It’s show time!

A guest blog from Deirdre Thackray, a friend and colleague, who describes herself as a communications adviser because she feels that’s a catchy umbrella title for most of what she does, paid and unpaid: writing in all its forms (including a bit of published poetry!), coaching and mentoring, blogging when she’s feeling cheery. As a frequenter of exhibitions, home and abroad, ftrade and consumer and for everything from baby and nursery products, travel, cleaning and FM, photography, plumbing, weddings, and all points inbetween, she’s got some interesting tips to share …



It’s May so it’s show time!

ISSA/INTERCLEAN in Amsterdam and The Facilities Show at the NEC in Birmingham are the two major exhibitions that will be consuming a great deal of the industries’ planning and actual time over the coming weeks, and it seemed the perfect time to blog about the concentrated reality world of exhibitions.

Months of planning are about to be bear fruit, with exhibitors making sure new product, new service, new relationship news is placed in all the correct publications and is to the fore on their own websites. Boxes are packed, re-packed, suits are collected from the cleaners, cushioned insoles and hangover remedies have been purchased. The printing is done, the chat is polished: all systems are go!

Three or four specific days are the culmination of considerable effort and expense, offering the opportunity for showcasing and promoting all that the industry offers. Exhibitions are always exhausting for organisers, exhibitors and visitors alike; which is exactly as it should be. If you don’t leave a show feeling like a well wrung out dishcloth then you’re doing it wrong! Netherlands or Midlands the steps are the same, and your key visitor objective should be: to leave the exhibition having made several new contacts, handled several new products, and considered several new services – and of course, feeling like a well wrong out dishcloth. (Lynn Webster adds: colour coded, microfibre or disposable – the choice is yours!)

Your travel arrangements are made, your accommodation is arranged, you’ve booked your entry ticket, the cushioned insoles and hangover remedies can be easily located. So what’s the plan? Get there, get in, get around (there’s a Beach Boys song in there somewhere)? Try and catch up with Mike/Bob/Sarah/Katie who you’ve been dealing with for years? It’s a plan of sorts, but we all know that bunny in the headlights feeling that hits when confronted with aisles and aisles of shiny things and smiling people.

So here are my top tips for achieving that essential dishcloth (quite partial to bit of microfibre myself) feeling:

Tip 1: Have a MUST and SHOULD list: what MUST I see and do (products/seminars)? Who MUST I talk to (potential suppliers/clients)? What MUST I know by the end of my visit that I didn’t know when I arrived at the entrance (seminars/products/services/real potential suppliers/clients)? Your SHOULD list will comprise all those things and people that might be nice to see and meet should time allow, but that if you’re honest can be dealt with on another day.

Tip 2: Check out the floorplan pre-visit: how is the show laid out? Where are my MUST see products, MUST talk to people? Where are the toilets, the cafes, the seminars, the bar? Work out a walking tour of the floor based on your MUST list, particularly in relation to any seminars that you want to attend – you don’t want to be 10 aisles away from the most popular seminar of the day when queuing is a possibility in the run up to start time. Serious show goers can be found poring over their guide and floor plan in a corner or at a café for at least fifteen minutes before embarking upon their journey – watch and learn!

Tip 3: Only collect printed matter that refers in any way to items on your MUST list: of course you will have picked up the essential show recyclable carrier bags (which will already contain a fair amount of printed matter that won’t be relevant to your visit strategy) but avoid filling it with any more paper than you MUST. A nice smile and a headshake will serve you well as you dodge the leaflet filled exhibitor hand.

Tip 4: Move on and return or simply move on: Much time can be wasted hanging about aimlessly! Chances are other visitors want to speak to the same exhibitors that you do, so if you can’t get to speak to the right person, try out that new item of equipment, then leave and move on, but you need to schedule a return if that exhibitor is on your MUST list. However if you arrive at a stand and you are greeted by indifference, or not acknowledged at all, move on and don’t return! I firmly believe that exhibitor performance during a show is an indicator of business performance outside the show – I’m yet to be proven wrong. Cave cowerers, i.e. exhibitor staff lurking in a distant corner of their stand, avoiding eye contact with the world, don’t want to talk, in fact they don’t want to be there are at all, so walk away. Now!

Tip 5: Have regular sit and sort sessions: Remember I suggested finding the cafes and bars on your floor plan? Well now is the time to use them. Instead of carting home bags of leaflets, pens, mouse mats, bouncy balls and other exhibition flotsam and jetsam schedule ten minutes every couple of hours to sift through what you have collected. The only rule is MUST – if it relates to the MUST list keep it, if it doesn’t then gift it to the recycling. But remember one can never have too many pens, mouse mats or bouncy balls!

Tip 6: Enjoy the alternative exhibition universe: Really, I’m serious – enjoy! They are all-consuming, exhausting but most of all, enjoyable. A universe dedicated to a single subject where the population of that universe is only concerned with showing itself in all its glory! You are visiting royalty, bombarded with gifts and showered with information and attention – what’s not to like? … other than the sore feet, bad head (caused by the dastardly lighting rather than the copious quantities of alcohol consumed at the end of the day, of course!) and paper cuts resulting from all that shiny literature, that is.

Enjoy your moment in the exhibition sunlight, and remember: that alternative exhibition universe holds all manner of solutions for you and your business, and my six tips could be just what you need to find them.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 1st, 2012 at 9:37 am and is filed under Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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