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Trade shows: a survival guide

Trade shows are an important part of the dental industry and can be an excellent way for laboratories to network with dentists, develop existing relationships and make new contacts. However, these events can be very expensive to attend. A stand in itself is not cheap, and once you factor in costs such as staffing, hotels and travel, this bill can often stretch into many thousands of pounds.

So, to help you get the most out of your investment, here are my top 10 tips to make a success of your trade stand:

1. Never go alone

Running a stand is a full-time job.

However, you do need to take breaks and every minute your stand is left unattended you are losing business. Even if you work on your own, there is always someone you can take along, even a family friend who can at least engage customers in conversation and keep them on the stand until you are back.

2. Dress appropriately

Exhibition halls often get very hot or very cold, so it’s important you are prepared for all eventualities. Also, you will be standing for long periods of time, so make sure you wear comfortable shoes. You might want to think about hiring or taking along a chair if you know that standing for long periods of time will be difficult for you.

3. Get there in good time

This may seem obvious, but arriving early gives you plenty of time to familiarise yourself with the show, the facilities available and where you are in relation to them. It can also be useful to look at other exhibitors’ stands before the doors open.

4. Check your checklist

If you are saying ‘what checklist?’ then you’re making your first basic error. Don’t forget essentials such as: a record book / enquiry sheet, an invoicing book, notepads and pens, sticky tape, extension cables, and a small first aid kit just in case. In general, larger shows will have a checklist you can use and will offer support such as furniture and lighting for hire.

5. Stand display

Everyone has their own ideas of what works best, but I strongly suggest you mock up your stand back at the laboratory before you go, so you discover any issues before you arrive at the show! If you intend to use a computer, make sure you have thought about your electricity supply and an internet connection. Also remember to include a ‘recess’ where you can keep coats and other clutter out of the way. Fresh flowers can always make a pleasant difference to a bare tabletop or shelf.

6. Make friends with neighbours

It is always useful to make friends with the people on neighbouring stands. Make sure you help them as much as they help you – if they are not your direct competition then they may even be able to send extra business your way or even keep an eye on your stand if you have had to attend alone!

7. Don’t pounce, but don’t sit back

Finding the right balance is difficult, but you don’t want to be too pushy or too laid back. Make sure you smile and make eye contact with passers-by. Open with a good neutral question that requires more than just a yes or no response. The worst thing you can do is say, ‘Can I help you?’ Much better to ask, ‘Are you in search of anything particular today?’

8. Qualify your visitors

Exhibitions attract a lot of auxiliary staff. Before you waste time engaging too much, qualify whether a visitor is someone who can make a decision, and a decision in your field. Don’t be shy to ask!

9. Keep notes

Most professional exhibitions are about finding well-qualified prospects. Make notes and follow your goals. Find people interested in the products you want to push at the trade show and make sure you have contact details to follow-up.

10. Prepare for the follow-up

This is the most important part of any show. Don’t just ring people up the next day – go through the notes you have made (point 9) and make sure you are well-read and ready to present a good confident pitch on the topics they are interested in.

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