NotLost explore the top 10 things we learned from attending our very first trade show
Last week, NotLost took a huge step as a company as we attended our first trade show. Those who are trade show veterans will know just how influential and game-changing these exhibitions, conventions, conferences (whatever you want to call them) can be for showcasing new products and networking with other industry professionals.
As newbies to the exhibiting practice, we’re here to reflect on some of the most important aspects of preparing and executing a successful exhibit at our first trade show, from our experience.
This year’s Coach and Bus UK was held on the 2-3rd October at the NEC Birmingham. With approximately 6000 visitors and 200 exhibitors attending, it was a big one to tackle for our first trade show. However, the entire two days served as a great learning curve for all members of our team that attended. We were able to study how other exhibitors gathered interest, what attendees wanted to see and what they didn’t care about. Through exploring other innovative technology companies, we think we’ve learned more about how to fit our transformational lost property solution into the mix.
1. Stand out
Your stand is your zone, where your business can tell its story. As we were first-timers, our 3x2m box was easily overshadowed by huge industry pros with flashing lights, interactive games, designated sofa zones and cheese and wine selections. These were great ideas for those looking to entice buyers to purchase their stock (be it signage, seats, seatbelts, alarm and security systems), however, our business concept doesn’t really fit this vibe.
We realised that for us, less was more. We designed and produced roller banners that caught the attention of passers-by and clearly portrayed the concept of our lost and found software, at eye-level, whilst keeping on brand. Merchandise was also key on the stand. Branded NotLost pens and re-usable coffee cups went down a storm with attendees. It was great to see the sustainable sway towards paper bags, instead of plastic bags that cannot be recycled.
- Food is important – provide snacks to re-fuel attendees who are on their feet for anywhere up to 9 hours at the show
- Environmental awareness – our business continuously aims to keep sustainability at the forefront of our planning. This in mind, we’d love to promote the use of recyclable materials in our flyers in future.
2. Have a game plan
Before the trade show begins, have a discussion with your team regarding exactly how you’re going to carry yourselves on the day. Figure out your go-to phrases to get attendees and other exhibitors chatting. What topics do you want to focus on and what could you avoid? Who will be doing what on the stand and even what will you be wearing?
- Take at least 3 people – always ensure there are 2 people on the stand at any time and allow yourselves breaks
- Practice makes perfect – if you are going to be demonstrating a product, ensure you have whizzed through a practice. We utilised iPads to show attendees how the lost and found software worked in real time using the image recognition software and cloud-technology. This was dynamic and allowed our abstract concept to come to life to the lay person.
Members of your team who are prepared for the trade show will allow your company to take more from the experience. Research suggests that following exhibiting at a trade show, staff think their sale skills improve (on average) by 57%, their product knowledge by 46% and that staff bonding improves by 38%.
3. Networking is a necessity
Do not be afraid to leave your stand. It’s important to get out there and explore the space; find out who else is exhibiting as you never know who you might end up speaking to. You are likely to gain insight into different parts of the industry to your own and come across brand new ideas and concepts. This could help your own brand in the future.
Ticketer’s stand at Coach & Bus UK
Our marketing graduate spent several hours exploring the exhibition hall and came across some brilliant business ideas. It doubled up as great research about how to design our stand at our next trade show! Exhibitors were professionals in security, CRM systems, electronic ticketing and even smart fleet management systems.
Connexas, a provider of technology to manage fleets, stood out with a high tech camera system and new breathalyser immobilisation on vehicles. It was eye opening to see how many technological advances make the transport industry work.
- Take collateral – swap business cards or flyers with people you meet! Even if you don’t have a conversation that could lead to a sale, the memory of your chat with an eye-catching flyer you left will leave more of a mark than you may think
- Save money – a face to face conversation with a prospective lead costs only £142, whereas a meeting at an office can amount to over £250 (approximately). Data also suggests that 71% of small to medium sized enterprises win business from face-to-face networking, so there’s no need for a massive advertising budget.
