Out with the old, welcome in the new

Angela de Souza believes there's a general inertia sweeping through the business world regarding the format of exhibitions and that the time has arrived to make significant changes.

Out with the old

Angela de Souza believes there’s a general inertia sweeping through the business world regarding the format of exhibitions and that the time has arrived to make significant changes.

Exhibiting has been a way to promote businesses for thousands of years. There is evidence to show that bazaars or trade shows were taking place in the Middle East as long ago as 3000 BC.  

Closer to home, and much later, the first ‘official trade show’, The Great Exhibition, took place in 1851. More than 100,000 exhibitors were hosted by Queen Victoria, and history tells us that it attracted over six million visitors to Crystal Palace. The event was sponsored by soft drinks giants Schweppes.

And very little has changed during the intervening 170 years. There are still exhibitions and trade shows taking place, with exhibitors still expecting to attract new business. However, are people becoming a little bored by this? Is there the need to shake things up?

At times, one exhibitor stand looks very much like another, with their popup banners, free coffee and cupcakes, as well as a raffle competition for those who leave their business cards. If you decide to speak to someone whose brand catches your attention, you will listen to someone carefully reeling off a well-rehearsed pitch or speech.

Exhibiting is a great way to get noticed if you are planning to launch a new product or wishing to test it out before the item is released to the general public. Yet the manner in which we exhibit our items or services has gone stale.

So here are a handful of suggestions for improving your chances of making a splash:

Be Creative

Stop doing whatever you may have been doing for decades ‘ unless it’s still producing results. Try to step into the shoes of those delegates you are wishing to impress. Hold a brainstorming session with your team or run a focus group with clients to discover what would be useful and interesting to them. Remember, it’s not about how great your business is, but more about what you can do for your clients. When a delegate approaches your stand, ask them about their concerns and then tailor your response to these issues.

Understand the audience

The biggest events are not necessarily the best for your business. Therefore spend time researching these events, and select those which are more likely to provide a high concentration of potential clients. For example, businesses which sell dog food will often attend a cat lover’s convention because a largely animal-loving audience may be big and there is also some contra-agreement in place. But, in many cases, the smaller niche events are a lot more targeted. These are also a lot more affordable, offer better value, not to mention the event’s organisers who are usually better equipped to support their exhibitors.

Set clear goals

Your goal is not to speak to as many people as possible and hope for the best. Your goals should have clear outcomes and numbers. Chat with your team frequently to ensure they are on target and, if not, discuss what can be done about it. Have a clear way to measure your desired results. 

Consider alternatives

Just because it’s been done a certain way for the past six decades, this doesn’t mean it’s the only way to exhibit. Virtual exhibiting has become very popular as a result of the pandemic. Virtual and hybrid events are here to stay because they work. 

Expert pods

This is a new innovative alternative, which I have to plug here for those exhibiting at our event coming up the Women’s Business Conference. You set up your usual banner and promotional goodies, but offer a completely different strategy when connecting with delegates. Expert Pods offer one-to-one 15-minute sessions with industry experts relevant to your business size.

Expert pods are designed to:

* Provide opportunities to connect with industry leaders and gain valuable insight;

* Ask questions and receive direct and relevant answers;

* You leave with more than just a stack of business cards and, hopefully, the beginning of new, important business relationships;

* Will support your business journey rather than being a target to be sold at.

Best of all, Pods are booked before attending an event. This allows you to know who you will be talking to, and therefore enable you to do plenty of pre-exhibition research on people and companies. And because this particular conference is hybrid, you can also engage with delegates via the Metaverse platform offered by the event’s organisers.

Angela De Souza
Angela De Souza

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