Succeeding in demonstrations and events

A couple of times I have recently got involved in helping people make the most of their opportunities at events or exhibitions, and someone suggested that I put up a few hints for anyone planning to do a demonstration or have a stand. The notes below are just a short taster of the thought process that can really give you results.

How do I choose the right exhibition to attend?

It can be so tempting and flattering when you are invited to attend or exhibit at a show – with privilege tickets, a guaranteed audience, early discount or other carrot. So always do a bit of research to find out and decide:

  • who typically attends
  • what competition will be there
  • do people visit the event to sell or buy
  • what do you expect your time and money to get you?

What resources do I need?

To some extent, that depends on the answer above – what your aim is. Do you want people to take a sample, book an appointment, experience your product or style of presentation?

If you want people to stop to talk with you then make sure that you have some refreshments ready and space where you can talk undisturbed. All too often people are geared up to give away leaflets and samples but have not planned to help anyone who is really interested. Always have a diary and plenty of business cards, but avoid thinking that success means how many cards you have given out.

Who should be on a stand?

If you are just attending an event, then people on the stand need not necessarily be the subject experts, but they should know what your business or organisation does and does not do. As a minimum they should be able to:

  • make a visitor at ease
  • enquire what the visitor wants and be able to understand their answer
  • explain what your organisation does WITH RESPECT TO the visitor’s needs
  • be able to get them time with the ‘expert’ e.g. book a time for them to chat now or later
  • be able to take detail and make an appointment for a follow-up discussion
  • know when to stop talking and let the visitor think!

Be very aware of the keen helper, who loves what you do but cannot explain it in simple terms or relate it to a visitor’s needs. Equally, a keen helper who is not an expert can provide a good welcome and act as a very good triage system to make you as effective as you can be.

What should I give away?

Basically, something that will remind people of you and which they will not take purely for the sake of it. For example, sweets and pens disappear rapidly but have little benefit to you. Ensure that anything you give out is asked for rather than thrust into people’s hands, and it must contain your contact details and ideally a hint of what you do.

What about doing a demonstration?

In crude terms, do a demo or presentation either when people would not understand what you do from a description, or if they need to see you do it in order to spot the difference from your competition. So a presentation should fit the audience needs, not be a sales pitch. And a free taster session should educate the recipient about you, not just give them something for nothing.

A golden rule is that when you want to demonstrate your skills and not all of the audience can interact, you must have helpers on hand to give people some sort of commentary. Very often an expert can be doing great things and getting a lot of interest, but their helpers cannot capitalise on it by highlighting some of the special bits that they have done to the visitor standing next to them.

Keep your demonstration relatively short (it is not a free training session after all), so that people who found it engaging can speak to you within a very short time and take it forwards. If your slot is too long, they may hang on until you stop but then dash to look at the rest of the show.

Summary

  • know what you want to achieve
  • aim to provide a useful and memorable experience, not a sale to every visitor
  • give away things for a reason
  • have enough help on hand
  • ensure your help is fully briefed
  • even if your aims are low key, be prepared for a flood of enquiries
  • make sure that ‘experts’ are regularly on hand to deal with the post-demo interest
  • make the demo useful, and leave them wanting more!

I hope that you have found a few pointers, and remember that each bullet point is a subject in itself. Have fun!