I am alarmed by the number of exhibitors who reportedly measure their success at an event by the quantity of brochures they have dispensed. “It was a fab show – we ran out of brochures by day two”. A skip is cheaper and more purposeful for this objective.

In these internet-savvy days I would rather not dispense brochures at an event – preferring to capture visitor details and mail them a pdf or a word document that they are more likely to access. More professional, increased chance of being read and another excuse for contact after the event is over. However, I do recognise that some businesses rely on brochures and so for them I would urge a different course of action. Firstly, if possible, design two brochures; the pucker version and the cheaper C.A.B. version. The pucker version is wheeled out for your prime prospects and the C.A.B. version is dispensed to less interesting visitors – “here’s my Card And Brochure – please do call if you are interested”.

If on the other hand you simply cannot afford to be without a brochure, then you need to think about how to display them. Thrusting them into a visitor’s already over stuffed carrier bag is simply a waste. We have all seen (and suffered from) the overstuffed carrier bag syndrome at events. We attempted to measure the relative merits of different brochure displays available and drew the following conclusions.

The least effective way to dispense brochures was through a neatly fanned out display. Visitors were visibly agitated and reluctant to spoil such a nice display! In addition to this the situation is usually further compounded by the stand personnel tutting and rushing to resurrect the display after being plundered by a brave visitor! Next came a pile of brochures on a table. Visitors were confused whether they were supposed to help themselves or whether this was your personal ‘stock’ of brochures, and not for their consumption. There were several instances of visitors furtively looking around before grabbing a brochure and running off down an aisle before someone could collar them! Hardly conducive to interaction. More effective were the plastic display units or shelf units that can be bought or hired at most events. These were quite effective until the supply depleted and each unit held one or two brochures. At this point visitors were reluctant to take your ‘last’ one. As long as these are continuously topped up, they seem an effective way to display your brochures.

The most successful method, however, was remarkable simple. It involved nothing more elaborate then a random ‘scattering’ of brochures on a table. With no pattern to disrupt and their intention clearly for visitors to browse through, there was little reticence amongst visitors. The visitor behaviour was also one of ‘loitering’ whilst looking. This presented the perfect opportunity for stand staff to initiate a friendly approach and interact with the visitor.

So there you have it – throw enough brochures at a table and some of them might stick.