Small Business Expo: An Exhibitor Story

Post Last Updated: 28/04/2021

The Brisbane Small Business Expo

Read about our first time exhibitor experience at the 2020 Brisbane Small Business Expo. We will be at the upcoming 2021 Brisbane, Gold Coast and Logan expos. Come say hi!

Your unrestricted access on how we prepared and set up for the Small Business Expo in Brisbane  

We’re taking you along on our journey to the Small Business Expo in Brisbane.

Join us; we’re sharing all the juicy bits. In this post you’ll find loads of useful information including helpful strategy and preparation tips, a comprehensive expo checklist, time-saving tools we used as well as what worked and what we’ll tweak next time.

As newbie exhibitors (but experienced marketers), we’re combating the learning curve by prepping well in advance. And listening to the experts.

At a Small Business Expo workshop, Paula Brand shared her tip to perch on a barstool rather than sitting behind a desk.

Here are our tips to help you prepare for any upcoming expos. We all need to rely on the expertise of others, which is why we’ve shared our Brisbane-based local suppliers that we would choose to work with again.

Table of Contents

Click the links below to move quickly to that section.

Questions That Helped Us Get Started

We have a large Website Services menu, so how do we choose what to focus on at the Small Business Expo?

There’s going to be two of us at our stand, with only 6 hours of “expo time”. So we’re budgeting 4 – 5 minutes to talk to each attendee, and other exhibitors.

Bombarding people with a giant marketing service menu or being generic would get us nowhere. Having a meaningful conversation creates a connection.

To do that, there are a few questions we need to answer:

  • How can we help small businesses do better?
  • What would make people want to stop and chat?
  • What can we give business owners that will be valuable to them?

Our first idea came from a comedy skit Sha laughed very hard at—comedian John Mulaney’s monologue on how every single day, we all spend time proving to robots that we’re human. Sometimes the bot doesn’t even believe us, so we end up clicking on more road signs or entering complex strings of case sensitive letters.

We all need this t-shirt…

Every experience we have on a website shapes the way we connect with the business who owns it. So Sha’s idea was demonstrating this with a game.

Choosing What to Promote

With only two of us “manning” the stall, we realised a game would take too long and probably confuse visitors about what we do. We are an entertaining bunch but we’re not selling tickets to a show.

We decided on a service and message based on

  • A service we know is important for all small businesses
  • An idea that we can demonstrate the benefits quickly & easily
  • A service that has tangible benefits to business owners that can be measured
  • Content we already have (including online/print/proven results/customer testimonials)

Comprehensive Expo Checklist – What to Bring

Don’t forget the essentials. Start preparing early in case you have to order items that can take a while to print or post.

Download and print the checklist

Promotional materials. Make sure to order 1,000 pamphlets/brochures and 500 business cards. If you want them to be displayed upright (rather than lying on the table), pick up some holders too.

Paper bags. If you have multiple brochures, it’s handy to pop some into paper bags so visitors can grab one and go.

Pull up banners. These will form the backdrop of your exhibit and measure 2000mm x 850mm. They should be eye-catching and related to your pitch. Get two to fit a standard 1.8m x 1.8m exhibitor space.

Stationery. Have some pens, fine-tip permanent markers, and clipboards handy. That way, you can collect attendee details and make notes about what goods/services they’re interested in.

Tablecloth.  We chose white so the display looks inviting and so the items on the tables “pop”. Organisers provide a trestle table [1800mm x 800mm x 740mm height]. To cover it adequately, you want it to drape down covering the legs (so your tablecloth needs to be large).

Size to buy: 220 x 330cm, which is a floor length drop on a 1.8m x 75cm (6ft) trestle table

Devices/large screen monitor. If you need to display digital content, a large screen of some sort is essential. That way, attendees can look at your slideshow, video, or images to find out more information about what you offer.

Power.  Don’t forget your device chargers, a power board, and an extension cable! You’ll be kicking yourself if you’re stuck without power.

