My last experience of a business expo was the Business Show at ExCel. As I mentioned in my May newsletter, I found that interesting but rather over-large and overwhelming — I needed a map to find my way around, and the dozen or more seminars going on at the same time were often directly competing in volume. I made some interesting contacts, but it wasn’t easy to cope with.
On 4th July, however, I went to this year’s Hertfordshire Business Expo, at the Alban Arena in St Albans, and found it much friendlier and more manageable. There were plenty of stands (71 according to the programme — I didn’t personally count them) but there was time to visit a good proportion of them and have a chat, whether or not there was any direct prospect of selling.
And that, I think, marked the biggest difference with the Business Show, more than size or busyness. At the Excel, it seemed as if a large proportion of the exhibitors were only interested in talking if they could sell you something. There were exceptions, and I did make some good contacts there as well as maintaining existing ones, but that was the overall impression.
Of course, no-one pays for a stand at an expo and takes a day out of work unless they think it’s going to pay for itself in new business, but there are different ways of going about this. Most of the exhibitors I spoke to seemed interested in making connections, rather than straight-up selling.
There were three seminars during the day, and I attended two of them: an introduction to business planning from Mel Hilbrown of STANTA and a talk on managing cashflow by Chris Wallace of Visionary Accountants. Both were excellent. Much of what they covered wasn’t new to me, but both are topics worth revisiting regularly, and there were new tips and recent changes.
One area where the Herts Expo won out over the Business Show (for me, at least) was the catering. Instead of franchises selling the likes of burger and chips for a tenner, there was an unpretentious stall selling good, cheap snacks and drinks. The one slight failing was the lack of a place to sit down, but there was plenty of room in the foyer to eat standing up.
All in all, my impression of the day was very favourable. I made a number of contacts that I hope may bear fruit down the line, as well as running into some familiar faces (including some that had previously just been virtually familiar), and the seminars were both useful and unstressful. I did miss out on the speed networking, but that was entirely my own fault — next time, I’ll book earlier.
And yes, I’ll definitely put this in my diary for 2017.