Preparation is key to unlocking potential

IT'S a telling piece of work to ask exhibitors why they come to a business to business show, and to then ask visitors what they got out of it.

Some exhibitors say: "to get orders", others: "to let more people know about our service". The most experienced look for a balance, and know that realistically, however good their show and sales pitch on the stand, the reality is that appointments in the diary are often the best outcome. The really clued-up will quote numeric targets, and know how they're going to go about generating them.

To Business Scotland's credit, all exhibitors at the show can take advantage of a free workshop, prior to the event, and an extensive manual, counselling them how on how to get the best out of the show. Like any good supplier, the organisers know the value of meeting customers' expectations, and anyone who has shelled out money on a stand and invested time and effort in setting it up, will want to see commensurate returns.

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Interestingly, some exhibitors side with the visitors who tend to see a much wider range of beneficial outcomes. Learning opportunities, finding new suppliers and joint venture partners, or just having your creative juices provoked, can be equally rewarding whichever side of the fence you come from. Many exhibitors this year booked their stands after attending as visitors last year and experiencing the unique set-up and the huge range of facilities and services available to help businesses develop.

Cameron Presentations is a case in point. Nicola Garman is the firm's project development manager. As one of Scotland's leading event production and presentation hire companies, based at Edinburgh's Peffermill Industrial Estate, it has a blue chip client list to die for, including the Scottish Parliament.

Garman said: "After visiting last year's exhibition, Cameron Presentations is delighted to have a stand at this year's business-to-business event in the Corn Exchange. As we know, this will be a real opportunity to meet with various people from all aspects of the events business. With our multimedia department we will also be on hand to discuss our full DVD authoring, duplication and broadcast facility services."

Many firms have booked stands again after participating in 2006, when new contacts were made, new orders won, and new ideas learned. A key attraction is the range of sectors covered by the show.

Derrick Ross, business services manager for Learndirect Scotland, says bringing his team from Glasgow is worth it to make small businesses aware of the free training support and advice available to them through their government-backed service.

"We recognise that an extra pair of hands to help small companies plan and implement effective workforce development strategies is a godsend," said Ross. "Many SMEs do not have the time, expertise or resources to diagnose appropriate training solutions that could improve their productivity and bottom line. We will take care of all of this, while they get on with running their business.

"Our objective is that every business that visits our stand is motivated and encouraged to become more competitive through employee training and development."

Business Scotland's six core tips for helping exhibitors get the most out of their stands are sound common sense:

• plan your presence at the show

• use the support provided by the exhibition company

• brief and train your stand personnel

• have the right people on your stand

• market your presence

• evaluate.

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Good planning at the beginning will mean you can make a proper evaluation at the end. Exhibitors that produce a brief report on their success, making sure they get feedback from everyone involved, will be able to tell whether they should book again next year. Success stories after the show can also offer opportunities for publicity.

Even beginners should aim for this level of planning in presenting their stands. eBusiness UK had a track record of ten years in the north-west of England when Neil Fraser bought into the first of 100 planned franchises, taking over in the south-east of Scotland this summer.

Fraser said: "I am exhibiting because I am a new business in the Edinburgh area and I wish to raise my profile. The Business Scotland exhibition is the perfect tool to achieve this. eBusiness UK helps firms make the most of the internet, including website design, e-commerce, internet marketing services, content management and search engine optimisation. We're a company that makes your website do what it's meant to do, which usually means making more money for your business. We wish to convince as many businesses as possible of the benefits of using our services and expertise. This is our opportunity to do this and the more businesses give us the brief to help them develop their business, the more it will justify the time and effort put into this exhibition."