Lessons From A Trade Expo Stand: #3 of 3

March 19, 2023

Following on from our previous two blog posts about planning and organising a trade expo stand at the Melbourne Gift & Lifestyle show, we've made notes on what we learned.

Hopefully some of these tips will help you, too.

Be on your feet and you'll be on your toes
Our stand was too small to fit chairs, however this had the unexpected bonus of forcing us to be not just on our feet, but on our toes. It is much easier to engage with passersby if you're standing, instead of sitting.

Unless you've got Superman vision, from a sitting position it's almost impossible to clearly read the visitors' expo lanyards.

By standing and able to walk up to them, we were closer to them physically so we could just about read their company name and guess if they were likely to be a match for our products. However, you can never assume anything. A company called, for example, JW & Sons or something similar could be any type of retailer.

While the expo organisers intended that we "snap" the attendees' QR codes on their lanyards to gather their details on our mobile phones, occasionally there wasn't time to do so.

Old-fashioned paper notes can beat modern technology
Keeping a stack of customer enquiry sheets where you can quickly jot down notes about the attendees that couldn't be covered in your pre-programmed QR code lead questions is a wise move.  Sometimes it's hard to remember what they (or you) specifically needed to know when looking later on at the spreadsheet of attendees.

It also pays to have a set of order sheets designed for sales on your stand. We took six orders at the stand on our Square reader and were able to make notes about the customer, where to send it and delivery timings.

When walking very quickly around the expo, we noticed way too many exhibitors sitting on their chairs looking bored and/or swiping through their mobile phones. They were among the first to complain the show was poorly attended. It wasn't heaving, to be sure, but there were enough qualified attendees you could do business.

It pays to design an expo stand that's attractive. There were too many stands which had exposed walls with some posters placed on them, if even that. One had a cheap portable table covered in boxed-up toys.

Cost learnings
We ordered 1,500 business cards and 1,500 special expo offer postcards to get a better deal from our printer at $562.95. However, while we can continue use the business cards, we completely over-ordered on the postcards as the special offer had an expiry date. If I want to use these at my next expo in August 2023, I have to weigh up the cost-savings and time used in getting a sticker printed and placed over the date versus getting postcards printed again with new information.

Prior to Covid-19, we had received an enquiry to hire our antler chandelier for an accountancy firm's study-themed expo stand at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre. So we decided to include our antler chandelier in our stand design to evoke the wine cellar theme and take the opportunity to take photos of it to list the antler chandelier for hire.

As eye-catching as it was, had our stand been directly underneath one of the roof "blades" which support and bisect the ceiling of the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre, apparently we wouldn't have needed to spend over $1,500 on rigging to support the faux antler chandelier lighting above my stand. We are unlikely to include it at the next stand however.

Followup learnings
I gathered business cards from at least 10 other companies at my expo. Two weeks later I attended the Sydney Gift Show and requested business cards from at least 35 expo stands there.

Of these Sydney Gift Show companies, only three have contacted me to date, with one addressing me by name in an email, one sending a generic email to everyone (minus my name) and the third emailing and texting me three times in six weeks with the same information, but without using my name. 

If you invest the money in an expo stand, you definitely need to invest time and money in followup.

Time moves on, people get busy, they forget about you. They spend their allocated new product budget. It seems like an afterthought to be contacted by them so many weeks later. As the attendee, you wonder how serious and/or organised they are.