Banksy on 31st October 2010 at 8:05 pm

      Thanks Rob – was great to catchup finally at Likeminds 🙂

  2. Jon Gerrard on 22nd October 2010 at 4:24 pm

    I recently went to an Expo and experienced being pounced on hundreds of times. Not great especially as it wastes everyones time. Love the tip about leaving the material at the back of the stand!!

    One crowd puller that I saw at the Adtech Expo, was one stand had a beer tap. Got people interested and also seemed to make people relax more and actually network and get to know the client/supplier a little better. (beer was good too)

    • Banksy on 31st October 2010 at 8:04 pm

      Jon, thats a great idea – I wonder how they got around the licensing laws for that ha ha – we took a Chuppa Chups machine for our stand (I bought one off Ebay a year or so ago for about £150) – That had a similar effect to the beer tap

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment

  3. Alison Jobson on 25th October 2010 at 11:42 am

    Great tips Alastair.

    Just a thought to add to Point 1 – check out who else is exhibiting. If you see a business which looks interesting to you as a potential client or someone to work with it gives you time to do a bit of research before you get there and make your introduction.

    As Jon says, food/drink always works well as a way of attracting people. Cup cakes are popular at the moment!


    • Banksy on 31st October 2010 at 8:02 pm

      Thanks Alison, great point. This also goes for people visiting exhibitions as well – an easy place to waste a lot of time so work out who you want to see and be focused.

      I love cup cakes 🙂

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