Expos and What You Need to Know: The Art of Networking

Build meaningful business relationships and connect with people as more than just another brand.


Some of the best marketing and advertising happens in person, and no we are not talking about door-to-door sales – think in terms of booths. In business studies or even in school you might have come across the term word-of-mouth marketing and how effective it can be. An expo achieves the same result, just on a massive scale. Here is how:

What Is An Expo? 

The term expo is the shortened form for ‘exposition’, which is the act of publicly displaying or presenting to view. Even in the context of a business that concept stays the same. Only in this case, it is a large-scale exhibition, that is usually conducted on an international level to show off the brand and to build business connections.

Quite often, you will hear the terms expo, trade show and conference being thrown around interchangeably. Though they may seem similar, they have their subtle differences and serve their own purposes. A trade show is a business exhibition at which businesses belonging to very specific industries will gather to promote their products or services, while simultaneously building their B2B networks.

A convention on the other hand is where like-minded individuals gather in a single space to discuss or share ideas on points of common interest. A good example of this is ‘Comic-Con’. The point of it is to grow knowledge, cultivate interests and generally carry a less formal atmosphere to it. Amidst these two kinds of gatherings, expos stand simply as a healthy combination of both and on a much larger, international scale.

What Is An Expo?
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An expo is a place for professionals and brands to gather under a single roof and discuss, compare and connect.

Why Do It At All?

We live in an ever-growing digital era that seems to be making the past methods of interaction more and more irrelevant or outdated every day. It is a world where we have email, instant messaging, zoom calls, social media and so many other options of reaching out to people from the comfort of a desk. So, what exactly is the need for an expo?

It offers you a chance to build long-lasting and meaningful business relationships. Yes, you can build relationships online as well, but there is something about being able to interact with another human being in a real environment that helps make that connection stronger. When people meet you in person and walk away having had a positive experience, they associate that human moment with the brand. This boosts the confidence and image of the brand.

There is also the added benefit of choosing the exact audience that you want to connect and grow that with. Raising awareness for the brand can be targeted more precisely in person. It is not about how widespread the message is, it is about how in-depth the reach is and how accurately it is done.

Going back to our roots and socialising the way nature intended us to, has its benefits. Going forward as of 2020, that could be somewhat troublesome given the whole COVID-19 pandemic. Save the expos for a safer day, but do not count it out just yet – it is still worth doing, just more cautiously later down the road when the situation clears up.

Executing The Perfect Expo

Identify the objective and the budget

Before setting up your expo booth and planning out the details of the show, you need to determine what the purpose of your business will be at the expo. Is it to increase brand awareness, generate leads and revenue or launch a new product line? Whatever the case may be, it helps to have an aim in mind so that the organising stays line with trying to achieve that. It also helps narrow down the scope of a budget to what you may require. Keep in mind, while cost-saving is appreciated by any business, it is not worth compromising the quality of the expo for a cheaper solution. A rule of thumb – you get what you invest.

Plan well in advance

It is never too early to start planning for the expo. Inform your team early on so that they can book the flights and the rooms at the hotel before the prices go up. Avoid any last-minute rush which can hinder productivity on D-day. It also helps to start early for the sake of advertising. You have to let your audience know where you are going to be. If you do it in advance, they have more time to prepare and turn up to the event.

Social media is your best friend

Speaking of getting the word out to the audience, social media will be the best way to do so. With the various platforms at your disposal, you can give your audience live updates and timely information regarding details of the expo and why they should attend. Make it an interesting message and stay consistently active till the day of the show.

Scope out the competition

Before setting foot inside the venue, check out which other companies will be in attendance, do your research and even go as far as to study the floor layout of the different booths at the convention. This gives you an idea of who is where and how you can navigate that massive crowd more efficiently. Knowing who they are helps you find better ways to quickly approach them and cultivate common ground better.

Get everyone in place

Before the expo starts, get everyone together and make sure everyone is on the same page. Give them a transparent view of the booth hours, the other businesses in attendance, the rotation schedule and potential clients to approach. Get the sales and executive team to work in tandem to pre-schedule meetings with the other businesses during the different days of the expo and coordinate it with a shared document or calendar for maximum efficiency.

Do a demo

Do not hesitate to show off your product, make a show of it and grab people’s attention. That is the point of the expo after all. It is a great icebreaker and gets the ball rolling. If it is a product, give out samples if you can, or even little goodie bags for those who stop by the booth. The more attention the more brand awareness.

If you cannot do a demo, then host a short seminar explaining your business and how it might benefit people. The audience wants to see something interesting so visual aids help.

Get down to networking

Make sure to speak to as many people as you can, but more importantly, make sure to approach everyone on that list that you should have prepared in the pre-planning phase. Do not forget to ask for their business cards and to give yours in return as well. It helps keep track of who talked to who.

Another way to keep track of your progress is to coordinate with the venue organisers and get the figures on all the visitors who stopped by your booth or simply maintain a registry of names as people come and go. Get as much contact information as you can, it will come in handy down the line.

Debrief and follow up

This is by far the most crucial point of any expo. Schedule a debriefing meeting with your team the day after the expo while the information is still fresh and cross-examine. Get everyone’s input on what worked well, what were some of the challenges they faced and how things could be improved going forward. The next step is the follow up:

Now that you have a ton of business cards and that registry of names and contacts, it is time to start reaching out. Upload all the contacts into your customer relationship management system (CRM) and start contacting people. Send personalised messages or emails thanking them for visiting the booth and giving them some additional information about your business.

You can also get their feedback on the booth and how you could improve the experience in the future. This step helps solidify the brand name in their minds and reinforces a positive experience with the business.

How to Execute the Perfect Expo
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At the end of the day, the perfect expo is one where you successfully build a strong business network.

Some Pitfalls To Watch Out For

Cost

Though you should never compromise on quality, it helps to be aware of what to expect. The costs for an expo would include the booth space, the design and construction of said booth, travel fair and lodgings for your staff and so on.

Competition

Despite being there to network, remember that you are competing for attention and in this sense, you will have competition. This is why research comes in handy, so you know who is coming and what you can do to stand out.

Results

No matter how much time and effort you invest in marketing, there is never a guarantee that you will get the expected amount of engagement after the expo.

Low turnouts

An expo will never guarantee a huge turnout, though it is likely. This is especially true if you are just starting out and do not have a big brand name or publicity to stand behind. The solution to this would be to work on your marketing and building that customer base before attempting an expo.

Do not let these pitfalls discourage you though, the advantages of an expo far outweigh the downsides. A great example of a hugely successful expo is the Consumer Electronics Show, which takes place in Las Vegas, Nevada. It is the largest and most influential technology exhibition in the world and each year is better than the last. They bring out new and innovative technologies onto the global stage for all to see. An expo like that could propel your business right to the top if you bring something interesting to the table.

That is what it comes down to, how to navigate the world of marketing and networking. Expos are just the tool or event through which networking functions. Are you up to date with the latest and evolving trends in business networking? Check out our article on ‘business networking’ to get the full pitcure.

Kiran Kennedy
Kiran Kennedy
Kiran was former staff at Dutch Uncles. He writes on entrepreneurship, business life cycle, small businesses and Indian startups.

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