Advice for those speaking or taking a stand at events
I was recently asked to provide some advice to a friend who was considering taking a stand at an event and potentially speaking there too at a seminar.
I have been at a number of these events – large and small, heavy duty and lightweight, successful and less so! I responded with the following list of thoughts:
1. So far as I can see there it is luck of the draw in terms of the numbers of people attending your stand (relating to weather, time of week/month/year, what the draw of other stands are and where you are placed in the venue (near the loo or restaurant or seminar theatre sections or behind larger stands tucked into the corner)). Some of these you can try to manage, others you cannot.
2. Before the event, make sure you alert people that you will be there (perhaps you have a list of possibly interested people that you could send an invite to – mentioning which stand you are on/what time you will be speaking). Also ask past clients if they would stop by – overhearing them rhapsodising your skills and services will help convert others.
3. Set up your stand in good time – in case you need to get additional work done (perhaps you forgot to ask for electricity to be provided, perhaps you find there is a leak above your stand and it is soaking wet). It also allows you make friends with your neighbours – some of them may want your services and you ought not to have time to talk to them later.
4. You need to be seen – make sure your stand (however small) is clear about what you sell, who you are and, ideally, why the need to stop and talk to you. Silly gimmicks might work, but might not draw in the right candidates (aim at quality not volume – more efficient use of your time).
5. You need to be able to engage passers by, to draw their attention and get them talking (if only about how they find the event and whether they have had a good session – which usually precipitates a counter question of a similar type which, in turn, gives you an opening).
6. The more energy you exude on the day, the more people will likely stop and talk (don’t be a comedian, rather you should demonstrate passion and enthusiasm for your subject).
7. One of the best draws is to have people buzzing round your stand (even if they are friends and relations) as this implies there must be something worth seeing – but make sure they are talking about your business – not when you all last met at Great Aunt Flo’s 80th birthday bash.
8. Have something to hand out that would be useful to them (NOT another biro or notepad). If you have a freebie offered on the website, have them to hand out OR, possibly better, have a copy on the stall and invite business cards so that you can send them one (and follow up afterwards).
9. Speaking at a seminar is good awareness raising stuff (and you can always create a blog on the back of your presentation later -so double the value)- but make sure you have someone minding the stall while you are gone. Especially immediately after you talk. Some interested parties will go to your stand to talk to you while others will buttonhole you offstage – which means you miss the ones waiting at your stand. At least you should talk to the buttonholers as you walk back to the stand.
10. Multi-day events are hard work. You can arrange to meet people after the close of the formal event each evening, but you ought also to be following up leads, writing up conversations and ensuring you will be well fed and rested for the next day. (By the way, food at these events is always highly overpriced for what you get and choice varies considerably – so consider taking your own supplies – especially if its just you on the stand).
11. Make time to walk around the event. You can meet people off your stand too. Again, don’t leave the stand empty – it looks very unprofessional and you will miss business. Some of the other stand holders may be possible customers – but remember they are not there to be sold to, they want to sell. So introduce yourself and get a card and call them back later.
12. If you speak – make it clear and include hooks to get them to come back for more – remember, you are not selling your services but getting them to recognize that they want something off you and they need to get in touch to find out more (smaller step and means they are more likely to contact you and you will be more likely to convert them 1:1)
13. If you can plant someone to ask a “useful” question (or two) at the end of your talk, that would help to draw out points and make you look to have been (even) more interesting!
14. After the event, FOLLOW UP the leads you got – and do it in good time (while they might remember who you are). If you have gone to the trouble of having a stall at an event and speaking there, you need to capitalise on that and take it forward afterwards. Most attendees have several people they want to follow up – make sure you are the most proactive so that yours is the approach they deal with first as there may not be a (mental/financial) budget for more than that!
15. Whether you have spoken or not, make sure you let the world know you were at the event – with a stand – as this is a good subject for a blog and demonstrates you are reaching out to customers in a professional and varied way. Ideally get those who attended your stand, especially past clients, to make a comment on their social media too.
16. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But always be professional (stand up straight, don’t slope off early to lunch and don’t pack up as volumes fall towards the end – wait until the formal end has come as other stand holders will drop by on their way out). Even if people don’t want your business themselves, they might pass your name on if you give a good impression.
17. When on the stand, there is nothing less inviting to a passer-by, than to see a person frantically tapping on a computer/mobile and deaf to the world/passers by. Well, I have seen people reading a book on the stand – which is worse, but hopefully you would not do this! (If you get a young relative to hold the fort while you are speaking, entreat them (with bribes if necessary) to simply stand there looking pleasant and greeting people as they pass – rather than demonstrably ignore passers-by in favour of something infinitely more interesting (which means that the passers-by, by default, are not that interesting)!
18. Finally, review the event afterwards from your point of view: what did you do right/wrong, was the event what it should have been/better, would you do it again next year/ go for an alternate? Build up this sort of data so that, over time, you will find the right events, the right approaches and the right customers with less cost and resource!
Qualitation – the British Quality Centre