How to Rock a Tradeshow

How to Rock a Tradeshow

For those of you who follow me on Twitter you’ll know that this week I attended The East London Expo in Dagenham. It was a great event but it highlighted a few things for me which I felt were worth blogging about this week. Hopefully if you find yourself getting ready for an exhibition, you can take some of this advice and use it to your advantage.

First things, first – Expo’s are not cheap. You have the price of the stand, the cost of travel, the cost of the equipment and printed material and (don’t forget this one), the cost of your time. If you’re going to invest in this, you need to be sure you’re going to make proper use of it.

So rather than tips today I’ve made a list of thoughts for you

1). Prepare, prepare, prepare – Think out your stand well in advance, work out the dimensions, what you’re going to have on there in the way of furniture and plan it properly (we marked ours out with tape first to see what space we had).

2). Watch out for the ‘snatch and grab’ brigade - Yes, those people who walk round and take every bit of literature going as if it were to be part of a collection or something – placing expensive material near the front of the stand allows this group to do this and guess what, you’re not going to get any work from them – don’t waste it.

3). Seminars – Many shows I’ve been to over the years have had seminars running at them. These are usually unpaid speaking gigs but they give you the ability to raise awareness of yourself and your company. I highly recommend putting yourself up for these talks, at which you can of course invite people back to your stand afterwards to chat further.

4). Dress Appropriately – Suit and smart clothing may be best for your business but if you have branded clothing this goes down especially well because you’ll be walking about a lot. At the expo this week I even saw someone dressed as a spark plug!

5). You’re there to learn, not to sell – POW – you weren’t ready for that one were you? I lost count of the times that I walked around shows and people on stands practically accosted me and pulled me into their stand and waffled at me regarding their service or product. Sound familiar? What had these guys done? They’d spent their valuable time telling me about their business (which by the way I wasn’t really interested in) while their perfect client walked past, saw they were busy and walked on.

6). Them not you - A quick cursory glance at your stand name and then the inevitable, ‘So what do you do then?’ Heard that one before? Crikey, I must have heard that 300 times this week. I almost always respond in the same way (this works at networking events aswell by the way) – ‘We run a web design and online marketing agency, but hey that’s not important, what do YOU do?’ Turning the question around on someone allows them to talk about themselves and for you to learn…that way you’re far better placed to work out which of your services might be able to help them.

7). The next step – Work out what your next step is for the show. What is the perfect outcome for you? Do you want hundreds of cold lead business cards that will probably take you ages to follow up and get back to or would you like fewer, but more serious appointments or at least phonecalls booked? I know which one we go for.

8). Follow up material – If sending out follow up material is important to your business then make sure it’s prepared before the show so all you need to do when you get back is hand over the addresses and away you go.

There are probably hundreds of hints and tips for tradeshows so I could go on but I’ll let you guys take the stage and add some more

Now Your Thoughts

  • What howlers have you seen occur at these events?
  • What’s made you smile and think that’s innovative?

Public Speaking – A Secret to Success

Public Speaking – A Secret to Success

I wasn’t able to get to my blog post on Friday last week due to a string of seminars I’m currently running. Unusually we had three turn up within a week of each other so I had to prioritise and I’m afraid the blog post lost out this once. That said, I’m catching up now and figured it would make a good topic if I wrote about how important public speaking is for my own strategy and how you should consider embracing it, if you aren’t already.

Seminars/Presentations, whatever you want to call them, are gold dust. If you’re given the opportunity to run one, grasp it. Where else do you get a number of people interested in your subject in a room together? If you run it well then you will undoubtedly come out with lots of opportunities and increase your chance of being approached to provide a service or product after.

I wrote about presentation skills a while back where I focused on ten strategies for a successful presentation. Today is more about re-enforcing the importance of being seen out there in order to build your personal and company brand.

I know it’s quite appealing to shy away from these opportunities – the thought of standing up in front of a load of people and talking fills most people with fear but here’s the truth – it get’s easier and you need to start somewhere. Still to this day I get a little nervous when I’m about to speak but it’s natural and helps me to fire on all cylinders. If you get nervous, don’t let it stop you – much better to learn how to control the nerves than miss out on the fabulous opportunities these events provide.

I started presenting at University as it was part of some of the courses. When I then started Optix I made sure that I had every opportunity to be in front of people, either one to one or in a group presenting. I was never a natural speaker so one of the best things I did to help was to join a business networking group called BNI. At BNI’s all around the world, you meet up every week and have to stand in front of 20-40 business owners and tell them about your business for 60 seconds. This really focuses the mind and hones your presentation skills. If you’re starting out now why not look up a local BNI chapter and throw yourself in at the deep end.

There are also organisations like Toastmasters which I’ve heard are excellent (Although I’ve not had first hand experience) – These focus on improving your public speaking skills so if you’re not sure where to start then I’d recommend looking up one of these in your area.

Here’s another great tip. I attend a number of conferences and always watch the speakers very carefully. I want to improve my own style so I try and capture the essence of where these people get it right and adapt it into my own flow. Recently I was lucky enough to watch Chris Brogan speak and then even luckier to sit next to him at a sponsors dinner that night. He was able to do 20 minutes off the cuff, without any help (no powerpoint) while making people laugh and leaving people with major takeaways by the end of his talk – genius! I asked him at the dinner how he did it and if he had any tips – he said to me something that resonates every time I find myself in front of others – ‘Alastair, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to fail’. Chris speaks hundreds of times a year, all around the world – that’s an awful lot of times to work out what works and what sucks – it’s that simple – practice makes perfect. Thank you Chris :)

How do you get on with public speaking? Do you avoid it? Are you working on any plans to improve yourself and want to share these with others?