While there are many types of exhibits at events, there is a common thread: promoting or selling your product or service. The formats and venues for these events run the gamut of an open house for a customer, a table top for your sales materials or demo items, a forum or conference, and trade shows, expos, or fairs. With all of the variations of exhibiting, the objectives are to identify your goals, create a plan to achieve those goals, and establish how you will quantify success.
Most likely, your sales manager or company executives will define the event objectives for the sales team and how your success will be measured. Your most important priority is to have a plan. Without one, your achievements will be marginal. Align your personal goals with those of the company. What do you want to accomplish, how will you achieve your goals, and what tools will you need to make it happen? Understand your role and responsibilities during the event and plan accordingly.
There is a whole lot of work to do before you go in order to accomplish your event objectives. The likelihood of a successful exhibition exponentially increases with careful planning and pre-event execution. Research your target companies and develop relevant talking points. Connect with prospects and clients early to schedule meetings and appointments. Research pays off here by providing a good reason for your contacts to see you and engage in an informative conversation.
Working with your management team, refine your elevator pitch for the market and event attendee roles. A pitch to the C-Suite is unique, just as the industry nuances require a pivot for relevance. You may need multiple versions of the pitch, so take the time to define what you are promoting and why so you connect with the people you meet. Develop a list of questions to engage your audience and start a conversation. And don’t forget to practice! Working through these critical exercises and practicing before the event will give you confidence and assurance. You are creating the desired outcome by being prepared.
You need to know where you are going, identify potential obstacles, and arrive early. Review the venue, exhibit hall layout, sessions, your hotel, and the city. Some venues are vast and will require added travel time from one corner to the other. Your hotel could be further afield and you will need to schedule and account for traffic or missed connections to reach the venue or meetings.
What’s nearby – both the venue and your hotel? Where can you have a good meal or take a coffee break? Is there an app for the event? If so, download it and review the app navigation ahead of time. Pick up your badge early to avoid the crowd and walk the hall. Get your bearings and review the facilities and hospitality areas. This will not only help you have a smooth event, but you will be a valuable resource to those who are lost or need direction. What a great ice breaker!
Your lead strategy should have been defined as part of the goals and objectives for the event. During the event, it’s important to follow the process, since every lead is like gold. Treat it that way. If you don’t have a central repository for the leads, pre-plan how you will handle them. An easy backup plan is to photograph the leads with your smart phone. Take a few minutes to make notes on the conversation or information garnered while it’s still fresh in your mind. Your valuable leads are a key, if not the most important, component of the event success.
You are at the event to engage with the attendees, establish new relationships, and strengthen existing connections. Act, look, and be professional and courteous. Be friendly and approachable. Smile and make eye contact. Schedule your time – while in the booth, during meetings, during meals, and on breaks. It’s a marathon, so pace yourself to remain energized and refreshed. When you need to leave the booth, let your colleagues know when you will be back. If you are working alone, place a sign on the counter letting attendees know when you will return.
An important part of the exhibiting process is to document your key takeaways. Take note of observations, best sessions, new and interesting products or services, and who you saw and met. Then share the information with your colleagues and compare notes. What worked well, what didn’t, and how can you improve for the next event? Build upon each experience to achieve more and leverage your knowledge.
Reach out to everyone you met at the event. It can be as simple as an email or LinkedIn contact. Check in and thank them. Your networking efforts are invaluable. With your sales leads, execute your pre-planned lead management strategy. Follow up, follow up, follow up! Contact each and every sales lead until you get a response. If you promised them something, keep your word. Do what you said you would do. Take action immediately following the event. You are setting yourself apart by following up in a timely manner, further establishing your credibility and adding a foundational layer to your relationship.
Exhibiting is a tremendous opportunity to meet new people and make valuable connections. You’ll learn about new products, services, and companies. With proper planning and execution, you will leave with a plethora of new leads and potential sales.
Petite2Queen provides virtual mentoring to young women in life, at work, and in sales. Follow us for more practical advice you can put to use to improve your life and career.
Lynn Whitbeck is the co-founder and President of Petite2Queen. She is focused on identifying and evaluating opportunities for women at work, helping them define their personal roadmap. She dedicates herself to delivering tools and insights, embracing visualization of the big picture, and identifying and implementing the minutiae of detail. Lynn aims to share lessons learned along her journey and enable positive uplift for women.