How to Get Started at Events and Exhibitions

Starting a business can be an extremely scary task and a very steep learning curve from managing your income, paying taxes, keeping your new business afloat and being self-employed to mention a few.

When Mark Davis started his own antiques business Ab Antiquo he had no idea where to begin and took lots of advice from friends, family and local business groups. Here Mark Davis interviews Andrew Pocock from the company Marler Haley on what it’s like to attend an exhibition, what to expect and how to prepare.

Business expo
photo credit: New Media Expo

Mark Davis – I am preparing for my first exhibition at an antiques fair, my focus will be how can I best promote my products and stand out from all the other traders at the event? My products speak for themselves and are very unique and as such I would like to show them in the best possible light, how would you recommend I go round this? Taking into consideration that my budgets are limited and I am not sure if exhibitions are the right thing for me at this stage.

Andrew Pocock – You have mentioned that displaying a selection of products in the best possible way is your requirement. You mainly feature ancient art and antiques and in particular Chinese antiques. There are a range of display options that you could consider, I would recommend a set of display plinths they will enable you to show off your key products however if you are worried about sticky fingers on your prized goods or worried about an accident happening to your ancient antiques then perhaps displaying your goods within a glass display cabinet will be best. Then there is branding your stall, make people remember who you are, what company you work for and where to find you, if your potential customer decides once they are at home that they really do want that ancient art work and must get in contact with you to see if you left the show with it unsold. Adding a roller banner to your display could allow you to reinforce your brand by displaying key pieces, your logo and contact details.

Event organisers often provide you with a range of equipment that can be hired for the event but this is often on a first come first served basis and can on occasions be a bit tatty if used by many people before you. It’s a great idea for the first few shows until you know that exhibitions are definitely something that you want to continue with. Once you have ascertained that attending fairs and events is good for business then think about buying your own display pieces.

Mark Davis – This will be my first big exhibition and I don’t want to stick out like a newbie, want to appear professional at all times and would love to buy branded banner stands or a branded table cloth but it’s a large outlay, if it is a success I plan to do a number more, if I do splash out on advertising my stall using these products how do I ensure that the display products that I buy looks fresh and doesn’t date between events.

Andrew Pocock – Keeping your messaging simple, don’t mention specific events or dates, this will help to ensure that your display does not date. Even if you are attending the biggest Christmas antiques fair and you think that a seasonal themed banner will help then think again as by the summer you’ll be spending more on a suitable summer banner and having to look after the Christmas one until the following year. If storage and money isn’t an issue then I can’t recommend highly enough about purchasing lots of different advertising banners for different types of events and shows. But for yourself I would recommend you go for a branded banner stand to pop behind your products at an event keep it simple. Use your brand name, a few images of the types of products you acquire and contact details. Use timeless colours, using red and green together unintentionally will always feel like homage to Santa so make sure that your stand is versatile for multiple events to get the most from your new purchase.

Look after your equipment, I previously recommended using the display plinths, the fabrics can be brushed to help keep them looking fresh alternatively the fabric can be replaced totally. We have had customers that have had the same equipment for over 20 years. Even though you are selling antiques your stall doesn’t need to look old and with the right handling and storage there is no reason why this outlay can benefit your small business for years to come.

Salon Swiss Mobile Expo
photo credit: Alp ICT (Switzerland)

Mark Davis – What would be your one main tip or piece of advice for a first time business attending a trade show and promoting their business?

Andrew Pocock – Keep in contact with potential customers, it doesn’t take a minute to grab someone’s contact details make a note of what they are interested in and then keep in contact with them. Keep a pen and notepad handy with you to jot down any notes or equally a tablet computer can be used for any key bits of information. I would also advise you to keep a plentiful supply of business cards to hand, talk to your customers when you give them a card and make sure they remember you. After an event it is important that any contacts you have made are followed up, depending on the business will depend on the type of contact but a courtesy call or e-mail could jog someone’s memory from a busy event, seeing lots of products, win you that all important sale.

Mark Davis – What’s the worst thing that you’ve witness at a trade show? Are there any things that you suggest that I don’t do?

Andrew Pocock – This is one of my favourite subject areas. There are lots but I think the fact that 44% of exhibitors use their mobile phones whilst on an exhibition stand is a good one. Remember people might be as nervous to come and talk to you as you are of exhibiting your goods. Always be open and welcoming to potential visitors to your stand. They might be time wasters, they might be trying to poach ideas, or they might just be about to buy your most expensive piece. Never judge anybody on appearance and keep a warm, welcoming open mind to all. Don’t be too friendly and scare people away by trying to be their best friend immediately and always stay professional. Playing candy crush on your iPhone ignoring passing trade will not help people remember your brand or your products. If you would like more tips for great exhibition performance we have a Naughty Exhibitors infographic highlighting what to do and what not to do whilst on stand.

Mark took Andrews advice and purchased two sets of plinths to display his antiques and is now ready for a summer full of antiques exhibitions and fairs full of confidence and inspiration from his interview with Andrew Pocock from Marler Haley.

About the Author: Andrew Pocock is the Sales and Marketing Director of Marler Haley Limited