How to excel at exhibitions

Fresh from Multimodal in Birmingham, UK, last week, Emma has some observations on how to make the most out of exhibiting at a B2B supply chain trade show


exhibitors b2b supply chain PR

As organisers of the seminars and awards at Multimodal, a leading exhibition for B2B supply chain and logistics businesses, Meantime has a ringside view of what makes an exhibition stand work.

I know what you are thinking: big is beautiful, gimmicks are great, and the more expensive the giveaway, the more logistics leads you will get.

It may surprise you to know in that case that size doesn’t matter, gimmicks can distract, and giveaways don’t need to break the bank to be successful at a B2B show.

There are some basics, of course, like setting goals and making sure the team understands them, having realistic expectations, and making the stand look and feel the best it can be for B2B business whatever the size.

It’s true to say that few can resist a freebie, so be as creative as you can within your budget, and the same goes for food and drink.

If you can organise some sort of event, big or small, to attract a crowd, that’s always good and it could range from inviting people to join you for some birthday cake to getting them involved in a golf-putting competition for supply chain leaders.

But for me, the number one thing to remember is the one a lot of people seem to forget – it’s the reason you are there in the first place, which after all, is to meet and be met and that means being welcoming and listening.

With that in mind, here are my top five musts for exhibitors:

Never neglect a visitor – Sure, it’s the last day and you are tired, maybe you don’t recognise the company name on the badge, or you feel you’ve already got enough leads, but never neglect a visitor. Did you know that some visitors to trade shows put fictitious company names on their badges to avoid being oversold to? Or that others send senior decision makers on the last day of a show after more junior staff have visited on busier days to scope out the exhibitors? They want to avoid the crush and have your full attention, so give it to them. Don’t let that lead get away – you never know what may come of it.

Be welcoming on the stand – save snacking for mealtimes, chat with colleagues over a beer later, take that phone call somewhere else. Above all costs, you must avoid the dreaded “exhibition glare” – that’s the one where you take up residence behind an invisible wall on your stand and glare at passing visitors without so much as a hello. Practice smiling instead.

Stay fresh – try and maintain a mix of personalities and a blend of junior and senior staff on the stand and ensure the team has enough breaks. Make a rota and have daily team debriefs to stay focused. If someone is flagging, get them to take five and have a cuppa.

Listen and be prepared – talk less, listen more, and sell the benefits, not the features of your supply chain products or logistics services. Anticipate questions and objections so that you can answer quickly. Turn off your gadgets and mobile phone as much as possible and focus on your visitors. Digitalisation is a key logistics talking point, but it doesn’t stretch to texting when working at an exhibition.

Stay calm – there are a million and one things to think about when it comes to a B2B trade show. Add to that the fact that the event is live, and you have the perfect recipe for things to potentially go wrong: a missing member of staff, a lost stand, a broken piece of equipment. The trick is to stay clear-minded and work out any problems as a team. You can even turn the whole experience into an opportunity such as team building or using it as a conversation ice breaker. The stressed-out ranting exhibitor look is not a good one, trust me.


To hear more about how to make a success of your next supply chain exhibition and get the best from your B2B business, contact Meantime Communications at or call + 44 (0) 20 8853 5554.

About the author

Emma Murray

Emma was born in the year the Beatles broke up. She set up Meantime in 2008 after a 15 year career reporting on the supply chain and logistics industries. She is an NCTJ-trained reporter and an award-winning editor. She studied Middle Eastern Archaeology and Akkadian, although she has to admit her cuneiform is probably a little rusty these days. She was once an archaeologist working in Syria and Jordan, and has been an English language teacher. She has lived at one time or another in Jerusalem and Aleppo, as well as Paris and Brussels, where she went to school and learnt to speak French.