ChampagneI’ve just returned from possibly the world’s most tedious exhibition. If you are ever tempted to book an exhibition stand, take a lesson from this article…

At the welcome desk, I was given a sticky name badge. One of those that doesn’t stick.

Top tip: Invest in decent name badges. Lanyards or magnetic badges are best as they don’t damage clothes. Ensure there is somewhere obvious for people to return their badges when they leave.

In the exhibition hall were about 30 stands, of which about 1/3 were unattended. People do business with people, so when there was no-one there, I didn’t bother to look at their display.

Top tip: Ensure you have at least two people on your stand so there is always someone there to talk to.

Each stand comprised a table with an unironed white tablecloth.

Top tip: Buy a length of fabric in your brand colour (try John Lewis), and dress the table yourself. At least that way your white handouts will stand out.

Most stands had a pile of A4 white handouts. Sometimes, the exhibitor thrust their literature into my hands. Guess where it went when I got back? Straight into the recycling bin. If I want your information, I will take it myself, thank you very much.

Top tip: Don’t try to give away all your information at the exhibition. Instead, qualify leads, capture their contact details and followup with them within a week or two at the most. The followup is the key to exhibition success, otherwise you are wasting your time.

Most stands had a roll-up banner behind the table. One banner included a Sage logo that was printed in such low resolution it could barely be recognised. “It doesn’t matter,” said the exhibitor. “Everyone knows who they are”. It does matter. It looks unprofessional.

Top tip: Don’t just copy and paste images from the Internet into your artwork, because screen resolution is only 1/4 print resolution. For any kind of print, you should ideally ensure your images are 300dpi at the size they will be reproduced. For banners, it can be slightly less because people don’t look at them too closely.

One exhibitor started a pre-prepared spiel: “We do telephone systems for sole traders and big businesses.” Better to ask me which I am and give me the brochure with the relevant sections circled.

Of three web design exhibitors, one started: “Have you got a website? Do you want a website?” There was no point trying to sell websites to me. As you know, I’m a copywriter who specialises in websites.

Top tip: Find out who you’re talking to before you decide what to say to them. Start a conversation not a sales pitch.

Almost every stand had a bowl of sweets and/or a Champagne draw, except one that had fresh strawberries. I gave them all my business card – not because I want email followups but because I want free Champagne. That’s not a lead.

Top tip: Be creative. Don’t do what everyone else does. Give away something that is uniquely relevant to you and your brand. At the very least, tie a branded gift tag round the Champagne bottle so people know it came from you.

Not one of the stands had an interactive element to it. Overall, it was a desultory effort.

Top tip: You have less than 3 seconds to grab attention and make an impact. No-one wants to be sold to. Tempt people to visit your stand by doing something relevant, engaging and even entertaining.

Ask me if you’d like some ideas.

P.S. I’ll let you know if I win any Champagne!

photo credit: New Lens 3 via photopin (license)

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