Make your next expo visit a successful one with our expert tips. Spoiler alert: Most of the work happens before you arrive.

Before you go

Before booking an expo, do your homework and check it’s right for you. If you have an ideal customer you want to target, find the best event to meet them. If in doubt, expo organisers should also be able to provide you with the demographics of people who attend. Do a cost-benefit analysis to decide if going to the expo is worth the outlay for you and your business.

If you’re having a booth, think about the best place for it to be positioned. You want to be in the main thoroughfare, not tucked away at the edge of the exhibition space. Bigger booths are obviously better, as are corner positions.

Next , decide what you want to showcase. Booth sizes can be deceptive! The best way to work out what will fit comfortably in your space is to use masking tape to mark out the size of your booth on the floor of your office. Then use more masking tape to mark out the things that will be in your booth, and try walking around it.

Make your booth simple and visual, with supporting objects such as brochures, business cards and product samples. People love being about to touch, feel and play with things. Make sure your graphics are professionally designed, eye-catching and light on text. It’s also useful to attract attention to your stand with a video or animation on loop. One thing to skip? Too much furniture. It’s expensive, and it means people can’t get into and around your space easily.

Expos are a great way of gathering information about your prospective customers using a simple survey during the event. Make sure you set this up beforehand. You could use SurveyMonkey and collect responses with QR codes or iPads at the event. Have printed copies too. It’s good to limit expo surveys to no more than a page of questions.

Check if the expo offers a service that allows you to collect attendee contact details by scanning their name tag when they come to your booth. The service usually isn’t cheap but it’s worth its weight in gold. It’s the most efficient way to collect people’s details, especially when you consider you’ll be more likely to capture everyone and potentially save hours transferring contact details from business cards to spreadsheets.

Assign friendly people to work on your booth, who like speaking to others and have a sound understanding of your product or service. In some cases this might mean a mixed team, with extroverts who can attract people to the booth and introduce others with a strong depth of knowledge about your product.

Finally, before you leave, write a pro forma email you can use to follow up on leads during the event. Keep it simple and customisable and don’t forget your business cards.

At the expo

When you meet people, don’t immediately launch in your pitch. Instead, ask questions. Why are they at the expo? What at they hoping to get out of it? What drew them to your booth? What are they looking for? Make the conversation more about what they’re after than what you’re selling.

Armed with this information, you can then introduce your product or service, directing your pitch to what the other person wants or needs. At the end of the conversation, you can usually can exchange business cards or scan their name tag. Be diligent about collecting as many contact details as you can.

While speaking to people or immediately after, write some brief notes. Jot down their name, what they were interested in and why, as well as any follow up you promised. This way, when you do get in touch, it’s for a reason. Use your pro forma email to follow up within 24-48 hours of meeting someone—even if the event is still going.

After you get back

Complete any remaining follow ups, prioritising hot leads. (If you used a scanning service, you should receive an Excel spreadsheet with contact details at the end of the event.) Email is the best way to get in touch in the first instance, sending through any information requested at the expo. You might also offer to catch up and discuss further over a coffee.

If you used the expo to gather market intelligence, now’s the time to collate your survey results. Analyse the data and enjoy making informed decisions about the future of your product or service.