Strategies and Observations from attending business shows and exhibitions
Welcome to the Success IQ podcast, the show for entrepreneurs who want to create and live an exceptional life. I’m your host, Geoff Nicholson and this is episode 124. Good morning, good afternoon and good evening. Almost lost my words there. Welcome to another week of the Success IQ podcast. This week we are going to talk about exhibiting and attending business shows or exhibitions.
Now I’ve been doing this for, God, probably over 11 years now, and I’ve attended hundreds of business shows and exhibitions, both as an attendee but also as a speaker as well. And what I’d like to do in this episode is just talk about some of my observations over the last, especially the last few years of going to these events, and talking about ways people can improve the footfall to their stands, but also making the most of their day when they are there as well.
So let’s get to it. First of all, let us look at the exhibitor. Now, obviously as an exhibitor, you have spent money, most of the time, to get a spot at these exhibitions. And what amazes me is, is the amount of money that some of these exhibitions in business shows… We’re just going to call them business shows just to make life easier rather than going through both things.
You have spent money, hard-earned cash, to go to these events and actually what is amazing is how many people when they get there literally look like they just do not want to be there at all. It is whatever is going on, it looks like they’ve been forced to get there. So we’re not talking about the people that get there and they’re all very psyched up, they know what they need to do, they have a very strategic plan of what they want to do when they get there.
We’re talking about those people that get there and then they spend the rest of the afternoon or possibly all day hiding behind their stands. Now you know who you are. There are no names here, but if you are going to events and you’re wondering why people possibly aren’t coming to your stands enough, it could be things that you can immediately rectify. Yes, there are possibly things where the location may be a little bit challenging or stuff like that.
Those types of things I’m sure to happen in business shows, but the key thing is, is what can you do to make the best out of your day as an exhibitor? So I was sitting there thinking when I attended the last one, and the new season starts the beginning of October, that I’m inundated with speaking events and shows.
Is when you’re at this stand, there’s a couple of things I see all the time, is number one is they hide behind the stand. So they literally use their table as like a piece of armour and no one shall pass. It’s like that bit when… I was going to say Dumbledore, but it’s Gandalf. When Gandalf stand there and just says, “You shall not pass.” That’s exactly what some people make it out to look like.
So they’re sitting there and it’s like they’re not looking at people, there’s no eye communication going, “Oh, hello,” and they’re immediately looking at their phones. I’ve even seen people doing doodles and drawings and all sorts of things where people are walking past. Potential customers are walking past and they’re sitting there looking at their phones or whatever it is, playing, I don’t know.
What was the… Bejewelled or Tetris or something like that, or Minesweeper. Can you get Minesweeper on your iPhone? That’ll be terrible. But, you know, those sorts of things. They’re anything but their attention is towards the people that have come to sometimes pay, but also, whatever happens, is you’ve paid to do those things and you are just… Basically what you’re telling people is on an unconscious level, never mind a physical presence level, is you’re just telling them to sod off.
You don’t want to be interrupted. You don’t want to be bothered. So those types of people… And if you’re doing it because you’re shy, or you’re doing that because there’s a confidence issue, there are ways you can build that confidence up. But one of the things you don’t want to be doing is you don’t want to be seen doing it at a business show where you’re selling your business and you’re kind of like saying, “You want to buy from me because I sell the best products.”
And you are making it completely impossible for people to actually have any form of communication with you, because you’re just kind of like going, “I don’t want to speak to you.” So a couple of things that I’ve noticed is, number one, I’ve seen people come up there and hide behind their phones, literally.
Also what’s really interesting is a lot of these people are the same types of people that possibly will go up to the event organisers and complain that they haven’t had any business to their table. And there’s part of you that can go, “I feel sorry for the organiser having to deal with that one because I’ve actually seen them sit there doing sweet nothing all day and not making themselves being presentable.”
So there’s an important element of you need to make sure you’re doing the work. You have to take some responsibility and make sure you’re doing everything you can in order to attract the attendees and people walking around to come and see what you do, your wares, so to speak. So the big one is that one, they hide behind the desk, they hide behind their phone.
I’ve even seen some people hide behind the whole stand so no one can see them, and they’re sitting there doing work. I’ve obviously seen other people just literally leave their table, just leave their stand altogether for the majority of the day and disappear and do other things. It’s almost like their stand is good enough to sell everything they do, and they’re just going to run off and go.
So we have to look at that in a different way. So what does that mean? Well, two things. As an owner of a company, if you are going to exhibit, make sure that the people either if you’re going there, make sure you’re in a good space. Make sure that you… it goes without saying, it goes with common senses, smile, an open posture. Standing at the front of your desk trying to say hello to everyone that goes by.
