Preparing for a Trade Show

At the World Travel Market / November 2011

I have to admit its 20 years since I was on a stand at the World Travel Market – but apart from the knees and the back killing me after 4 days, 8 hrs a day, standing up – its not that different. This is the largest travel trade show in the world, I’m told. It covers 43,000 sq m and our stand was 4m.

A week on I thought I’d reflect on some of the do’s and don’ts of doing an exhibition where you don’t have much money and want to make the maximum impact. Just in case its useful to someone doing any scale of trade fair from fresher’s week to an EU summit.

Do – keep it simple – the real buyers don’t need glitz and glamour

Do – shout the name of the stand – so people know who you are and why you’re there

Do – have people who know about the product you are selling

Do – come out from behind the stand and talk to people

Do – have a very simple leaflet, with contacts and basic facts – don’t weigh people down

Do – have enough people on stand to have 2-3 representatives and one resting

Do – collect contact details quickly (business cards or barcode scanner)

Do – get back to everyone you meet within a couple of weeks (quicker if possible)

Don’t – presume anyone will search you out – they will pass you by unless you engage them

Don’t  – presume free gifts will increase sales…they may increase traffic and block the stand

Don’t – hand your stand design, management etc to an agent – you know your business best

Don’t – presume glamour sells.  Knowledge and engagement sells

Don’t – presume the press will be interested – but make sure you have a good story & pics

Don’t – oversell. If someone gives you their contact details – let them move on

At the very heart of what we did at the World Travel Market this week is the phrase “open hearted engagement”.  The most successful moments were when we stood on the aisle and asked passer’s by “Are you having a Good Day ?, Are you getting all the contacts you need ?”. 90% were engaged by our question. 90% were polite. And 80% stopped, looked at our stand for a moment, and were hooked loosly enough for us to ask the follow-on question. “Have you ever thought of Suffolk as a destination” or “What are you looking for at the WTM” – Open questions designed to engender conversation.

In four days we had 200+ meaningful conversations with trade delagates – national press, travel agents, tour operators, massive group buyers, coach companies, and just those who knew Suffolk but hadn’t expected to be thinking about it in their life today.

Whether this will generate mass business for Suffolk arts, heritage, culture and beer providers – not sure yet. But we will be back for the 2012 World Travel Market and we will be re-engaging with new found contacts, and new people passing our stand unaware that Suffolk exists.  We’ll make new friends and have a great time.

Just thought I’d share a few do’s and don’ts in case its useful

Maybe see you at World Travel Market, ExCel Centre Nov 2012

Chris Grady Nov 11