4. Attend the talks
Make the effort to attend the talks or seminars at the trade show. Coach & Bus UK enabled speakers from a variety of sectors to discuss a range of topics. We particularly enjoyed Sonya Veerasamy’s ‘Women in Transport’ and Gareth Powell’s ‘ULEZ and clean air zones’ talks. This allowed attendees and other trade show exhibitors to broaden their thinking and learning whilst at the show.
5. Get involved in everything you can
Remember the famous saying – “Don’t say no at your first trade show!”
Take media packs or press releases to the media lounge so press and magazines can take a look. If there’s the opportunity to enter into competitions or challenges, do it! Coach & Bus UK launched a hotly anticipated Innovation Challenge whereby technology suppliers presented their new efforts to drive the industry forward with innovative concepts and new products.
The winners this year were Freeway Fleet Systems with their ‘fleet-in-your-pocket’ management app. Other finalists included a school bus tracker, a fire suppression system, specialised seat belts and ticketless technology for public transport (by UrbanThings). Next year, we’re aiming to enter our transformational lost property software into the mix. As a result, NotLost got involved in a Solution Showdown at E3S the following week, which also displayed different innovative ideas in a quick-fire format, which we found super effective for gaining traction at the stand.
6. Be social
Before, during and after your first trade show, take full advantage of your social media! From our experience, building hype before the trade show was well received on Twitter and Facebook. Regular updates on the day can be featured on twitter and on Instagram story, with an Instagram post towards the end of the day summing up the occasion nicely.
View this post on Instagram
Today we’re at E3S - the 3rd annual Event Safety and Security Summit at the @congresscentre! #E3S ⚔️⚔️⚔️ Say hello to Rory and Alex at the stall and make sure to catch Rory presenting how NotLost is transforming the world of #lostproperty with game-changing image recognition #software and #technology. ✅✅✅
Of course, when the trade show is B2B focused and you could be potentially chasing leads, LinkedIn is an invaluable channel. We found that after our first trade show that our following and interaction grew. Make sure to hashtag where necessary (#CoachandBusUK was everywhere!) and ensure to tag other companies and people in your posts to increase their exposure.
Make sure you’re following us on LinkedIn!
7. Technology goes wrong
Pre-empt disaster and be well aware of what facilities you’re provided with and what you’re not. Does the trade show have sufficient wifi? Does the trade show have enough plug sockets? The short answer was no.
As it was such a large-scale event in huge exhibition hall, the wifi was shared by a lot of people. So, we took plug adapters and ensured a device could be used as a hotspot for during our demonstrations. We also took plenty of chargers, a back-up laptop and a back-up iPad. You can never be too prepared!
8. Pre-show preparation
- Use website information and the designation app (if there is one) to gauge who you would like to speak to. Know who’s going to be there that you’ve spoken to previously and who could be a potential new customer/client.
- Be on a first name basis with the organisers. They’ll ensure to share your updates on the social channels and are likely to pop by during the show to see how it’s going.
9. Post-show plan
Think about how you are going to contact the individuals you spoke to at the show. Reap the benefits of having attended and make some connections to new leads or industry professionals.
We noticed that lots of the larger companies ran a competition with a giveaway, such as an iPad or Amazon voucher, which was the ideal opportunity to get in contact with attendees that interacted with them. Even if your budget won’t stretch to an iPad, figure out a unique way to captivate your audience post-trade show.
10. Finally, jump right in
Say yes to the trade show and make the most of it! As approximately 64% of attendees there are not current customers of any of the exhibitors, you have a decent chance of making some new connections and encourage business development. We’re proud to have attended our first trade show as it was an eye-opener for the whole team and gave us invaluable insight into how we can grow our business.
Missed our last blog post? Find it here – What To Do With An Old, Lost Passport In Your Lost Property for guidance on how you can dispose of passports that are not yours safely, securely and sustainably.