Not ramming things in their faces or anything like that. Just asking them specific questions that possibly could bring them into your sphere so you can start talking to them and telling them what you do. I think there’s also another important thing is, is understand that that is not necessarily about ramming a sale down them as well. It’s about building the relationship up that will lead to more sales.
I’ve seen people who, especially novices, people who have just started their business and they’re desperate for money and all of those sorts of things, and the only thing they’re not doing is pouncing on top of them and just going, “Buy, buy, buy.” But it’s a very sort of more of aggressive way of selling than a tactical way of selling that some of these people do, and it just turns people off.
The other thing is, is so making sure that you’ve got all that information, making sure that your stand looks good, is appealing to people. And also if you’re going to not attend and you’re going to get someone else to do the exhibition, business show, make sure that they’re a good ambassador for your business.
Because, again, time and time again, I see someone who’s just been told, “Right, you’re going to the exhibit today,” and it’s the last thing they want to do. They’re young, they don’t have a whole lot of confidence. Now, this isn’t about young, I’ve seen all ages, but one that specifically sticks to mind is the young boy and the young lady who was there were practically shivering with nerves. And when you go to speak to them, was “Well no, I’ve been told that I’ve got to come here.”
And what you find is, is that you get some people that are just nervous and still do a really good job, and then you’ve got other people that just really utilise that time as a way to just to be able to… it’s almost like a day off work. So there’s, for me, one of the things that I talk about with my clients is, gives them targets. Don’t just go, “Okay, just go there and tell them about the company.”
Give them specific targets. Like, “I want 20 names off you.” And in some ways, depending on the people that you’re using, create some sort of competition in there, just to help them develop that little bit of camaraderie and competition because that’s always good to get that sort of thing. So really simple. Also really important is capture the data.
Make sure that you’re getting the data off the people that come by. Collection of business cards, compliment slips. There’s a couple of apps that we’re going to talk about at the end of the show, which will make that information a lot quicker. Or a form, just simply name, email address, who they’re working for, and are they interested in getting information? Because then you can send the information to them, and comply with that crazy law of GDPR.
So there’s all of that sort of stuff that you can do. And then when you get back, if not by the end of the day, if it’s a half-day event, you can start in the afternoon, but by the next day, start sending communication out. Not necessarily massive, let’s ram a sales down them. To me, again, it’s about building relationships and everyone is going to be different.
Some people will just want to make a sale and make a sale, and other people will go, “Well, actually there’s a little bit of trust that has to be earned,” and those sort of things as well. But I think that’s a really important aspect of it, is when you’re doing it to make sure that you understand that, so you aren’t turning away people.
Also, for those of you who have never done these types of shows before, understand that no doesn’t mean never. No just means at the minute. I know when I first started out when I would talk about coaching and all of them taking the mick out of what a coach is and thinking it was all fluffy stuff and everything else because at the time I didn’t really understand how to describe my coaching style that I did.
One of the things that I would always look at was as soon as someone went, “No thank you,” I would immediately be so disappointed and just kind of like strike them off the list forever, like chisel their names out in stone. What I began to understand is that, through experience and understanding that when I start looking at it as no doesn’t mean no forever, it just means no at that moment in time.
The type of work that I do is, is there’ll be people that don’t need it then and then all of a sudden as they come along, what my job is and what your job is, is to make sure that you’re always at the forefront of their thoughts when you’re thinking about this sort of stuff. So I use the podcast to do this, I use speaking to do this, networking, all of those sort of things. This is the same way you can do that when you go out there and you speak to these people, get their email addresses, start communicating them in a nice subtle way that builds that relationship up.
Keep dropping them great value bombs of strategies or why your services or products are great, useful. Keep on doing that in order to start building that relationship up. But understand it just takes a bit of time. What else have I got on this? No, just understand. Yes, so that’s really the important ones for the exhibitors. And a lot of people, where you go and stand, some of this is just through confidence.
It’s just about learning different strategies to build more confidence. There are many different strategies to do that. There are episodes that we talk about that in the past, and also you can always jump up on the Facebook group and we can talk about different ways to become more confident and different strategies because there are some really wise people within the group as well. All you need to do for that is search for Success IQ Alliance on Facebook, and you can join a closed group where it’s trusted.
We just want to support you to be the best version of yourselves. So let’s have a look at the attendees. So a couple of really funny strategies that some people to attendees, and one of the weird things I’ve noticed especially over the last three, four years, is there’s a… When I’ve spoken in events in Scotland and when I’ve spoken in events in England, the England people tend to have… the England people? The English tend to have this amazing competition, and I call it the Olympic Games of getting free stuff.
