Show Survival Guide

Posted: 11th May 2015

Guidelines for successful exhibiting at Shows

Making a positive impact at a show will help your business: achieve sales on the day, gain leads for future business and boost your confidence.

This leaflet is designed to help WiRE members maximise exhibition opportunities with no-nonsense guidelines and practical tips.

Preparation is the key

  • Make sure you read the paperwork provided by the show organiser or WiRE
  • Be sure of your exhibit area dimensions
  • Know what is provided in the space, ie carpet, shell scheme, lighting, electricity, table, chair etc. Do you need to order and pay for any of the above as an extra?
  • Find out if you permitted to hang or pin things to the walls or shell scheme
  • Think about what else you might need – eg water, banners putting up, etc
  • Check what times you are permitted to enter the showground to set up (usually the day before), also the hour you must leave the showground – never leave before the specified time.
  • Have a practice exhibit at home with critical friends – this is the only way to be sure that you have everything you will need, and to be confident that your display is effective
  • WiRE have a set of visual merchandising notes on how to optimise your display, written by a former Laura Ashley head of visual merchandising, giving professional advice and guidance.

Tools of the Trade

  • Hammer + Nails
  • Screws
  • Screwdriver – Phillips & flat
  • Measuring Tape
  • Pliers
  • Rubber bands
  • Hooks
  • Safety pins
  • Cable ties
  • Drawing pins
  • Blutack
  • Kitchen paper
  • Sellotape
  • Plasters + headache pills
  • Scissors
  • Velcro
  • Sticky tabs for display board
  • Extra tablecloth
  • Paper/Notebook for customer comments
  • Marker pen + Lots of Biros
  • Replenish your stock each time!
  • Electricity and water

Each Show Society has an appointed electrical engineer who supplies all of the electrical cable to the stands who have requested it. You will have been required to order this in advance, and should expect to pay for this in addition to your contribution to WiRE. Electricity is not inclusive – neither is water. There may be several metres between your stand and the connection point, so it is advisable to bring an extension cable or two.

Do not underestimate the effect that lighting will give to your stand – it may be a worthwhile investment, which shows off your products to the optimum (think of jewellery, this is always an illuminated display). Check with the show guidelines but often any electrical equipment will have to be PAT tested and have a label to prove that it is.

During the Show

Again, the more you have planned in advance, the more smoothly things will run.

Check out the weather forecast, and dress appropriately. Always bring warm layers which you can easily add or discard. If it is a chilly or damp day, you will feel the cold because you are standing virtually still in a marquee. Make sure you choose comfortable footwear too. Conversely, if the weather is hot, be prepared for this with a sun hat / sunblock in case your stand catches the sun (sometimes there may be the option of opening part of the marquee up for ventilation).

Consider where you will put the money that you make during the show – a money belt or bum bag is a good idea, as you should never leave it on your stand. Think also about your meals. Make sure you have cash for food, or bring picnics with you. A few snacks are always handy, such as biscuits and fruit. Bring plenty of water, as you will find yourself doing a lot of talking for a very long day!


Everyone wants to promote and sell their products during the Show. WiRE suggests that you can maximise your opportunity by considering the following points:

Body language – think about how you are conveying yourself to the prospect. Sometimes vendors choose to stand at a distance from their stall to encourage people to look for longer. Beware though: do not be tempted to read a newspaper or complete a crossword: you are conveying a “do not disturb” message. You will also fail to spot a buying signal.

Chat up lines – think about what to say to the prospect which will encourage them to converse: the longer they stay, the more likely they pay!

But – this does not mean chatting to other exhibitors or friends – you will not be able to engage with your potential customers if you are already in conversation.

You are allowed to ask for the sale! If a potential customer is looking at and admiring your products, THEY ARE INTERESTED. Help them to visualise the product in their home, offer alternatives, offer to hold it until they leave – ask for the sale.

Sales tactics / strategy – try a special offer, or competition to entice custom. Consider having a bowl of sweets on your stand.

Display design – what about a colour or theme? Use all of the available area: 3d on the table, the walls etc.

How actively do you follow up leads? Why not encourage prospects to leave their details if they are looking for a particular item that you do not have with you, and contact them once the show is over? Make a note of any promises that you make…you will be amazed at how easily you can forget these things when you have a lot of people to talk to, one after another.


Why not let your current customers know that you will be at the Show and would love to see them there? You may find that the time spent chatting with your clients in a relaxed atmosphere may reveal more about their buyer behaviour than you expect. You may also choose to use this contact time to find out why they don’t buy.

Why not issue your own press release too?

If you have something that you would like to place outside the marquee, make sure you discuss this with your WiRE Network Officer to check that this fits in with the Show Society’s rules.

Co-operation and Safety

Each WiRE member must take responsibility for the safe construction of their display, adhering to the Show Society health and safety policies, which will be provided for individuals to read by WiRE. It would also be reassuring to think that members will look after each other, such as chatting to a waiting customer whilst a buyer is being served, or minding a stall for a few minutes. WiRE is all about networking – the supporting of each other, so we hope that you find great support from members, as well as offer your own.

If you would like to know more about exhibiting under the WiRE umbrella at Shows, contact WiRE on 01952 815 338.