Useful tips and advice for exhibitors on how to get the best results out of staff and visitors at an exhibition.

Quiz your clients - Questions are great to get your potential clients talking. Try not to ask questions that will have a yes or no answer. Ask open ended introductory questions like; "what are your reasons in attending this show?" or "tell me about a particular project you are working on". These questions will help you determine if your company can help them. If you are demonstrating equipment and products, keep your client interested by asking, "what do you think of this product and how does it differ to what you're already using?" When you feel the discussion is drawing to an end, you need to investigate how to obtain invitations to quote and to keep in contact. Find out what criteria they look for when choosing a new supplier, (i.e. customer service, quality etc). Don't forget to ask if you can send them some information and then give them a quick call in a few days time!

Follow your floor plans - When you receive the floor plan of your proposed venue, the first thing you may look at is where your main competitors are positioned. Other elements you may want to consider are: traffic flow; if attendees see a dead end they may not want to proceed further. Pillar locations; will this cause restricted views to your stand? If the pillar is in your stand area, utilise this by creating a graphics column to promote your services. Lighting; will you need extra lighting if situated in a dark area?

Practise makes perfect - It is always a good idea when purchasing or hiring exhibition equipment to have them delivered a couple of days in advance. You can then practice assembling the displays and if anything has been forgotten, you have time to organise additional materials. Make a note of all your suppliers' contact details and take them with you on the day. If you've not had time to practise and you have difficulty putting the equipment together, you can always give your supplier a call for help and advice. All good suppliers should offer free advice ad after sales assistance as part of their customer service policy.

Make an impact - To get peoples' attention you must stand out from the crowd, therefore using conventional box shape of you stand area maybe the reason that a potential customer walked past your stand and straight into your competitor's! With the hundreds of different exhibition displays and graphic solutions on the market today, it has never been easier to make a conventional stand look professional and stunning. The use of display units with eye catching imagery, together with effects such as backlit photographs and light boxes would detract from the usual cube shape of a stand and create a more 3D look.

Memorable mailers - Many people make the mistake of not making it completely clear what their company does. People visiting your stand or receiving mailers after the show, need to know who, what, where, when and how - immediately! Your customers are more likely to want to know this information in the first few lines of text on a mailer or made clearly visible on a stand, so keep it simple, short and let the images do all the talking.

Less is more with literature - Don't go overboard with the amount of literature you take with you to a show. Only take what you consider to be a sufficient amount and only hand out your information packs to the best leads. There is no advantage in giving literature to everyone and receiving no contact details or enquiry from them in return. Why not ask for their name and address and suggest that you'll send them the information in the post instead? Aim to send out packs before the end of the event or just after the show has finished. Make sure you mention something in your correspondence that will remind them of your meeting. When they are back in the office sorting out what company's leaflets and brochures to keep, they are then less likely to throw away your literature, and you then save on wastage.

Transportation tips - You've bought the stand, designed the artwork and have had the graphics produced, but how are you going to get your newly purchased equipment to the venue in one piece? Before you even decide what stand is best to promote your company, investigate the weight and overall storage size of the system and its' accessories. If your exhibition is in this country, will it fit in your car or easily carried on public transport? If the event is overseas, what carrier will you use? You can save money if you plan which courier to use a few weeks ahead of the event. Investigate into companies that frequently handles trade show equipment and can advise on the best service, especially if you attend shows regularly. Once you're happy with your choice in courier, make sure they have all the correct details in writing and call them before they are due to collect to ensure they haven't forgotten about your order. If possible, choose a system which is lightweight and compact so you don't end up with lots of heavy carry cases that will take a big chuck out of your budget and are difficult to physically handle. At the same time, don't choose the cheapest containers, especially for the graphic panels. Re-printing damaged graphics and repairing broken stands can be an avoidable expense.