It’s like the Olympic relay. It’s that you see them arrive, practically run around the whole exhibit and get all the free stuff and then sod off. And I don’t see the point of that. I don’t see any point as if you’re going to put your time in and come to a business show, utilise the business show to its best advantage.
And that is about meeting others, other companies, other possible clients, meeting those people and starting to build a relationship up. What you might find is, is that you see the same person at all of these events. Don’t ignore them. Come by and say, “Hello again.” There’s a great guy who I’ve met at one of the events I speak to in Burnley. Great guy, met him because I was speaking and he was speaking and he’s also an exhibitor there. Just such a lovely guy.
But because I keep going by and saying hello to him, we’ve started to build up a friendship and we’ve started to sort of talk about all sorts of different stuff. And to me, that’s very, very important stuff. Now, he doesn’t need my services and I don’t need his services at the minute, but one of the benefits of speaking to this guy and building a relationship up with him as he was able to help my son out with helping on one of his video projects.
So all of these things are really important. The first thing is, is never underestimate the people you’re going to meet. Over time the relationships can form, but the first… One of the number one rules that I have is, is you need to have a very clear goal of what you want to get out of going to these shows. So whether it is just to get your name out, to make people aware of what you’re doing, whether it’s to start creating meaningful relationships, to me that’s the most important one, but it’s really about having a focus of what it is that you’re going to do.
The other thing is, is understanding that takes your time. These things can be half a day, these things can be all day. Now granted, I know you have a business to run and you are not always going to have that opportunity to be able to take a whole day out. But make sure if you schedule it in good time unless an emergency comes in, you will be able to take out more time than you would if you just went, “I’m off there. I’m going there for a couple of hours because I realise something’s on.”
One of the other ways that I like to do is I strategically look at the next 12 months of what shows are on. So whether it shows that I’m speaking at, or whether it’s ones I want to attend, I want to make sure that I know what they are and I get them in the calendar as soon as I can. Now that might be looking at Eventbrite, it might be looking at specific companies who I tend to go to their events.
They are the important ones where I get in my calendar so I know exactly what it is. That’s where I can network, and the old saying is you network to get work. That sort of thing is really, really true. So to me, that’s a really, really important one. Don’t just run around trying to get free stuff or trying to… And have some… Another one that is really, really important to me is making sure that you go there with some decent etiquette.
What I mean by that is I’ve attended events where I’ve been speaking to someone, and someone has just walked in and barged in to almost confiscate a conversation simply because they do the same thing as either the exhibitor is doing and they want to let me know that that’s what they do. Or I’ve even seen other people who do similar things to me, who had barged in thinking that I’m about to sell them a product or something, and they want to let people know what’s going on.
You lose respect very, very quickly and certainly the people who have experienced that will make sure that people know. So just have a little bit of common sense and a little bit of common decency when you’re at these events. There’s plenty of work out there for everyone. You just need to make sure that you’re creating the right atmosphere and you have that right personality when you go to these events.
I think that’s another really important thing. So then let’s have a look at some of the more things that attendees can do. Make sure that when you get to that event, or if you can do beforehand, you really look at the event schedule. You understand exactly who’s showing, you understand what’s going on, so you can make the most out of that valuable time that you are using and put aside for this event. And never underestimate the benefit of going to the… Quite a lot of business shows and exhibitions have workshops or presentations going on.
You never know what you are going to learn or even who you are going to meet at those points of learning. And certainly, jump on and do the networking section that a lot of the shows do as well. Because again, you’re getting your name out. If you’ve just started out and you’ve just started this business up and you’re trying to get your name out there, people need to see who you are, know a little bit more about you.
One of the best ways to do that is obviously to get out with the networking and go to these business shows, maybe the local ones in your area and stuff. So they’re some really important ones. Again, once you’ve done that, make sure that you collect the data, whether it’s writing them in your note pad, whether it’s… You just make sure that then the next thing is that you’re going to start communicating with them.
So a couple of strategies for collecting data. Really, really simple. First one is, one of the rules I’ve done because I’ve been notorious for losing business cards, and it’s always the one you lose is always the one that’s a hot lead. So take a photograph of it using your phone. Just really, really simple, quick photograph. One of the things I sometimes do depend on who the people I meet is, I’ll write a little note on the back of their business card, the event and what it is that they wanted to speak to me about or what it was that I was interested about.
