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Oslance: Planning is key for getting the most out of expos

Published: Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013 4:44 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013 5:03 p.m. CDT

In the coming months, businesses, residents and visitors will have two great community expos to attend and learn more about the services and products available in and around the Algonquin and Lake in the Hills area.  

For businesses, expos offer an opportunity to meet a large number of potential customers. For visitors, expos provide a venue in which they can meet and talk with area businesses, helping them to decide who to call, visit or shop at when they need a particular service or product. Expos are not just about selling a service or product; expos provide businesses with the opportunity to create awareness of their location, introduce a new service or product or simply enhance their branding and image.

The Home & Business Expo & Café is the Algonquin/Lake in the Hills Chamber of Commerce’s annual community expo. It will be Oct. 5 at Jacobs High School Fieldhouse in Algonquin.

With the new fall schedule, exhibitors and visitors will enjoy not only the fall weather, but new exhibits including a craft and farmers market. During this one-day event, more than 85 local businesses will be able to sell and promote their services and products. Eight area restaurants will be on hand offering samples of their cuisine.

This year’s event is sponsored by Centegra Health System, Northwest Herald, T & R Communications and Windy City Strategies.

For information on how businesses, restaurants, crafters and local farmers can register, visit www.alchamber.com or call 847-658-5300.

For business people who enjoy the outdoors, registration is open for the Summer Sunset Festival EXPOsure. It will be Sept. 1 during the Lake in the Hills Summer Sunset Festival.

This event is a great venue to prepare for the Home & Business Expo. Exhibitors will enjoy the outdoors while meeting with visitors to the festival. Both venues are great opportunities to sell services and products while promoting awareness about a business.  

These are two great opportunities to give any business a boost for the fourth quarter and a great start to 2014. For information, including how to register, contact the chamber.

To help you get the most from any exhibiting opportunity, consider the following suggestions.

From planning to follow up, if you take the time before, during and after, you and your business will benefit. For information on how to get the most from your expo investment, visit www.alchamber.com/expo.html and click on the Expo Planning 101 link.

When planning to exhibit, set realistic and effective objectives.

What is your unique selling proposition? In other words, what sets you apart from your competition? Think about what you will say in your 60-second commercial. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about what you can do for the customer. How will you advertise your participation? Will you use gifts, in-store advertising, inserts in your billing, or mail out personal invitations? One of the most important things is to determine how you are going to obtain qualified leads. Surveys, lead cards and raffle cards are some options.  

When planning your space, think about how you will draw visitors to the booth. Exhibiting is about the face-to-face interaction. Does your booth create that feeling? People are tactile. They like to touch, play and see how things work. Create an interactive game, trivia board or catchy gimmick. Create something fun or even unusual to draw visitors to your booth.  

On the day of the expo, remember to have fun. Are you dressed appropriately and ready to greet visitors to your booth? When exhibiting outdoors, it is OK to dress for the weather, however you still want to convey a professional appearance.

Here are some things not to do: don’t chew gum, don’t read a book, don’t talk on your cell phone, don’t sit behind the table.

Also, listen rather than talk. Don’t just bombard passersby with your sales pitch.

Visit other exhibitors. This is an excellent opportunity to search for potential business partners. 

After the expo, the most important step is to follow up. Be sure to schedule time in your calendar for your followup activities. It’s a good idea to prepare what you will use for your followup contact before the expo. 

If you offered a raffle prize to capture contact information, include a box to check stating “I just want the prize.” Why? It will eliminate all of those unnecessary calls to those people who truly just wanted the prize, giving you time to focus on those who really wanted to hear from you. Keep in mind, those who initially just wanted the prize may need your service or product in the future, so you still will want to save their information in your database for future use, such as advertising.

Expos and trade shows provide a unique opportunity that cannot be replicated in any other type of venue. No other venue offers local businesses the chance to meet a large number of potential customers all in one day.

• • •

The Alliance of Professional Women is hosting a Speed Networking Luncheon Aug. 20 at Port Edward Restaurant. Networking starts at 11:30 a.m. with lunch to follow. The cost is $15 for members and $20 for nonmembers. Call the chamber to register in advance.

The chamber will host its monthly wwWednesday Social Media Meet Up for members Aug. 21 at the chamber office. Blogging will be from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Facebook will be from noon to 1:30 p.m., and LinkedIn will be from 2 to 3 p.m.

The chamber’s monthly Business After Hours will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 22 at Castle Bank, 4020 W. Algonquin Road, Lake in the Hills. The first 25 guests will receive a complimentary gift from Castle Bank.

• Sandy Oslance is president of the Algonquin/Lake in the Hills Chamber of Commerce. 

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