How to Present at Trade Shows, Expos and Events

How do you maximise the opportunities when exhibiting at trade shows, expos and industry events?

There is usually a huge cost in booking your space, setting up your stand and having people in attendance throughout the event so you want to capitalise on every opportunity.

I was recently asked by the Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia to present a session for exhibitors at their careers evening in Perth, Western Australia. At this event, 33 exhibitors representing the big four and mid-tier accounting firms, mining companies, banks and even the Tax Department would be vying for the attention of over 500 final year accountancy students from four tertiary institutions.

Below are the 12 tips I shared with the exhibitors plus a bonus tip. I’ve adapted these slightly to suit a broader exhibiting audience. Bonus Tip 13 will help you to prepare a checklist for the appearance of your people and your stand.

1. Be clear about the different profiles of people who will be attending

From these, who do you want to attract? And who would be unsuitable for your requirements? Work out your qualifying questions in advance.

You don’t want your people to be bogged down in lengthy discussions with unsuitable visitors and have the very people you want to attract walk away because they couldn’t get to talk with you.

On the other hand, beware of treating attendees as if they are ‘tyre kickers’. Some visitors who may not be the right profile for your organisation can turn out to be great word-of-mouth ambassadors. They bump into friends and associates at the event and say “You really must go and check out XYZ. They’re way out of our league but what they’re offering would be just right for you and they’re so friendly and helpful.”

2. Think like an attendee

At a Careers Expo it is likely that it is your recent graduates that the attendees will relate to. It’s not that long ago that they were walking in the shoes of the attendees. To further help this process there are two questions you need to think through:

1) What did you do when you attended events like this?

2) What else do you wish you had done and why?

Now discuss what each of you has identified from these two questions; and from this work out what you need to do to help attendees get real value from this event.

3. Your purpose in exhibiting

Your purpose in exhibiting is to be noticed, remembered, trusted and preferred. By being noticed, I’m referring to the good side of noticed. If you are still busy setting things up as the first attendees walk in, that’s the bad side of noticed!

You are on show and must be prepared and ready for the first people walking in.

4. What makes you approachable?

Smiling with an open stance – This relaxes you and your demeanor and body language give off the right message to attendees.

A readable name badge – this tells them that you are a real person rather than a company representative.

Be seen to be listening to others – when you listen others notice. Your body language is saying to attendees, “You are important.” Attendees want to talk with someone who makes them feel like that.

Being seen laughing with other attendees – This relaxes people which makes it easier for them to approach you.

5. What keeps attendees away?

Is that your attitude showing? – Sometimes team members are press ganged into assisting at careers events and other trade shows. If they are thinking, “This is a waste of time. I have more important things to do than be here” it will come across to attendees. Your thoughts and beliefs drive your body language and voice tone. People subconsciously pick up on this.

The sentry stance – arms crossed and feet apart like a bouncer at a night club. It’s the ‘Thou shalt not pass’ stance.

Looking as if you are ready to pounce – attendees don’t like to feel they are being swooped on by a bird of prey.

How you hold your brochures or booklets – without even being aware of it this can be a barrier that makes you less approachable. Put your brochures and give-aways down. They can create a barrier between you and the attendees particularly if you hold them in front of your chest.

Checking your phone – It may be a quiet moment at your stand as you talk, text or scroll on your phone. However, the message this gives off is ‘I’m busy, don’t interrupt me’. Even from a distance people will notice and avoid you. Go off your stand or to a curtained off area to make calls and check your phone.

Closed in conversation with other staff – this also gives off the ‘don’t interrupt me’ vibe.

Seen locked in a conversation with one person – this gives the ‘Oh oh’ warning. Other attendees will avoid you so they don’t get similar treatment.

6. Opening phrases

Avoid the novice opening lines such as ‘How are you? Can I help you? Need some assistance? Would you like a brochure?’

They encourage answers like “Fine”, “Good” and “No thanks, just looking” which gets you nowhere and the attendees just walk off with your brochure.

Of course some attendees may have specific questions for you and will initiate the conversation, which is great.

Good opening questions for you could include:

“What have you found useful so far?”

“What are you looking for from attending today?”

“What brings you here?”

“What would be helpful for you to know about us/our product?”

7. How attendees take in information

There are three main ways people take in information:


Attendees are being bombarded by sensory stimuli every second that they are at your event. While different types of attendees will have more of a bias towards one than the others, all three factors are involved in them absorbing information; and research shows that up to 95% of the impressions that are created may be happening at a subconscious level.

