Go to work on an egg
Pack in some energy-giving protein among the carbs and eat a very good breakfast. A mistake we’ve all made is to think you can fuel your day with enthusiasm and sufficient intake of caffeine.
Whilst we’re not nutritional therapists, we can tell you from experience that you’ll suffer an energy crash or, worse, an embarrassing hungry-stomach growl just when you least want it. It’s easy to get caught up with the fast pace of the exhibition and completely forget your own needs, but no-one wants to faint in front of hundreds of people!
When you can’t step away from a busy exhibition stand to eat a proper midday meal, your lifesavers are going to be a box of chewy fruit energy bars and a crate of small water bottles that you brought along with you. Keep snacking throughout the day and keep sipping water, to remain fully hydrated.
Some early signs of dehydration include headaches and dizziness (just in case you thought you were experiencing “love at first sight” swooning symptoms).
Here’s a tip from an associate of ours, who often works with Arabic clients. The Arabic culture of offering all guests hospitality extends even to when they’re working on a busy exhibition stand. You’ll always find a couple of soft seats and a beautifully presented platter of dates, nuts or other small snacks, alongside water and sometimes even flasks of hot, sweet tea and coffee. Not saying you need to “go the whole picnic” (as it were), but it’s a lovely touch and certainly draws in the visitors.Many a business deal has later been done after a chat about a mutual love of Medjool dates! It’s also a highly practical way to manage your own snacking.
Instruct a trusted colleague to alert you if you haven’t got clean teeth and face afterwards, though. Otherwise it could be gross for your next visitor, who might be that prospective client or VIP!
If you have special dietary needs (such as food allergies or intolerances, gluten free, vegan, halal, kosher etc), experience tells me it’s worthwhile taking a thermal mug of soup and something that you know you can grab if you can’t find what you need to eat in the venue’s food outlets.
Often there’s only a strictly limited range of ready-made food options available, so you don’t want to be taking chances by eating food that could affect your health or wellbeing. It’s my ambition to drink a whole cup of tea at an exhibition - people always interrupt!
We are family (almost)
If it’s an event you’ve attended before, you will probably get to know your fellow exhibitors quite well, and camaraderie often kicks in.
Be generous and look out for one another, by offering to get them a drink or a snack too, or by asking them to keep one eye on your stand while you dash to the café.
It’s easy to assume the people around you might be your “competitors” when they could be in the same industry, but offering entirely different services to your own. One of our associates even found a good new client that way, when someone on a neighbouring stand was struggling to open their popup and our team member chatted whilst helping them with that task.
Be proactive and seize every opportunity
At an exhibition there can be thousands of people, all milling around and sharing queues for coffee or cloakrooms. Take every opportunity to tell them who you are and what you do, but also be inquisitive about them and ask about their reasons for visiting. They may know of a VIP or potential client being on site that you hadn’t heard about, so you can glean useful information just by being your friendly, open self!
Again, this has happened to an associate of ours, who was trying to find out whether a reclusive Chairman of a target client company was on site. The person in the queue worked for his company and was able to facilitate a very warm introduction at their stand!
We enable people to chat easily with us by having shirts with our company logo and name on the front, our corporate brand design on the back and our name badges clearly visible - sometimes we even have shirts printed with "Ask me about Joomla! Website Design" or whatever the person's speciality might
be when we're attending an exhibition, along with a recognisable symbol of that specialisation (in my case, the Joomla! Logo). It’s a great visual device to help visitors to take the plunge and initiate a chat about their specific area of interest.
Whatever your preferred method of note taking might be, have it to hand and make use of it. You will receive hundreds of business cards during the event so you won’t remember every conversation unless you keep some notes.
If I need to remember something about a conversation with someone I meet, I take a photo of the business card after they have left and drop it into an Evernote note, along with any comments. Once you get into the habit it is very quick.
Before the days of Evernote, I would stick a business card in a notebook with sellotape across the top edge, and write underneath the card flap any comments, this is sometimes more useful if you are super busy or aren't confident with technology.
Our PR associate admits to writing “stripy bow tie” or “pink hair” or “bone crushing hand shake” on the person’s business card, if there’s something particularly interesting about the person. She tells the person that’s what she’s going to write, so they can share a light hearted joke together (which makes the person remember her, since they often reference the joke in post-event emails). She says people are delighted when someone compliments them on the efforts they’ve put into looking so good and in standing out from the crowd. Sometimes she asks them what was their favourite or first record bought and she writes that down too. Whilst she can’t always remember the exact name of the person’s firm, she never forgets “the guy who’s interested in subject X and whose first record was “I’ve Got A Combine Harvester” by The Worzels (refer to You Tube!).
PR tips (and why a selfie stick should be in every event kit bag)
Events are social by their nature, so try to make the most of the opportunities presented by social media. You’ll gain kudos with your visitors, along with some good content for future PR and social media use, if you invite every visitor which whom you had a positive conversation to be included somewhere in your social media pages soon after the event.
Tell them you’d like to stay in touch and, if they’d care to follow you online, you’d be happy to follow them back. They’ll then see your post about them and share it. Invite them to have a “selfie” taken with you in front of your popup. A movie clapperboard or a white board are perfect props that people love playing with. On it you can note their name and any “top tip” or quote from them as an expert in their own field. Or they could just write their first/favourite record, if they are happy with something more light hearted.
Some people are naturally gregarious on camera, so for those who are comfortable with it, invite them to record a 30 second video saying who they are, what they are an expert in and what they’ve learned by talking with your company and by coming to this event. Then they gain some visibility, for being shown as a professional expert, and you get kudos for having given them something they perceive as valuable PR.
Schedule your social media in advance
If you think you can run an exhibition stand and be sharing on social media throughout the event, you will struggle. Schedule messages to go out during the day across all your social networks, telling people what you are offering at the exhibition, how they can find you, what you are doing/offering, and anything else that might tempt them to come to your stand.
Complement this by having 'live from' messages, maybe even organise an event on Google+ and enable “party mode”. Then your photos will be added to the event automatically. Follow any official hashtags for the event and see if you can help any official event followers or communicate with them directly, whilst inviting them to your own stand.
Every person counts, so make time to follow up
Make sure that you block out time in the days immediately after the event to follow up with every person you spoke with. Whilst a generic “thank you/good to meet you” email is probably expected, they will be especially pleased if you actually call them to say how much you enjoyed meeting them. If you then send a personalised email, ask to connect with them on LinkedIn and maybe even invite them for a coffee, your new relationship will thrive.
Even if they may not be of direct interest to you now, you might need their services or support at a later date, or you might come across someone who needs their help (or vice versa). So make the effort to learn about your network, and you will notice that others will do the same and start referring you clients too.