This weekend one of my favourite sports stars was in action. Step forward – Conor McGregor

To those unaware of McGregor, he is an Irish mixed martial art fighter who has taken the sports world by storm and is currently the biggest pay-per-view star in America – earning more than $22m in the last 12 months.

He’s extravagant.

He’s a trash talker.

He’s a loud mouth.

He’s a troublemaker.

He’s right up my street.

Traditionally in combat sports it’s always been the big guys that have been the big ticket, earning the mega money and stealing the headlines but the small man McGregor has ripped up that rule book and there are some lessons for the small shell scheme exhibitors in any hall.

So as you rock up to your 2, 4 or 6 sqm white walls of (s)hell, it’s time to channel some McGregor swagger, drop those limiting beliefs and get your game face on!


Don’t be intimidated by the bigger competition

McGregor fights at featherweight but is more than prepared to take on bigger fighters at lightweight and welterweight. He dismisses the weight disadvantage and focuses purely on his strengths. In the hall, the other guys may have the financial clout to buy bigger stands but that doesn’t mean you can’t out perform them.  As he says, he might be a lightweight but all his cheques are super heavyweight. It’s the same when it comes down to square metres.

Keep an eye on the exhibiting prize

As a prizefighter McGregor knows his appeal and keeps a keen eye on the two things that write his cheques – wins and PPV numbers. Be clear on what success looks like for you as a small business. Let the big exhibitors worry about brand awareness and share of voice. Focus purely on the prize – sales and money. Set a financial objective that all the team know about and it needs to be hit within three months of the event – or on the closing day if you are exhibiting at a consumer event.

Hard work pays off

The way exhibitions and trade shows are currently set up means they are hard work – that’s undeniable. McGregor is a dedicated professional who spends weeks in camp to make sure his fights go according to plan. On top of all the training, sparring and technical work, he does yoga, gymnastics and Bruce Lee shizzle. If you rock up to an exhibition with little training and a last minute rush on graphics and ideas the likelihood is that you’ll probably be pretty shit. Exhibiting success comes at a price and requires hours of hard work if you want to get it right. The hours you put in will give you plenty of confidence on the floor when the doors open.

Small stand, big mouth

A small stand in the exhibition hall doesn’t mean anything in the digital space. Whether you are a big or small exhibitor you all only have one listing, one profile page and the same amount of social media opportunities. McGregor smashes social media on a regular basis and makes it entertaining. As a small business you are not restricted by brand guidelines and process protocols. Show some personality and watch the digital conversations flow.

Make the headlines

McGregor’s rise to fame and fortune hasn’t come about through luck or the alignment of the planets. It’s widely acknowledged that he is the one of the most accommodating sports stars in the world doing numerous press conferences, TV interviews and behind-the-scenes documentaries. He also treats big broadcasters and YouTube journalists with the same attitude. If you are exhibiting, take a similar approach and actively seek out coverage and interviews.

Know your target market

As a small business you’ll know that keeping your clients and target audiences onside is your lifeblood. A lot of McGregor’s success is down to his ability to associate and connect with his fan base and he does it on a regular basis. He regularly reinforces the characteristics and traits people find appealing and that’s something you should seek to do when you exhibit.

It’s show business, so put on a show

Whether you like it or not, exhibiting is about getting attention. You need to put on a show in order to get people to engage with you. If you don’t, your (potential) customers will look elsewhere. Whenever McGregor fights he is the king of stealing the limelight and it doesn’t take much. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to get attention when the rest play it safe! When the doors open – it’s show time!

Have an exhibiting look – and stick with it

McGregor understands the importance of creating a look all of his own and he loves a crisp, designer three piece suit outside the ring. When you exhibit as a small stand you need the sum to be greater than the parts so that means you, you staff and your stand need to be consistent and unambiguous. It doesn’t need to be a suit but it does need to match the personality, ability and showmanship of the business.

So that’s it exhibiting as a small business – Conor McGregor style. Next time, I’m visiting an exhibition and I see an exhibiting crew walking to their stand like this – I’ll know what they’ve been reading…

(I would literally love to see this)

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