Exhibitions – getting the most out of them as a visitor

Today and tomorrow sees the Business North West 2011 Business North West 2011 exhibition taking place in central Manchester.  Two days of exhibitor promotions, seminars and networking opportunities with thousands of fellow business owners, directors and managers.

Business North West 2011

I thought this would be an appropriate time to look at how you make sure the time you spend away from your business at an exhibition is worthwhile.

In this post I will talk about how Bulldozer Bill and Organised Olivia would approach the exhibition.  I think you will be familiar with both their styles!

These days when you register to attend an exhibition, you get regular email bulletins about new exhibitors, events and keynote speakers on the run up to the event.  You can visit the exhibition website and find out who is exhibiting, what they do, what speakers are doing slots on which day etc.

You can arrange to meet contacts in the cafe areas to catch up and also plan your time around the things you want to see and do.   It is important to note that the exhibitors have paid alot of money to be there and the last thing they want is for a visitor trying to sell to them!  By all means, make the contact at the exhibition but leave it a week before you contact them to progress things – they will have their post-exhibition strategy to implement.

You should also be aware that lots of exhibitors will be contacting you in the week after the event as they will scan your details from your name badge as you visit their stands – it can get a little overwhelming and seem your inbox is full of “junk mail” but if you use a specific email address when you register, all the follow-up emails will go to one place and you can review them when you’re ready!

The Boisterous Bill Approach

Bill blocks out the time in his diary.  He calls his contacts who he knows will be there, sorts out various coffee meetings, lunch and evening drinks.  He’s very pleased with himself.  He gets to the exhibition, picks up a catalogue and shoves it in his bag.  He starts to meander around the stands chatting to any of the exhibitors who will give him an audience about how he could work with them and how his products/services are so fabulous etc etc.  He picks up promotional literature and items at every stand, jams it all into his overflowing bags and considers this a successful trip.  He doesn’t book onto any of the seminars but does book onto the speed networking event (he can hit 30 or so people in a short time slot here remember).   After the exhibition Bill goes back to his office and puts everyone he has picked up cards for onto a mailing list and fires off a blanket email to them talking about his fantastic offers.  And yes, you guessed it, he diarises another email every few days just to make sure everyone remembers him and his fantastic deals!

The Organised Olivia Approach

Olivia reviews the exhibitors online before the event.  She makes a list of the ones she is interested in talking to and undertakes a similar exercise for the seminars taking place at the exhibition.   In her diary she inputs the seminars that she is attending and reviews the floor plan.  By highlighting the stands she wants to visit she is able to make a plan of the best route to take through all the exhibitors to make sure she speaks to the identified businesses.  She takes breaks for coffee but uses this time to list key thoughts and actions following conversations she has had with various exhibitors.  She attends the seminars she has booked on to, meets several people who she exchanges business cards with and goes away happy that she has achieved what she set out to.  Olivia may drop the people she met personal emails following up on conversations they had but she is more likely to have viewed the exhibition in a less selfish way – so she would be interested in what services she could use going forward as well as any exhibitors she feels would benefit from her services.

We work with many clients helping them to develop exhibition strategies, both as exhibitors and as visitors.  If I can be of help in this area, please get in touch.

About Marie

I started Elite Edge at the end of 1999 and I am still as passionate about marketing today as I was then - probably more so because I consider myself very lucky to do a job that I love every day! My area of specialism is strategic planning but like most people these days, I wear many other hats too!
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