It allows me to collect that data as well, so do it that way. Couple of apps you can use. So Evernote has a business scanner of course. Evernote’s got almost everything, one of the recommended ones that I use a lot. Haystack is a great little app. It comes free as well. So what you can literally do is you can take a photograph of the business card. From that point, you can then send a message to the person who’s giving you the business card.
It will then send a digital business card to them. So you’ve both got information of each other. That’s a really, really good one. And there’s another one called, I think it’s pronounced Covve, C-O-V-V-E. That’s an app that allows me, again, to collect contacts, take scans of business cards and just compile that information. I can then send it over to my CRM, or some CRMs have a business card built-in as well. I think mine does as well.
I use something called Salesflare. I’d have to confirm that and I’ll put that in the notes. But the other one that’s really, really cool is LinkedIn. So obviously LinkedIn is about creating business contacts, and what you can do with LinkedIn is you can open up… If you open up your LinkedIn app on your phone, now I’m speaking from the point of it being on an iPhone.
When you open your app, you’ll see at the very top a search bar and there’d be like a funny square squiggle. It’s a QR code. If you click on that, it gives you two options. One, a scanner, two, it gives you your QR code for your own profile. So what that means is, is that you’re able to show someone that QR code, they can take a scan of it using the scan part of it, and it will immediately connect them and link them up to your LinkedIn profile, which is a really easy way of doing it rather than… I tend to use digital scanners and stuff like that rather than carrying my business cards around.
But it’s a great way for you to do that. And then the other one is one that you can click on. So if you go into your LinkedIn, you click on the people icon, so the contacts icon with two people, one behind each other. And if you go into the very top, you’ll see how many connections you have and find nearby. And sometimes it says off, sometimes it says on. What you do is if you click on, “find nearby,” and you put it on, what it will do is it will scan the area of people who also have that switched on and you can connect to them that way as well.
It can be a great way at networking events as a way just going, “Okay, so if everyone wants to connect, just switch on this app and click on, and you can immediately connect them to your LinkedIn.” So remember when you’re going to these events, you’re going there for several reasons. You’re going, one, to see what other people are doing out there that maybe are in the same market as you. You’re going out there to meet people and to see if people are looking at purchasing your products and services, to let them know about your brand, brand awareness, to meet new people, to increase your network.
And sometimes when you’re using the events and the presentations and the workshops, you’ve gone out there to learn something new. How to better yourself in some way, and they are valuable resources and valuable things to do and take the time out. So they’re the really important things that I’ve noticed, and hopefully, those sort of strategies have helped. Some of them are really, really obvious yet the amazing thing is, is just because they’re obvious doesn’t mean that people do them.
So sometimes it’s about stepping back and going, “How can I improve this in some way?” I think the other thing is, it’s when you’re looking at improving your confidence, always understand that comes from internally first. So you going to these events, the more and more events you go, yes, you will get more confident. But to be able to speak to people, then that’s another thing.
To be able to communicate clearly without having the nerves, so you don’t fluff up the words that you’re trying to say or you don’t miss the talk about some of the products and services that you do, that’s a really important thing as well. And also one of the things I also forgot, and I should mention is, is don’t forget the power of speaking at these events as well. If you are someone who is looking at doing these types of things, speaking at these sort of events can be extremely valuable.
It’s a big part of my marketing personally for my business and getting out there and speaking at these business shows. It’s a great way to collect data and meet people, and from a speaker point of view, you’re elevating yourself to a different status. That’s an unconscious thing. What people see is if you’re speaking about these topics, you are an expert in that field. One of the things is it’s making good relationships with these event organisers, whether it is a one that can get you in just a single show or a one that can get you into multiple shows.
I have a great relationship with a few event organisers, one in particular that I speak at a lot of his events. It keeps you fresh, it keeps you in their mind, and also you can move through the ranks to eventually become one of their main speakers in the events as well. So there’s so many important things and so many benefits of doing business shows right, you’ve just got to take the time.
And transparency wise, I’m always learning. I’m making mistakes all the time. Its part of my way of learning is to experiment with different things, to use different technologies to try and bring things towards. So one of the things we’re in talks about now is doing like a mobile podcast where we take literally a very simple podcast studio over. That’s all going to be sort of an experiment to see what we can do. But these things, they keep you alive, they keep letting people know what you’re doing.
And I think that’s a really important part of the process as well. But go out there, be courageous, take your time and just be willing to go out there. And the more and more you do it, the more and more confident you’ll be, the more and more exceptional you’ll be at promoting your products and services, and you dramatically increase the chances of getting the business that you’re looking for. Take care. Have an amazing day and I wish you the greatest success.
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