"How To" Exhibit

by Bob Dallmeyer
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Making it Work

Step 7: Staffing Your Exhibit
Step 8: Pre Show Staff Seminar
Step 9: Selling from the Stand
Step 10: Working with the Press
Step 11: Managing Expectations in the Stand
Step 12: Networking and Your Competition
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Previous Steps 1 to 6: "Getting Started"

Following Steps 13 to 19: "Guarantee Results"

Step 7: Staffing Your Exhibit

Your most important consideration is to select people who are enthusiastic about your company and its products to work on your stand. If you have multi-lingual persons, that's an added bonus.

If you have a large stand, consider using a mix of employees - that is, executives, sales/ marketing specialists, and technical support persons -- as each fulfills a vital role in dealing with prospects and customers. For example, research indicates that technical support people are especially valuable for giving on-the-spot solutions about high technology products or services, plus they relate better to show visitors with similar backgrounds.

If your budget limits you to having a few people on the stand, have a telephone or computer link to your technical department or home office for instant solutions to visitors' questions.

Visitors remember far more about an exhibit than just booth design and literature: the appearance of your staff is very important, as they represent an integral part of your image on the show floor. Also, their ability to converse in the appropriate language of the region is necessary; you may have to hire translators or students to ensure a positive experience in the stand.

In the final analysis, it is most important that you have an exhibit team that works well together, is knowledgeable about your products/ services, and is helpful to the visitors.

Step 8. Pre Show Staff Seminar

It's good business practice to always hold a pre-show seminar in your exhibit or a nearby conference or hotel room before every exhibition. Everyone working the stand should attend this meeting. Here's a possible meeting agenda to guide you:

1. Introduce everyone on the team, including translators;

2. Review the stand, the exhibit structure & graphics, its layout;

3. Discuss the marketing plan;

4. Review objectives for each member of the team;

5. Discuss the products to be displayed and/or demonstrated;

6. Outline plans for greeting current customers at the exhibition;

7. Present the staffing schedule;

8. Discuss the lead qualifying and selling processes;

9. Explain how to complete lead forms on prospects;

10. Finally, discuss how to relate effectively to the prospects with buying power.

Staff Goals

When reviewing your company objectives, give every team member personal goals to achieve during each hour he or she is on the stand. Show them how to efficiently work in your exhibit, and remind them that you only have 5 seconds to make a positive impression with the visitors - so be alert at all times. A negative impression takes at least 30 minutes to correct. The better prepared your staff is, the greater your chances of achieving success.

Step 9: Selling from the Stand

Some team members may not know how to sell in the exhibit and others may be attending the exhibition for the first time. It is important to help these people be successful by offering them a thorough briefing about the show, its audience, and proper selling techniques.

A recent study of executive decision makers found that 46 percent of them purchased products while attending an exhibition. And 26 percent signed purchase orders at the last show they attended. Therefore, it's important for your team to be able to make sales in the stand, not just obtain leads.

Basics of Selling

To help your staff do this, review with them the three basic steps to selling at exhibitions:

1. Sell yourself,

2. Sell your company,

3. Sell your product or service.

For some of your team, the big problem is "selling yourself" in the exhibition environment and this is where some coaching about greeting strangers helps. Also, assess each individual's people and language skills, and be prepared to work a little more with those persons who may not be comfortable meeting people. Some companies use a buddy system, teaming a self-conscious or shy person with a more outgoing one, who acts as coach. Others match sales people with technical people, to create a winning combination. And, all successful exhibiting companies hold daily staff meetings to build team spirit.

Next, "selling the company" phase was underway long before the show opened. Exhibitions are part of your company's marketing mix, so all the branding on your website, the pre-show advertising, direct mail, press releases, and other promotions create a company awareness level that translates into visitor confidence and recognition in the stand. However, all your sales and marketing messages must be consistent and fully integrated. In today's competitive marketplace, it's recognition that works best for your company's stand.

The final step, "selling the product", is often the easiest, since most team members have some product knowledge. However, moving from the product discussion phase to closing the sale may not be easy for them to accomplish, as it's much different than a sales call in the prospect's office, because you have only a few minutes to bring the prospect into the stand, qualify her or him, have a meaningful discussion, get the lead or sale information, and then disengage. To repeat: the more comfortable your staff is with exhibition marketing basics, the more successful they will be at the show.

Step 10: Working with the Press

It's a known fact that more than half of all exhibition visitors want to see "what's new" in products and services. "New" is one of the two most effective words in communications today, which is why "new" and exhibitions are synonymous. Therefore, make sure your company promotes its new products, new services, new personnel, and even new facilities at exhibitions. In the stand, use bold graphics, demonstrations, and other effective methods to get the visitor's attention. Pay attention to have proper translations of the appropriate languages. Experience has shown that hands-on/ interactive presentations involving the audience make new products or services more memorable and their introduction more successful.

Press Release

Prepare a press release on "what's new" for your company. Here are some suggestions about the press release:

1. Avoid using exaggerated sales terms (called 'hype') as they generally don't translate well;

2. Be brief, yet factual;

3. Include photos with descriptions (captions);

4. Send press releases to all official show publications before the show;

5. Post it on the Internet;

6. Prepare press kits for your stand and the exhibition press office.

Press Conference

You may want to schedule a press conference during the exhibition. This may include sending special invitations in advance of the exhibition, special treatment for VIPs, speeches by company leaders, printed, electronic and audiovisual support materials, food and drinks, other amenities (like a souvenir of the event). Successful media relations are highly important for a company's marketing efforts.

Step 11: Managing Expectations in the Stand

As stated before, 15 percent of a typical exhibition audience has a general interest and 10 percent has a specific interest in products, services, or companies at the exhibition. Therefore, you should target your sales or lead projections for this 10 percent audience segment. Any contacts or prospects exceeding that figure are an added bonus (and probably the result of excellent team work).

Projecting Stand Activity

Another important concept: your overall sales activity is based on the number of persons working in the stand, as well as their ability to interact with the visitors. Here's an example: If it takes about ten minutes to discuss, demonstrate and qualify an visitor/prospect in your stand, then each staff member could possibly make six leads per hour. However, this doesn't allow time for breaks, lunch, etc. Also, the number of visitors in the aisle varies from hour to hour, so there will be times when your stand activity is very slow. So, for this example, perhaps four leads per hour per staff member is a better target. By multiplying the number of hours a person works in the exhibit by this four leads per hour, you have an individual's total lead-making opportunity. Add up the totals for everyone working the stand and you

In certain exhibitions, your company may be gathering prospects' names and addresses for post-show follow-up or to add to your e-mail database. In this case, obtaining great quantities of leads per hour is possible. In fact, it may be useful to have one person solely responsible for entering these names into your database.

Step 12: Networking and Your Competition

Networking is the responsibility of everyone working your stand, including top management. Face-to-face meetings with customers, prospects, the press, students, and industry leaders are extremely beneficial for future sales and company growth. Therefore, allocate time in each day for this important function.

Another staff responsibility is to see what the competition is doing at the exhibition. Observe their stand activity and, if possible, visit with the competitors to learn what they are introducing, demonstrating, selling, etc. This is particularly helpful to new employees of your company, as it permits them to watch the competition in action.

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