Participating in trade fairs and expos takes investment – a structured approach is the best way to maximise your return.

If you’re looking to make a big impression in the market quickly, a trade fair or expo is an attractive idea – rather than setting up many disparate meetings, these events offer you the chance to meet many potential customers. However, participating as an exhibitor takes quite a bit of investment, and even attending uses up valuable resources if the event is overseas. So how do you make the most of participation?


The Right Event

It might seem obvious, but picking the right event is half the battle. Event organisers can dazzle you with statistics about the number of companies attending or showcasing their products, but remember the maxim of quality over quantity. You’re far better off meeting a few strong potential customers then twenty random firms with no interest in your product or service. Before committing, seek a detailed breakdown of the companies that either attended past events, or are expected. Failing that, tap your contacts for information on how the event is perceived in the industry – particularly if it’s an overseas event that you’re not familiar with.


Plan Your Presence

The event hall will be a competitive space with many companies vying for attention – whether you’re an exhibitor or visitor, you need to communicate your unique selling points in a direct, impactful way. If you’re exhibiting, your unique selling points in a market should inform everything from stand design to the products that you showcase. As a visitor, you need to prepare your 30-second pitch, and also think up responses to the questions that you’re most likely to face.


Come Armed

Don’t arrive at an event with nothing to show people. Even attendees travelling internationally should bring a good supply of marketing materials, and business cards are still essential. Exhibitors, meanwhile, should have plenty to show. If you have a small budget and a small space at the event, just make sure that you fill it with things that communicate your company’s values – and value.



When you’re in a sales mindset, it’s easy to just talk about what you can offer. However listening carefully and showing interest is often the most positive message you can send about your company. It shows that you’re interested in the issues faced by potential clients or partners, while you’ll glean a lot of information that could prove useful in time. Also, remember that the people you speak with are also here to sell and make contacts beside yourself: it’s inconsiderate to monopolise them. If a conversation throws up a potential opportunity or longer sales pitch, agree to discuss it in detail at a less pressurised time, either at meal times around the event, or at a meeting later on.


Follow Up

When you get back, you’ll be tired and you’ll find a full workload on your desk. But don’t put off the essential follow-ups. Even if you see no basis for a sale or collaboration with people, a LinkedIn message or email thanking them for their time, wishing them well and showing that you remember them will create a positive impression. If, like many people, you struggle to recall faces and names after an event, you can take notes on the back of business cards that you collect – which will let you follow-up in a relevant way.


Eamonn Garvey


DCA Accountants and Business Advisors


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