Laptop locks. Secure your laptop to the table to make sure that your device is secure even when you’re not looking.

Bowl. Have an attractive bowl of sorts to collect business cards. Make sure that you have a sign on it to direct people to drop their cards in. To draw more interest, advertise an offer or run a competition.

Table decor options. Have a small pot plant or a basket of chocolates or lollies to make your table look even more inviting.

Self care items. Bring some water bottles, tissues, a barstool to perch on rather than sitting behind a table, comfortable clothes and shoes to make sure your day is as painless as possible.

Get a print ready copy

What we’re taking..

Aha, yep that is a sloth. Click photo to view a larger image.

From top left to right: a “hello.. how fast does your website load” sloth partner, sign holders, brochure holders, business card holders, water bottles, clipboards, container to collect business cards, power board + extension cable, 500 business cards, stationary holder, stapler, ribbon, scissors, pens, pencils, fine tip permanent marker, stickers to write our names on, hand sanitiser, tissues, various printed brochures, chocolates, tablecloth (x2 options). Not pictured, we are also taking 2x pull up banners.

Useful Tools

Who doesn’t love shortcuts? As a small business ourselves, we can’t live without tools that deliver high quality results and save time.

  • Canva. This Aussie company has disrupted the graphic design industry on a global scale. We use Canva every day. Yes, every single day for image editing, creating brochures, business cards, presentations, and more. It’s affordable, easy to learn, and includes a growing list of templates, images, and videos. Try it out now, but be warned, you won’t be able to live without it!
  • T Shirt Mill design software. Easily design and print custom tees with a huge range of t-shirt colours and styles to choose from. They’re in South Brisbane, so pop in and their helpful team will gladly let you try on styles before you print.
  • Microsoft Teams. Your team can communicate and prep for the expo easily. We’re a Microsoft Silver Partner and we help businesses configure Office365 and Teams all the time. Even if we weren’t a partner, we would still use Teams.
  • Google Analytics. Measure the effectiveness of your efforts at the expo by seeing whether there’s a spike in website traffic.
  • Caffeine. Honestly, this belongs on most lists.
Coffee mug with 'Chocolate Lover'

Sha’s cup that makes her feel better when there’s plenty of coffee but no chocolate around.

Online Marketing – What to Do

To prepare for new leads to look you up, make sure your website content is ready and in line with your message at the expo.

People often research using their smartphones. Check that your website caters to visitors using all screen sizes (view your website on a smartphone, tablet, and desktop). Also ensure your website pages load fast.

Promote yourself in advance! Post on socials, send out an email newsletter to your client database, and take photos and Facebook Live videos to share.

Add a event post on Google My Business to let local searchers know what you’re an active part of the local business community. Invite them to come see you!

Need help preparing your website for the expo?

Suppliers – Our Local ‘A-Team’

Here’s a list of local small businesses we have used, and would use again.

Car wrap by SS Signs | Custom tee by T Shirt Mill | Office space by Hub Anzac Square

  • T Shirt Mill. We design and they print our custom t-shirts.
  • Hub Anzac Square. Our Brisbane office is in a co-working haven, tucked inside a spacious, gorgeously fit out heritage building, brimming with friendly locals.
  • SS Signs. The Boost IT car does turn heads and its thanks to the premium design and car wrap service by SS Signs.
  • Print Systems. We order our promotional material (brochures) and pull up banners from Print Systems.

COVID Safety

Covid safety measures 2020

COVID safety plan for 2020 from expo event organiser

Top 4 Exhibitor Training Highlights

Because of Covid, we attended two excellent training sessions with Paula Brand. We recommend you attend an exhibitor training session if there is one offered, and take all staff that will be helping on the day so everyone is on the same page.

Here are some highlights from Paula’s tips:

What to keep top of mind

Top 4 things exhibitors should remember at the expo

Have we missed something? Email us or leave a comment below.

small business expo Brisbane

The Boost IT Crew: Sha Nayagar and Richard Cowley.

Photo from Moreton Bay Region Expo

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