You need to be aware of this and be doing everything possible to be viewed in the most favourable light.

Just as one example of the visual stimuli let’s consider personal presentation. You need to have a smart, casual image perhaps in matching uniforms or t-shirts and be well groomed. From my experience, most exhibitors do this fairly well… from the ankles up. Below the ankles is often forgotten. Yet it is sending a message even with students at a careers expo. What message does the state of your footwear give them about accuracy, professionalism and attention to detail in your company?

8. Your purpose in answering a question

When you answer an attendee’s question you have three objectives to meet:

1) To answer concisely and accurately
2) To phrase your answer in a way that is easy for the attendee to understand
3) To make the person feel good about having asked the question

It is this third objective that most people rarely think about.

Yet, it is crucial to making the attendee feel comfortable with you. Many attendees worry about asking ‘dumb’ questions and as a result don’t really open up and share with you their queries and concerns. When you make them feel good they become more confident and are more likely to share the real issues that matter to them. For example you can say, “I’m glad you asked”, “That’s a good question”, “That’s interesting, I haven’t been asked that today.”

9. Identify the common point of interest

Initial conversation is about establishing common ground. Ask open-ended questions that are likely to identify a connection then share an insight that is relevant to them. For example at a Careers Expo this is likely to be – “I never realised till I started working here that…”

Match your ‘common point of interest’ (CPI) to the individual. It’s not a standard point. You may have three or four alternative insights that you can select from. These are things that give them a behind the scenes glimpse of what it’s like to work for an organisation like yours.

10. Your ‘What Next?’ strategy

Having identified suitable candidates, be clear about what you want them to do and what you will do. Have a couple of clearly crafted and agreed upon action statements to guide them to the next step.

For example, “Based on what you’ve said I should get your details and…” or “Have you registered for our… yet? Here’s what you need to do.”

11. Engaging with multiple attendees when one-on-one isn’t possible

Most of us are more confident when directing our comments and attention to one person. At an event like a careers expo this isn’t always possible. Here are some pointers:

Don’t focus purely on one member of the group

Use inclusive body language

Deflect one comment or question to the others after acknowledging the first person e.g. “Good question, is that something that would be of interest to others here?”

Ask (then address) a specific qualifying question of the group and gauge the reaction of different attendees. Aim your follow up comments at those who are with you. That way, some may drop off and other attendees who are interested can take their place.

12. Disengaging from people who corner you

Use active listening techniques to get them to the point. After confirming understanding, follow up with, “I’d best not dominate your time here, I’m sure you’ve others to check out. By all means come back if you’ve any further questions.”

Have a recognised rescue code with your colleagues. Even if everyone else is involved with other attendees, you can call out, “Does anyone have our D3 flyers?” This could be code for, “Help, someone rescue me fast!” A colleague then might say, “Sorry I think we’re out of the D3 flyers but I’ve got an attendee here who is asking a question that relates to your area of expertise. Could you join us for a moment?”

If you need to move on unsuitable candidates do so tactfully without offending them. Rather than “No, you don’t qualify because your grades aren’t good enough”, phrase it as “Provided your grades are…” And rather than a blunt statement of your criteria along the lines of “To be considered you must…” phrase it “Our current criteria for selection are…” The implication is then at some time in the future there may be opportunities for this attendee. As we all know, some people are late bloomers and we don’t want to belittle them when there is no need to.

The tips above were written for a short careers evening. Many of the events you exhibit at will be a lot longer from field days at regional expos to two or three day exhibitions. Here is an important tip for these longer events.

13. Bonus Tip: Prepare a checklist for the appearance of your people and your stand

Wear smart, comfortable footwear each day. If you have inappropriate footwear, your feet and back will soon be aching and you will spend more time sitting down. This makes you look less welcoming and approachable – unless you are sitting down with an attendee.

The stand should be as presentable 35, 65 and 95% of the way through the event as it is at the start. Your most valuable client can arrive at any time and they will judge you based on what they see.

Regularly check your display and promotional materials and ensure they look ‘picture perfect’.

Dirty coffee cups should be kept out of sight. It’s amazing how they take away from the professionalism of your stand.

Do not eat at your stand.

These are just a few of the points to include on your checklist. Go over this prior to each event and seek input from all team members who will be on show. Your reputation is at stake which makes this an invaluable exercise.

