Guide to exhibition success: 20 top tips for manning your exhibition stand

The day has arrived; the stand is in place and looking great. Now the success of your exhibition is down to how you and your team man the exhibition stand.

Remember the important thing is to:

  • Engage exhibition visitors – Talk to as many people face-to-face as possible
  • Identify which are leads – Qualify which people could become customers
  • Record details – Find out their needs and note them ready for follow-up


Here are some top tips for exhibition success

  1. Arrive early and dressed appropriately for your business. Check the stand. Make sure literature is in place and technology is working. Have enough people ready to talk to visitors.
  2. Before the exhibition opens, find your way around so you can field visitors’ questions and make connections later. Check out whether any competitors, customers or potential partners have stands there for you to follow up in a quiet moment.
  3. Make yourself known at the press office and say that you are available for interview. Often the event organiser will create a video to use when promoting future exhibitions. This is an opportunity to get your brand in front of thousands more people.
  4. Make sure that all your team are briefed about what you expect before the doors open. They should already be trained and know key facts about what you have to offer and how to deal with leads. Decide on roles within the team. Identify the experts for specialist topics so that you can hand a visitor over to the most appropriate person for specialist queries.
  5. Don’t pounce on exhibition visitors as they walk near your stand. It isn’t natural and will put people off. Instead show that your stand is welcoming and open for business.
  6. Be mindful of your body language. Make sure you smile and look out from the exhibition stand to make eye contact with individual visitors. Always walk up to a visitor from the front, never behind.
  7. Avoid huddles and conversations between staff on the stand, visitors won’t want to break up the party.
  8. Provide reasons for people to talk to you beyond having an appealing looking stand. For example:
    – Encourage trial of your apps or software
    – Allow visitors to handle products
    – Demonstrate equipment and discuss its capabilities and benefits
    – Provide a fun element with games and prize draws
    The golden rule is to make sure that any ‘participation props’ support your message about how your company helps and why you are best.
  9. Don’t ask closed questions like “Can I help you?” because visitors can respond with a simple “No“, and then walk away. Instead try to develop a more conversational approach with open questions:
    – “Hello, what brings you here today?”
    – “Hi, can I ask what you’ve seen today that’s got your interest?”
    – “Hello, how familiar are you with our organisation?”
    – “Hi, what are you looking for today”
    Even the British favourite topic of the weather can be a great gentle way to strike up a conversation.
    – “Hi, what’s the weather doing outside now?” swiftly followed by a question about their reasons for coming to the exhibition
  10. Don’t make assumptions about the people you meet. The young man that looks like a scruffy student may be a manager with a lot of buying power. The smart suited woman who looks so knowledgeable may in fact be an expert in something else and want to know the basics about what you offer. Ask questions to get people talking about their company, issues and needs. Listen very carefully to get the real picture.
  11. Qualify the people you meet by asking questions to see whether they are likely to become customers.
    – “So tell me, do you currently use outside suppliers for (this thing that we do).”
    – Hi, I see you’re looking at our stand, shall I give you an overview of how we help or is there something specific you’d like to know about what we do?
    – “Are you thinking about improving the service you receive?”
    – “Would your own customers see a benefit if you could improve the service you get as an organisation?
    – “What capability do you currently have?”
    – “Can I ask about your current set-up…and how satisfied are you with it?”
    – “Which aspects of (the type of product/service we provide) are you most keen to improve?”
    – “Are you looking to make changes? …In what kind of timeframe?”
    – “What are the main challenges your organisation has to deal with?”
  12. Talk about the benefits of what you offer, giving examples to provide ‘evidence’ rather than just stating the features. Try using the phrase “which means that” to turn features into benefits. For example: “We offer a complete service, which means that you save time because you don’t have to deal with half a dozen different companies and all the meetings and contracts which go with that. Our reports show the progress we make against the targets you set which means that you are firmly in control. We recently took on a new client and by handling all their needs we saved them 30% on their budget, improved their end customer satisfaction levels from 65% to 95% and freed up their time to focus on yet another efficiency project which will deliver further benefits.” Tailor benefits to the individual. In other words, talk about what they have said matters to them.
  13. Speak to as many people as possible. Keep conversations brief when the exhibition gets busy. Find out if there is mutual ground for the future and then move on to the next person.
  14. Timewasters waste time. They just love to talk with no intention of taking any action. If you find yourself at the receiving end of a long conversation, firmly but politely cut it short. You may need to physically move away to show the conversation has ended.
    – “It has been great to talk to you today. I hope you get what you need from the exhibition.”
    – “It’s been lovely to meet you, now I must make myself available to answer other queries.”
    – “Thanks for taking the trouble to speak to me. Enjoy the rest of the exhibition.”
    Likewise, don’t keep people talking when they clearly want to leave. Be concise. Be gracious.
  15. Once you’ve talked to people, keeping a note of leads is critical. You can do this by collecting business cards and jotting down enquiries. You can also scan badges and input queries on the spot – but don’t let the technology get in the way of face-to-face interaction. Try to categorise the warmth of the lead, make a note of any specific area of interest and next steps such as an urgent follow-up sales call.
  16. Do have enough stocks of brochures and giveaways, and keep extra stock at hand, in a cabinet or behind your stand. Make sure everyone knows where stocks are kept so they can replenish them. Be discerning about who you offer any expensive literature and giveaways to. But at the same time, make sure that anyone in a hurry can readily pick up a leaflet or brochure.
  17. As well as the promotion you carried out before the exhibition and the follow-ups you’ll do after, don’t forget to promote the event while you are there using Twitter. Mention the event or exhibition’s twitter handle in your tweets, for example @FlatLivingLive; @LondonFashionWk; @MIDOexhibition; @IntlCES.
  18. Don’t eat or drink on the stand it’s unprofessional. You aren’t selling sandwiches so don’t display them! Have a rota so you know when you can take a break. Several short breaks are better than one long one. Be prepared to be flexible depending when visitors arrive.
  19. Standing and talking to visitors all day takes a lot of stamina and mental agility, so find ways to keep motivated and keep team spirits high. Visitors will walk past if you look exhausted but will approach you if you look friendly, energised and ready to help. The last visitor of the day may be worth more than all the others put together so stay focused.
  20. Be ready to follow-up all the leads you generate. This can happen at different levels. For example:
    – Send a general courtesy email to everyone who visited your stand to remind them about your offering and suggest next steps.
    – Make a sales or technical follow up call to address specific queries raised by visitors and begin the sales process.
    – Book an appointment date for a meeting for the most promising leads.
    So if there are quieter moments during the day, briefly confer with the team to remind yourselves about the visitors you have met, their interests and follow-up required.

After the exhibition have a team debrief to identify good and bad points. Check you are happy with how leads have been prioritised. Follow-up all leads and continue the two-way post-exhibition communications to convert leads into customers and generate sales.