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16 Ways for AWP16 Exhibitors to Get the Most out of the Bookfair

You're up to speed on how you can survive and thrive at AWP as a participant. How about as a bookfair exhibitor? It's a lot of work, but there are ways you can succeed. Today we look at 16 of them.

1. Publicize, publicize, publicize

You know how many exhibitors there’ll be at the bookfair? Well over 800, which means that unless you’re The New York Review of Books, people might have a hard time finding you.

Remedy that by publicizing your presence before, during, and even after the fair. Tweets tagged #AWP16 and Facebook posts are quick ways to let your audience know you'll be there. Also, leverage your blog to provide tips and insights, and give your readers a heads up about any specials or promotions you might be running at the conference.

2. Run a special promotion or contest

While it’s true that your work should speak for itself, with so much competition, visitors might need extra incentive to come to your booth.

That’s where a special promotion comes in. It might be as simple as selling journals at a markdown, or offering a discount to people who register on your site or join your mailing list.

Another option is a contest, whether it’s a random drawing or merit-based. And providing winners' names and prizes at your booth will entice participants to return.

3. Keep it simple

If you can afford to dress your booth to the nines, go for it. But if you can’t, don’t fret. Sometimes simpler is better. For example, your giveaways or wares might act as decor on their own. And the truth is participants could be feeling overwhelmed and overstimulated, and might appreciate a booth with a streamlined-look.

4. Practice your spiel

Do some prep work and get an idea of the points you’ll want to hit. But don’t bother memorizing a speech: you don’t want to sound robotic and you’ll want to tailor your pitch according to customer. Finally, don’t worry if you feel clunky at first. You’ll have the hang of your spiel after repeating it for the hundredth time.

5. Consider multiple devices

You might want to have multiple devices on hand, whether laptops, iPads, or even your phone, to run a demo, show off your website or publications from your press, or to sign up people for a newsletter.

Hopefully you’ll be lucky enough to have simultaneous visitors to your booth, and if you do, the last thing you'll want is to to leave a potential customer high and dry while talking to someone else.

6. Strength in numbers

On that note, you might want to have more than one person at your booth. It’ll make handling multiple visitors easier as well as give you the chance to take a break and use the bathroom, get some food, or go for a walk.

7. Accost people

Sitting in your booth reading or looking at your phone isn’t the best way to draw visitors. Make eye contact, smile, say hello. Sometimes people will smile politely back and move on, but other times they might come up.

However, as writer Daniel Wallace suggests, don’t accost those who obviously don’t want to be. You know the look: eyes down, stride purposeful. Wallace also says you’ll want to quickly let go of people who don’t seem interested.

8. Don't be a tortured artist

Seriously, now's not the time. Sure, selling can suck but that’s why you’re at the fair, isn’t it? Get excited, say your spiel, and listen too.

And if you need some inspiration, consider watching sales movies such as Boiler Room or Glengarry Glen Ross.

9. Be a good neighbor

Your visitors aren’t the only ones you should be friendly to. For more than three days you’ll be right up against other exhibitors, especially if you’re sharing a table. Look out for each other, from sharing power outlets, to talking each other up to potential visitors, to visiting each other’s booths.

10. Bring snacks

You might not have the chance to get away from your booth, and chances are food in at the conference center will be overpriced and mediocre. Come armed with some healthy snacks that'll give you energy and won't make you crash.

11. Stay hydrated

Not only will drinking lots of water stave off that pesky hangover and strengthen your immune system, it’ll help save your throat from all that talking. Best also to keep some lozenges on hand.

12. Be comfortable

We're talking shoes. Not only can the exhibit hall be huge, you’ll probably be standing around all day. Also dress in layers. You might either be freezing or too warm, in which case options are good.

13. Walk around the fair

Put those comfortable shoes to good use and walk the fair. You can size up the competition, see what potential customers are up to, and schmooze up the wazoo.

14. Leave the fair

While the bookfair is a good way to sit back and let potential customers come to you, you might also want to go the customers. That’s where attending sessions come in.

Think of your booth as your website and visiting sessions as mini email campaigns. Target your messaging by seeing which sessions might align with your journal, book, or other product. Leave flyers on chairs, strike up a conversation with someone sitting near you, and talk to panelists. However, don’t monopolize the Q&A with your spiel. Approach speakers individually before or after the session.

15. Capture the moment

Don’t forget to take pictures of your booth. You’ll be glad to have the promotional material for post-conference follow up and future conferences.

16. Continue the conversation

Just because the conference and bookfair are over doesn’t mean your conversations with potential customers have to be.

Follow up individually where appropriate. Tailor a special message to those who joined your mailing list. If you hosted a contest, reach out to winners post-conference. Write and publicize a blog post recapping your experience and lessons learned.

What advice do you have for bookfair exhibitors? Tell us in the comments!