Small businesses: 14 tips for getting the most from events & festivals

Wed Jun 14 2017

Scaling your business can be fun, especially if you mix up online and offline efforts.

Networking online, identifying influencers for your brand and reaching out to customers using exciting content on social channels are all potentially efficient and scalable ways to extend your reach. These online activities are particularly good if you’re a small enterprise on a limited budget because they don’t have to cost much or drain resource.

But growing your business by having face-to-face meetings, attending industry events and exhibiting or selling at festivals can be effective too. Done well they're sociable platforms for making connections, increasing your profile and brand recognition, reaching wider audiences, and generating leads and sales.

Choose the right event or festival and you can show potential customers what you do, find out about industry developments, tap into expert knowledge and reach wider audiences with your products.

There’s no shortage of industry events and festival opportunities on offer for SMEs, but having a strategy to select the right ones and using them to best effect is essential when it comes to making the most of your resources.

Whether it’s a small networking event, a larger trade show or a vendor pitch at a consumer festival, many of the ingredients for success are the same. Combining the online and offline worlds, for example, can greatly maximise the value of your attendance – if done correctly.

Here are 5 tips on how to boost the potential benefits:

“Me and my team offer dedicated support before, during and after BBST, just as we offer one-to-one dedicated education and support for major roll-outs outside of festivals” - Brian

  1. Do your research and choose wisely. Just because you’ve read the marketing literature or you like the headline acts doesn’t mean the event or festival will meet your needs. On the flip side, your company’s offering may appeal to more sectors than you first thought, which can open up the number of suitable events.
  2. Look at how much the event or festival is being publicised — it could reflect how busy it’ll be. If you’re not sure, attend as a visitor before deciding to exhibit and ask your customers which elements they found most useful or enjoyed the most.
  3. Booking early can give you a better chance of securing your preferred location. Plan your stand or stall layout so it’s both appealing and practical for visitors. At a festival, that might include:

    - putting your food menu up high in large letters so people at the back of the queues can peruse it while they’re waiting

    - making it very obvious that you accept contactless payments – a big draw for festival-goers with no cash.

    - making sure your staff are fully briefed on the messages you want to put across and the experience you want to give your potential customers and consumers.


  4. Use resources such as the agenda or line-up, floor plan or map to get the most out of your networking or peak-time footfall. At industry events, contact key delegates in advance and arrange to meet on the day. At festivals, make sure you’ve got expert support for things like setting up your stall, connecting up contactless terminals and urgent support for stressful situations, like running out of till rolls!
  5. At a business event, make sure you have enough business cards, brochures and anything else you’re using to promote your brand. At festivals, make sure you’ve got everything you need, after all, there’s no popping out for supplies once you’re in full swing.

Here are 9 more tips on using social media to make the most of your presence at the event:

  1. Use it to work out whether an event would suit your business, find out who’s attended it before. For example, use Twitter and see who tweeted about it. Then contact them to find out how useful they found it, who else was there, and whether it was a niche event or it had broader appeal.
  2. Have a plan and be prepared. If you haven’t already, set up dedicated Twitter and Facebook accounts for your business before you go. Do this ideally a few weeks before so you've got time to drum up a following and familiarise yourself with what content gets the best engagement.
  3. As well as tweeting and posting on the day, it helps to put plans in place for pre- and post-event coverage. Post and tweet beforehand to build excitement, then share, tweet and post content afterwards to maximise on momentum and keep relationships warm.
  4. Live-tweet and share what’s going on with your audience. They’ll particularly appreciate it if they can’t be there. Take care not to flood your newsfeed with updates though. Instead, give them a flavour of what’s going on, then follow up with longer content later, or give followers somewhere to register if they’re particularly interested in receiving longer and more frequent updates, like a newsletter.
  5. Take good pictures. Images and video work best on social media, but make it interesting rather than the usual exhibition stand photos. If your stand, stall or pitch looks good and you want to photograph it, let people know what the pull is — like prizes, free cupcakes or awesome festival food and the ability to make contactless payments.
  6. Rather than being pushy with sales messages, be conversational and offer interesting tips or helpful facts. These can be along the lines of, 'did you know this is the best-attended event in five years?', 'the shortest queue for coffee is at the tea shop on the second floor', or ‘queues for our stall are super fast-moving because you can pay with contactless’. It lets you engage your audience in a more natural way.
  7. Use the correct event hash tag. It can be surprising how often delegates, exhibitor and vendors use the wrong one. If in doubt, DM (direct message) the organiser to double-check.
  8. Don’t just stick to Twitter. It’s great for conversational content from the day, but don’t neglect your other platforms like Facebook & LinkedIn where longer content works better.
  9. TAKE A CHARGER. It may sound simple — but you can’t tweet when your battery is flat.

Finally, it’s important to understand that any progress you make from an industry event, such as new contacts or pitching to your peers, might not generate immediate results.

But what it can give you is a vital insight into how people perceive your business. You never know, the next person approaching your stand could one day transform your company’s fortunes. And at festivals, each day’s takings will tell you instantly how successful you’ve been, but the positive ripple effect could be massive, opening you up to audiences you’d never have been able to reach otherwise.

Don’t let the pace you’ve gathered, and interest you’ve sparked, die away after the event – ride that wave, diversify your business and reach as many people as you can.

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