Fear in Past, Present and Future – Master IT

Fear in the Past, Present and Future

Fear is real and fear is powerful. It is one of the greatest single factors in preventing success at any level. It hinders players, coaches, executives, parents, teachers, politicians, etc., at all levels and in every profession. Fear goes well beyond being lost at night in a dark alley. Fear goes well beyond swimming with sharks.

Those are simply examples when fear is real and can serve as a motivator. I call this “fear in the present.” Fear that exists in either the past or future is what is so powerful. I don’t claim to have done case studies and have a doctorate degree in the psychology of fear. I just know what is real from my life experiences as a player and coach.

In most of our lives, we do not experience many examples of “fear in the present”, because most of us are smart enough to stay out of shark infested waters! But we all experience either the power of fear in the future or the power of fear in the past {the fear of deadlines, the fear of losing, the fear of failure}.

Fear is an emotion generated from our mind. The mind is a very powerful tool that we all posses. And it develops at its greatest capacity from during ones high school and college days. It can control our actions in a very negative sense (also in a very positive sense). The negative influence of fear starts with a look into the future ~ a focus on an outcome (winning vs. losing) versus the focus on the process / journey. (Note: my success and failures have proven that fear can never serve as a motivator when the focus is on an outcome and not a process)

Fear is very evident when the objective becomes the outcome of winning. Example ~ we need to win 90 games during this season to make the playoffs. We need to win 10 out of our last 15 games to be in first place. These statements are the result of fear. And they are truly hindered by many outside factors out of the control of the individuals involved. Fear exists in every line of work, not just sports. For example, fear can become very evident when the focus is on closing X number of sales per week. Example ~ we need to close 5 deals this week. These are negative examples of how looking into the future with the emphasis on an outcome will generate a fear of failure. This is “fear in the future sense” and it takes performers out of their comfort zone where being in the moment will help achieve peak performance.

The focus on the past and the inability to change drives a fear that is also very powerful. So often, the memories of past failures cloud the ability to be in the moment and achieve peak performances. This is what I refer to as “fear in the past”. Where individuals believe that because it happen before it will automatically happen again.

When either the “fear of the past” or the “fear of the future” becomes real, the actions of those in “the heart of battle” will clearly show the power of fear. Anger and frustration sets in and every shortcoming becomes a major issue. A lack of focus and clouded mind becomes real. One missed foul shot turns into several more. The blown coverage for a first down turns into giving up the touchdown. One strikeout early in a game prevents a quality at-bat in the late innings. Shouting and panic become signs of ones thoughts being focused on a negative end result.

Ultimately, it is the ability to have a proper focus on a process that will eliminate fear! And it starts with a complete focus on oneself and the ability to take the ego away from the forefront of the situation.

Why Is Presentation and Image of You Important for Your Business?

So you’ve decided on a business. You’ve set it up and you are ready to trade – why do you now need to think about your image? Your image tells people around you a lot of things – from how successful you are through to what matters to you. People seeing you will rarely differentiate between you as an individual and your business so whether you are ready or not you are now the face of your business!

Recent reports suggest it takes just 7 seconds for someone to form a first impression about you. 93% of a first impression is based upon how you look and sound – only 7% is what you say. So, when a parent or friend used the phrase “dress for success” they were right – if you want to be taken serious you have to dress, act and look the part.

How do you get started without losing “you” inside all of this?

The 4 key areas to think about are:

1. physical appearance
2. posture and body language
3. the hand shake
4. communication

Physical appearance – you might not be able to afford or even want the latest fashion trends, however dressing smartly and being well groomed is possible. A suit is a good investment, but don’t wear lots of accessories with your outfit and don’t wear a lot of jewellery – the noise and look may distract you and the people you are talking to. Do think also about your grooming – shiny, well brushed hair, polished shoes and clean, well cut nails will all get noticed.

Posture and body language – how you choose to stand or sit and the way you present yourself when speaking or listening will have a big impact on the effectiveness of your message and how seriously you are taken. Have a relaxed stance ie not standing to attention like a soldier on parade and make sure the stance is open – this means in particular don’t sit or stand with your arms crossed. Keep fairly still when in conversation or waiting for your moment to speak and avoid at all costs big gestures or fidgeting when either speaking or listening. Practice your stance in the mirror to get a feel for what you look like – the look you are seeking to achieve is confident, approachable and capable. You need to remember to not slouch – sit and stand tall with your shoulders back, rib cage lifted and chin up.

Most importantly smile and maintain plenty of eye contact – people like people, like themselves. Everyone likes to think they are liked, positive and approachable most of the time so keep this in mind and smile confidently.

