Jayne McFahn

Jayne McFahn
Director of event consultancy GMG Network

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30 Mar 15

Exhibitions - why do you attend?

There are a huge number of industry exhibitions that take place throughout the year, but how do you approach these? Do you have great intentions of attending all the key exhibitions, expanding your knowledge, networking with suppliers and potential clients, attending the seminars and making the most of the entire event?  Or do you, like some people, avoid them like the plague deciding you don’t have time?  After all, you can read about any key trends that appear after the exhibition in your own time and still be up-to-date.

For me, I think that industry exhibitions work on a number of levels, and as I’ve said before about other things, it’s all about preparation.

If you are exhibiting at one of the many exhibitions you will have chosen your stand location, designed the look and feel of the stand, decided what your main showcase features are and how you will convey these messages, appointed a team to plan for the event and a team on rotation to man the stand for the duration of the exhibition.  You will have decided on your giveaways (everyone loves a freebie!) and how you will follow-up after the event, plus how you’ll deal with potential time wasters.  In short, you will have spent a lot of time planning how you are going to sell your wares to everyone that passes your stand.  You know why you are exhibiting, what you are hoping to get out of it and what results will make you exhibit again the following year.

If, on the other hand, you are attending an exhibition, have you thought WHY you are attending?  It could be one key reason or a number of reasons, whatever it is, if you don’t plan ahead you may not make the most of your time - and you don’t want to be one of those time wasters the exhibitors have to “deal with” do you.  Here are some things I try to do before every exhibition I attend:
  • Download the official exhibition app if there is one
  • Check who is exhibiting and decide which of the exhibitors I REALLY want to see to find out more about their products/services
  • Check the Keynote and seminar schedule, decide which sessions are relevant to my field and register to attend (if possible)
  • Contact key suppliers and clients and arrange meetings at the exhibition to make the most of everyone’s time - if we’re all there anyway why not get together there instead of another day that week?
  • Contact clients that may not be aware of the exhibition and invite them to attend/meet at the show if it is of relevance to them/their future events
  • Are any of the exhibitors potential clients?  Could we work together?  Arrange to meet with them at a convenient time - over lunch or coffee, away from the stand
  • Plan the follow-up, set aside time the following day/week to follow-up with everyone I meet with at the exhibition.
The key point here really is that planning is critical.  Otherwise you risk arriving at the exhibition, wandering around aimlessly and missing the most important parts to you and your role.

Any comments? Email Paul Colston
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