One of the reasons that smaller businesses give for not exhibiting in a trade show is that they can't compete with the big spenders. They feel that a modest stand will be at a disadvantage because of its size and supposed lack of firepower. Attendees, they feel just won't take their business seriously.

Big vs Small

Perhaps you're thinking or have been advised that there's no point in paying good money to exhibit.

The concern is that your stand, brand, and products will be overshadowed or lost among all of the giant and more glamourous stands in the hall.

Better to spend your money on digital promotions of some kind where the size of your business will be less apparent.

The arena you compete in will seem fairer. The odds will be more in your favour?

There are some excellent reasons to avoid that naysayer advice and I'll lay them out for you now.


  1. You are competing with those big businesses whether you exhibit or not

The reality is that whether you exhibit or not, your business is competing with those bigger exhibitors in the digital space, the advertising space, PR and any other space you care to name.

And they can outspend you just as easily in each of those as they can in a trade show hall.

The big difference is that when you exhibit, you benefit rather than lose from their spend.

Recognise that all of those lovely big stands that you're worried about are doing a great job of attracting people who could make a massive, positive difference to your business.


  1. The good news: Visitors aren't too fussed about how big your stand is

Visitors to trade shows attend because they are looking for ideas and solutions.

While it is definitely nice to see all of those shiny big stands and what's on them, a problem-solving solution found on a small stand will work just as well and be just as welcome.

Maybe more so.

When the company providing that solution responds faster and tailors the service more closely to the client's needs than the incumbent supplier, then good things can happen for both parties.

The client gets their solution and you may have just secured an excellent long-term client. Bingo!

But I get ahead of myself.


  1. To grow and to get those business-changing orders, you must compete

If you want your business to grow then it will have to compete and a great place to do that is at the leading trades shows that serve your industry.

Participate in those events and make the very most of the opportunities that they present.

The presence of market leaders attracts a strong audience so promote your company's presence well in advance of the show.

Take part in the conference or seminar programme (see last week's post on this subject).

Submit entries for new product showcases and other forms of associated content marketing that trade shows offer.

Look at how the bigger businesses handle their participation.

Learn from their methods and the thinking of the very bright and well-paid people that they employ fro stand design, on-stand attractions, digital screens, staffing etc.

Apply your own twist and personalisation to all of the above.


  1. Organise things well just like those bigger players

A small stand doesn't have to look like a poor relation when compared with those big custom stands.

A tried and tested way to look professional and punch above your weight in the appearance department, is to invest in excellent stand graphics.

For me, this is the one element that makes all the difference when it comes to creating visual impact and a strong visitor perception.

Excellent graphics start with excellent design and my recommendation is that you employ a company or individual with graphic design skills.

If you don't know anyone who fits this bill, drop me a line as I can recommend several specialists for this work.

Once you have your design agreed you can proceed to artwork production, printing, and installation.

As with the design of your graphics, when it comes to installation, work with an event specialist.

If your budget stretches to digital screens, incorporate those into your stand design.

Ensure that whatever appears on your screens is of the same quality as your graphics.

Those big stands have a consistent look and feel because somebody with a designer's eye has made sure that they do.


  1. Work harder at being more helpful and friendly

Some years ago, I made the mistake or so it appeared at the time, of popping into the car dealership of a market leading brand dressed I must admit, rather untidily.

In fact, I was dressed for watching the kids at a gymkhana or some other horse-related outdoor activity which is where I had just come from.

I looked appropriately dressed for the horses but in the eyes of the salesmen at this posh car dealership, I was not the right sort for their motors.

No one approached to speak to me even though there were salespeople on the floor.

When I finally grabbed someone so I could ask for a test drive I was greeted with snobby answers which prompted me to leave.

Which as it turned out was a loss for their business.

I bought my shiny new wheels somewhere else more friendly but equally expensive.

The moral of the story - work harder at being friendlier. Be better listeners than the guys and girls on the bigger stands.

Be more responsive and more open and more friendly.

The equivalent of the car showroom analogy is I'm afraid, not uncommon at exhibitions. I've seen it many times. you probably have too.

It's the bain of an organiser's life and visitors hate it too.

Do not allow any form of disinterested or negative behaviour to manifest itself on a stand that you organise. Kill it wherever it appears.

This type of behaviour destroys sales before they even have a chance to get started so pick your stand team very carefully.

Brief them well. Motivate them and make your stand the most positive place in the show.


  1. Follow-up: Make gains: Repeat

One thing that is often overlooked when it comes to planning for an event is allowing a day or two straight after the show for doing follow-up work.

Extend your show time by a day or so to cover the time when you are back in the office. Doing so will allow you to jump on all follow-up related tasks from the event.

This one tip can make a huge difference to the results that you generate post-show. It's one of the best ways to ensure that you make gains from the leads and contacts collected and made.

During this time analyse all the notes you took during the show relating to performance and how things went. Apply the lessons to your next event.

Perhaps a bigger stand next show will enable you to show more products and do more business. Maybe.

Who knows in a year or two, your stand may be one of the bigger units at a leading trade show too.

Meantime, enjoy masterminding your sales growth but above all, compete to win your share of the business that's out there.

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