The handshake – greeting or parting, it’s part of the western culture that we all need to master. What you are seeking to achieve when you shake a hand is a full hand to hand shake – don’t just shake fingers. Also you need to get the pressure of the handshake right. This means not being too light (this will be taken as a limp handshake) but also not being too hard – this will be taken as a bone crushing method to demonstrate your strength over that of the other person. If you are not sure, practice with a friend or family member and ask for their honest opinion.

Communication – so you’ve mastered the open stance and the smile – the next phase is speaking. Do your best to not use slang and don’t swear under any circumstances no matter how mild you perceive it to be. Be concise and clear in what you say and say it warmly and positively in your natural voice and at a volume that the person you are speaking with can hear comfortably.

Change the tone of your voice to match what you are saying so that you don’t become monotone. Most importantly develop your listening skills – this means actively listening to what people are saying to you and around you so that you can involve yourself in the conversation. a great ratio for getting started is to speak and listen in the same proportion as your mouth and ears i.e. 1:2 – listen for 2 minutes and speak for 1 minute. A great asset of a conversationalist is their ability to appear totally absorbed by what the person speaking is saying.

Ultimately what you present, how you present and what you say needs to be you – after all it’s your business you are representing. Don’t try to be false but do think about the different ways you can present and say things to give you the best possible chance at creating the right first impression. Why – because first impressions really count.

Life, The Game Show: Are You Leveraging Your Present Against Hopes for a Better Future?

Long after Howie Mandel voiced the role of Gizmo for my generation (look it up!), he helmed the successful game show, Deal or No Deal. To this day, it is my daughter’s favorite pastime at the local game places – the arcade version where she is gambling tickets – not money, and certainly not happiness. (We are still working on Kenny Rogers’ adage concerning when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.)

Does your life mimic Deal or No Deal? Let’s face it: each day, in many ways, some of us take perfectly good or acceptable outcomes life has presented, we gamble them, and we hope for a better tomorrow. We invest hard-earned cash in the ultimate puzzler – the lottery – something we have virtually no chance of winning. We pick apart everything we despise about our job and convince ourselves that the job we saw on is going to solve all our problems. We jettison our financial future, we fail to plan; we bet against the House and the House always wins.

Greatly leveraging your present in hopes for a better future is a dangerous game – mostly because it is an imperfect being making a choice or commitment they have a hard time following through on. Don’t get me wrong: every day, millions go into debt or take out a loan to endeavor into school or their own business and they stick to the plan and make it work. On the flip side, once that plan has been committed to, we cannot perilously deviate from it to our detriment. We are typically our own worst enemies.

Take your current situation: are you happy or unhappy? Whichever you answer, why? Take a look at the good things you have – perhaps food, shelter, clothing, a support system of people who care, a job, comforts, a relationship, a religion – and contemplate for a moment if you are truly that bad off. Some certainly are. Many of us are not – we have a lot of things that have been provided or that we have fought to obtain and achieve.

Take it a step further: we all have things that ail us to various degrees. Everyone has their crosses to bear and heartaches burning a hole in their souls; the moral of this story is to ensure we are not making rash decisions, constantly hedging our bets and gambling the present in hopes of a brighter future. Like playing the stock market, you may see some gains (which reinforces the behavior), but you will also make losses – sometimes tragic – whereas you could have easy accepted your current lot and been at peace. Those impulse purchases and that money you go into debt over today can become part of a pattern; you become comfortable in that state and you never stop borrowing against the system.

Happiness is a state of being; there is no “happily ever after.” Even the kids on 90210 have problems every episode, so there is nothing money, clothes and perfect hair magically solve (no matter how much they may alleviate of other potential problems.) Truly consider how you may be making decisions daily that put your blessings in peril – relationships, career, hopes and dreams – and find a way to stop. Make time for what matters most – nothing is so serious that it should endanger everything else. We have one life to live, and all we can do while we are here is our best. There’s no need to rush: we have all the time in the world.

Make a list of the things in your life that you are happy about and make you happy, and do everything you can to preserve those things. Mninimize the decisions that could have an outcome negative to those things. In the end, your present will be less sporadic and frenetic and your future will be brighter for it.

Carson V. Heady has written a sales/motivation/success book unlike any other, entitled “Birth of a Salesman” that has a unique spin that shows you proven sales principles designed to birth in you the top producer you were born to be. It is a how-to sell/career advice book inside a novel about the fictional author who practices what he preaches.