How not to do business at an exhibition (and how to!)

Exhibition stand


Exhibition space can be expensive in terms of planning, space, print, stand design and your own time so it is important to do all the right things to make sure you attract your target market. My Marketing Guy took space at an exhibition last year and was given a valuable lesson!


I arrived early, set up my very simple stand and made the most of my space. With half an hour to go before the doors opened I had a coffee and a chat with other exhibitors and all was well. Well almost; because the stand next to mine was empty. This isn’t a major problem because although you would prefer a neighbour who would generate visitor traffic but it sometimes happens that not all the space sells.


However, 90 minutes after the exhibition start. He arrived. The exhibitor from hell! Dressed more appropriately for a day’s gardening, he put up his stand panels up in the most unappealing manner he could muster (not straight, no symmetry, messy table). Even when I felt that this could get no worse he proved me wrong by pulling a book out from his rucksack, put the rucksack on the table, and slouched into his chair to begin reading!


Exhibition visitors did pause to look at his stand but was there a flicker of interest from my neighbour? None! Not even a glance up from his book. No attempt to engage. Nothing! One visitor even had to say, in true British fashion, ‘excuse me, are you busy? Do you have a leaflet I could take away?’


To cap it all, he packed up his stand and left three quarters of an hour before the close!


He gave me a classic lesson in how not to approach exhibiting at an event. Here are some pieces of advice:

  • Arrive early and prepare your stand to be ready for the first visitor to come through the door.
  • Be prepared with promotional material for visitors to take away.
  • Consider an ‘exhibition special offer’ on your goods or services.
  • A prize draw is popular but a bottle of champagne as the prize is overdone. Come up with something more original that might relate more to your business.
  • Consider a novelty give away; most people do branded pens, bags or post-it pads but consider being a bit different. How different will depend on what your business offers.
  • Smile at visitors and talk to anyone who pauses at your stand. Exhibitions stands always look better with people engaging with one another so don’t waste any opportunity to generate interest.
  • Be interested in your visitors, understand their questions, take full details and try to arrange a follow up.
  • Remember your brand and make sure that everything to do with your stand shows consistency with the brand.
  • Make sure that your stand is always attended and that when it is attended, you are not standing in front of it obscuring the panels that you have carefully put together! – No sitting!
  • Don’t dismantle the stand until the exhibition is over because you will miss the late arrivals.


This list is by no means comprehensive but these are simple guidelines that have worked for me. If you would like to add to the list, please respond below. Alternatively, if you would like more detailed advice on events, or marketing in general, please email me direct here: and we’ll arrange a chat over a coffee.



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