Have you got the power? - Many exhibitors assume that because they've paid for space at an exhibition, everyday utilities such as plug sockets will automatically be included. Think again! If it is possible, at least 2 weeks before your show, pre-order accessories and equipment like telephones and power points. If you are ordering power points, organise for more wattage to be allocated to your stand than you need to avoid electrical failures. This would also avoid potential embarrassments if you plan to use computers for presentations. Also before the show, have a brainstorm session with all members of staff who will be attending your stand to list everything your company may possibly need during the exhibition. Think of every eventuality. To help you, here are just a few things that we thought of: pens, paper, staplers with spare staples, tape, Velcro, scissors, extension leads and extra light bulbs.

Choose your staff carefully - Your staff must be professional at all times when representing your company. They should remain alert and responsive to any opportunity of speaking to someone who looks the slightest bit interested in your products or services. There's nothing worse than seeing someone playing with a mobile phone and looking bored. It may put potential customers off from visiting the stand and will certainly give the wrong impression about your company. A way of inspiring your staff is to implement a reward scheme for the duration of the show. A bonus or incentive could be given, based on the number of leads and contacts they obtain. Alternatively you could set them tasks to achieve such as finding out if you have existing or new competitors attending the same show and what they are doing to promote new business.

The camera never lies - A good way to ensure your customers will believe the content of your stand, is to use photography. Illustrations and other means of artwork can be portrayed as having a bias view whereas photographs of for instance, people working with your products, will make your graphics easier to understand and more likely to be remembered. Only use illustrations and computer based graphics as an accompaniment. If you are struggling to source images, you could use internet-based photo libraries or photography catalogues, which are great for specific categories and look very professional. However, be prepared to pay for the amount of exposure the photograph may have.

Successful evaluation - Before even setting off to your show, work out how you and your staff will evaluate the success of your exhibit. Will it be based on how many people attended your stand? How many new contacts you obtained? Or Both? Obviously in the long term you will be able to see if any of these contacts actually gave you business, but for the short term, it is always beneficial to know how worthwhile it really was.

Create the right impression - Whether you're exhibiting at a show to be informative, to sell products or to have presence to your competitors, you only have a matter of seconds to gain attention from visitors. The best way do this would be to use the power of graphics. Some exhibitors attach graphic panels straight onto the shell scheme or use a separate display system with specially produced panels. Either way, your artwork needs to clearly present who you are, what you are and also what benefits the customer will have for buying from you. So next time you're producing artwork, think about what impression you want to give to your customers.

Friendly follow ups - So you've battled through days' worth of exhibiting and collected a number of contacts. You've finally got back to the office - what now? In order to remain fresh in a person's mind make sure you contact all your potential customers within three to five days of the exhibition. If you don't - your competitors will! Once you've made that initial call, find out their exact requirements and what time scale they are working to. Be prepared for common questions (i.e prices, lead times) - being able to answer all their questions on the spot gives the customer confidence that you know what you are talking about. You can then prioritise as to which enquiry requires your fullest and immediate attention. Is it worth putting 101% effort into an enquiry, if the client doesn't require your products for another 6 months? There are a lot of time and data management systems on the market to date and investing in this sort of technology may be the answer to help organise your workload.

Training your staff - The staff you choose to represent your company at an exhibition should be experts in communication and the services the company offers. Take the time to make sure these individuals are fully trained and confident, as they may be the winners of successful business partnerships for the future.

Getting visitor info - The reason for exhibiting is to gain possible business leads and visitor details. At most of the major shows in the Europe, staff who look after the display can hire scanners which will take info from visitor badges - this makes the whole process of getting information very easy. If this facility is not available, produce a short form which either your staff, or the visitor, can complete when at your stand.

What to promote at your stand? - When designing your stand and the literature to back it up, choose to promote a product or service which will attract interest and draw visitors to your stand. Make it obvious what your stand is advertising. Be clear, precise and simple.

Business cards - The Japanese consider exchanging business cards a ritual. It is good practice to treat prospective customers with similar respect. Look closely at the information on any business cards given to you. Store cards in a safe place. If you are exhibiting in a foreign country - why not get the back printed in that language?