The Donuts are lively little blighters with plenty of reader-on-editor action, but until now our relationship with you, the audience, has been conducted entirely from eyeball to screen. Communicating face to face, and convincing new readers to pay the sites a visit, was always going to give us a fresh perspective on Project Donut. So it was at last week's Business Start Up Show in London's Docklands.
As a form of marketing, exhibitions can be a bit hit and miss. You have to choose the right event, but when you do you're pretty certain to meet useful new contacts and kick start a few potentially lucrative projects. Why? Because exhibitions afford the opportunity for business folk to do what comes naturally - talk. For all our tweeting and texting, technology can never replace the power of a face to face meeting. Get it right, and the contacts you make at an exhibition can lop weeks off your marketing schedule.
Be warned, though - exhibitions require a lot of organisational skill. It pays to use a checklist and work through it before you go. Lights, stand graphics, power supplies, presentations, sales collateral - get them all organised well in advance. I've been to plenty of shows and I don't think I've ever been 100% happy with how things turned out. This time, we suffered from a lack of napkins (we gave away donuts, natch) and blue tack (for the wall-mounted screenshots). Something will always crop up, but at the very least you should download this indispensable checklist and work through it.
And don't forget to take care of an exhibition stand's most important apparatus - your people. Organising a roster which gives everyone a break has the dual effect of ensuring the stand is properly manned for the duration of the show. Also, don't forget to drink as much water as possible. Exhibitions can leave you dehydrated and the air is made thin by all that constant chatter - to which you'll be contributing.
Finally, don't scrimp on stand graphics. The man who designed ours, and the people who designed our pop-up stand, are nothing short of geniuses. The stand fits in a wheelie-bin, and the wheelie bin doubles as a plinth. Add our rather colourful graphics and it's an awesome combination - as you can see here.
Martin Read, BHP Information Solutions
I only found out that I was going to be on the Start Up Donut stand at The Business StartUp Show at Excel a couple of days beforehand so there wasn’t much time for the reality of what this meant to sink in.
People kept saying to me that it would be hard work, but I don’t think I realised just how hard! I’m not shy when it comes to speaking to people or striking up a conversation and I project manage the Start Up Donut so I felt confident about singing its praises to people running small businesses. But what I didn’t realise is that you’re talking constantly to a seemingly never-ending stream of people. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that we were so busy and I’m really pleased that I got to speak to so many people, but by the time I got on the coach home I was ready to fall asleep.
As a start-up or small business, I’d imagine attending an event like this is well worth the time and effort. With exhibitors ranging from those offering training and motivation to advice on intellectual property to business support there’s a huge range of information, resources and potential contacts in one room. Not to mention the array of the seminars and workshops.
The highlight for me, however, was meeting so many different characters. When you work on a project/website every day it is so nice to meet people who have heard of it or visit the website regularly and who have feedback for you, even if it's things you could change or ways to improve the site. I found it really interesting to explain the Start Up Donut (and also the Marketing Donut, Law Donut and the IT Donut which is due to launch at the end of the Summer) to people who’d never heard of them and to explain all of the features and gauge their reactions.
Next time you go to an exhibition, remember to say hello to the people you’ve heard of and let them know what you think of their product or service. You might just make their day.
Anna Kirby, Start Up Donut