Exploring The Business Card Free Exhibition Stand

Exploring The Business Card Free Exhibition Stand 1

In her recent post, Annabel Kaye asks if you can network and be GDPR compliant. Having a stand at an exhibition is networking on steroids. A stand is a significant investment for a Virtual Assistant, Coach or Trainer. A stand at a popular business exhibition can easily be a 4-figure investment. For a start-up, return on that investment can be your number one priority, so gathering as much data, I mean business cards, is the primary reason for booking an exhibition stand.

Once the Business Exhibition is Over What Happens Next?

You’ve demonstrated your products and services countless times, the next step is to hit the phones. Yes, calling every single person you have a card for and saying how good it was to meet them and would they like to see more of your product? Too tired from all that networking? How about you add the cards to your email list and email them all?

Under the new GDPR rules, you are going to have to show you got permission to do any of those things.  It is not good enough to say – they gave me their business card so by implication I could contact them any way I liked and as often as I liked.

Did you get permission to hold their data?

Did your business contact give you permission to:



      Email ?

      Add them to a list?

      Add them to your sales database?

      Pass their details on as a lead for someone else?

Can you prove it?

If you can’t then you are going to find GDPR compliance to be a bit of a problem. It’s not just about online information collecting – but everywhere you collect personal data.

Source: Annabel Kaye

But Wait! I Use My Fishbowl To Collect Business Cards at Exhibitions

Erm, not anymore. Consent – how do you prove consent? I’m sure you can tape your GDPR consent statement to the top of the fishbowl and add that if they add their card they’re consenting to communication with you.  You can take a photo of your consent statement and store it in a safe place. Will it be enough to prove consent? I don’t know. Will it be enough to protect you and your business from the unlimited fines a GDPR breach can bring?

What if you collect business cards for a prize draw?

Under the new rules, you’ll gain consent for the prize draw communication AND follow-up communication. You can’t just ask for a card to win a prize and then start pitching your product and services.

Can You Prove The Business Cardholder Consented For You To Call?

This is where it all unravels. How do you prove that someone willingly gave you their details with the intention of communicating with you about your products and services? Exhibitions are busy, noisy and cramped. Asking for consent verbally may not be possible, and how would you prove this happened at a later date? What if the person thought you were offering one thing and gets upset when you call them about something else?

Here are 4 ways you can obtain the data from your leads and build rapport with them, without a business card.


The Good Old Fashioned Clipboard

The pros of using a good old-fashioned clipboard and a piece of paper are that you have the consent. At the top of your clipboard you’d have your lovely GDPR compliant consent statement.  The person leaves their email address and signature underneath to it.

The cons, aside from looking like your business is from the dark ages, you might not be able to read the email address or signature to add it to your communication list at a later date.

Data Privacy – as someone adds their name to the list they can read up the list and see other people’s email addresses. If you ask for additional data like a phone number, that too can be seen.

The iPad or Tablet Optin

The pros of using a tablet or iPad instead of a clipboard are that you look like a modern business. You can use a digital form that adds someone directly to your email list for the exhibition, and you can automate the process and start communicating with your leads instantly. Of course, your GDPR statement will be in that form.

The cons – not enough charge to last a whole day. No worries, you can bring a lead… and potential H&S issues with having leads loose and dangling in your exhibition space.

You will worry about losing the tablet – like your exhibition stand, it’s an expensive piece of business kit. What if someone accidentally walks off with it? What if it breaks?

Facebook Messenger Marketing

The pros of using a chatbot to communicate with your new prospects are that almost everyone has a Facebook account. Chatbots have a high open rate and an excellent rate of engagement so you can really reap the benefits of connecting. Consent can be obtained by confirming the prospect wishes to chat in the very first message.

The cons of Facebook Messenger marketing are you still need a device for someone to optin. Certain demographics don’t use Facebook.  Chat bot marketing is currently new and can be seen as intrusive by those who don’t get a lot of messages or use Facebook to stay in touch with family.

SMS Marketing

The pros of SMS marketing  – that it integrates with certain email providers. A person willingly texts a number with their email address and they’re added to your list. Like the tablet optin, and Facebook Messenger marketing you can start building an instant rapport.

The cons of SMS marketing are that it can be felt by your prospect as very intrusive – more so than a phone call!

How do you prove consent? Do you have your GDPR statement above the number to send a text too? This can obscure your marketing message, but you’re attempting compliance, there should be some brownie points for that, but sadly there’s not.

The Business Card Free Exhibition Stand is Possible

There are a number of ways you can market at an exhibition without business cards. You can utilise a range to tools and techniques that won’t break the bank! You just have to remember that proving consent is your job.

Would you like more information about GDPR as it becomes available? If so, add your details to the optin box. When the finals stages of GDPR compliance come through, you’ll be given the opportunity to buy compliance policies and other tools that will make your life easier.  Meanwhile, we won’t overload you, but send you a slow but steady stream of useful information.



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