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Good moves and what to avoid when exhibiting - Top Tips

Harnessing the awesome power of exhibitions!

Considering that exhibitions and live events are the ultimate in face to face marketing it’s amazing that so many companies at exhibitions with extremely good products or services display or present them in the most tedious and depressing manner. Equally concerning is often the stand staff on hand make no attempt at all to engage the visitor; odds are these are the same staff explaining to their boss later in the day that the show was a complete waste of time and they couldn’t see why they had to be there in the first place!

These companies seriously underestimate the awesome business value that exhibitions and face to face events present. If nothing else consider this; visitors willingly attend events and exhibitions in their 1000’s because they want to do business, buy a product, find a service or solution. Most exhibitions are industry specific so these visitors are your ideal customers, all you have to do is attract and engage them and hey presto you have a prospect. If you come away from an exhibition without getting any prospective business it doesn’t make it a bad event – it’s just poor planning and communication.

  • 1. Why Exhibit

      First things first before you decide to exhibit consider if it’s the right medium for you. Exhibitions may not be right for your product or company. You may be better off with a travelling show and a hand-picked audience, a factory open day or possibly a hospitality event. Exhibitions are part of an overall strategy or “Marketing Mix” and are dependent on a  successful combination of advance advertising, promotion, delivery at the event, follow up and retrospective advertising. They are not a magical solution and are not successful if you just decide to go at the last minute without putting the correct components in place first.

  • 2. Select the Exhibition

      Consider the type of exhibition, venue and area. We have a vast array of exhibition venues hosting both regional and national exhibitions but not all are right for you. Research the show you are targeting before you book the space, data exists with the organiser to tell you how many visitors there were at the last show, how many stands, what the visitor demographic was and what their intentions were. In short make sure the people you need to meet are in fact going to be there and in adequate numbers. Professional organisers will have this information readily available which should have been verified by an independent research body. It’s a good idea to have visited the exhibition and experienced it for yourself before you commit to be an exhibitor. As they say “discretion is often the better part of valour” so know what you’re getting yourself into.

  • 3. Objectives

      People’s ideas of what an objective is will differ, typically “something worked toward or striven for, a goal” perhaps. One thing is for sure you and or your staff are going to have to work hard to achieve it. First off decide why you are going to the show and what the main thing you want out of your stand; Product launch, promote a selected product range or service, meet new clients, entertain existing ones, build image awareness. There could be several reasons but decide on ONE to focus on and build the stand around that. Setting an objective of achieving a certain target of sales at the show is probably not a good objective to set but being focused on getting 10 or 20 follow up meetings in the diary by the end of the day certainly is. Worry about added benefits and selling the client the rest of your product range once you have their full attention which is probably best achieved off the stand or after the show. Don’t waste your very valuable show time talking to one prospect when you could potentially talk to 100.

  • 4. Set a Budget

      This is very important “DONT KEEP YOUR BUDGET A SECRET” it really won’t help. How do you expect your stand designer to give you what you need if they don’t have a budget to work to, they simply won’t know where to start. You’ll need to sit down and define all the costs, direct and indirect that you are going to encounter before you start. Decide how much money you have to spend before you brief the stand designer and / or exhibition contractor. The list of stand costs is comprehensive and no, exhibitions aren’t cheap. If you’re new to exhibiting ask your stand designer or contractor to help, they will be able to guide you as to likely costs for different stand sizes and build scenarios before you become too committed. Whatever the budget you decide to spend plan to get a return on your investment. We would much rather have a client with a keen control on budget, it’s a sign that they are serious about what they are doing and are committed to making the exhibition a success.

  • 5. Stand Design

      The design of the stand will depend on your objectives, type of exhibition and of course the budget. Fitting out a shell scheme stand may prove more cost effective however will be far less impactful than a custom build space. Conversely we have produced custom built stands for less money than a shell scheme project. Be certain to brief the designer carefully on why you are exhibiting and what you want to achieve, don’t tell him how to design the stand but be clear when you tell him what you want it to do for you. Opinions differ slightly but one thing is certain you get between 8 to 12 seconds to make a visual impression and as they say “you only get one chance to make a first impression”. Professional stand design will typically cost 15% of the stand build budget but is money well spent. Most stand designers will be able to prompt you about the most important and engaging factors to consider.

  • 6. Timetable

      Do draw up a timetable right at the beginning of the project. (And while we’re on that subject the beginning of the project as far as stand build is concerned should ideally be some 3 months ahead of the exhibition). Again if you’re new to exhibiting the amount of paperwork and order forms can appear daunting. Talk to the stand contractor as you may be surprised at how many of the nuts and bolts issues and logistics they will be prepared to look after for you. The site services you are going to need will need to be ordered on time, before deadline and paid for to avoid surcharges. Make sure that information is exchanged so that the project proceeds accordingly. Arrange a meeting or meetings with all interested parties to make sure they all know what their role is and what they are responsible for. Remember you cannot decide to put off exhibiting until another day; if you fall behind schedule your stand will look pretty silly with no carpet, power or worse still no stand because someone forgot to place an order.

  • 7. Pre-show Advertising

      Exhibitions are not a magical solution to a sales or marketing shortfall, they’re not a quick fix. It’s doubtful that simply by attending an exhibition will bring you more sales or launch that new product. Exhibitions are an important part of the “Marketing Mix” and should be part of a carefully orchestrated plan which reaches a climax at the exhibition but exists long before and long after the show. There are numerous ways you can advertise your presence at the exhibition and you do need to tell as many people as possible that you are going to be there. The strategy you implement will of course be built around your show objectives and you may have the resources available to create a complete campaign but here are some basic things to consider;

      • Advertise in trade journals or websites, use the exhibition’s banner in your emails.
      • Complete your show profile on the exhibition website early, take advantage of the organiser’s marketing tools.
      • If you are launching a product get on to the national, local or trade press , get them excited and there!
      • Don’t forget to invite all your existing customers to the exhibition, if you don’t your competition just might.
      • Target potential new customers, tell them what you will be doing or featuring at the show, make it new and exciting.
      • Make the most of the show’s PR and capitalise on the VIP’s attending, tell your audience what’s coming.
      • Get on board with social networking; Twitter, Linked-In, E-mail campaign.
      • Extend the life of the event
  • 8. Staffing

      So you’ve got a fantastic stand, it looks a million dollars, everyone has turned up and the stand is inundated with visitors all eager to buy your latest widget. Trouble is Bert doesn’t like selling at exhibitions, doesn’t want to be there and is hung over from a late night in the hotel bar the night before… Get advice on manning an exhibition, knowing how not to exhibit yourself is essential if you are going to succeed. Hand pick the staff who you know want to be there and enjoy the interaction with people, no square pegs in round holes it’s pointless. Having chosen the staff here’s some basics;

      • Plan a sales approach, formulate a number of opening lines and follow ups with of course open questions. People love to talk about themselves so the more opportunity you give them to tell you about their company the more information you can pick up.
      • Have enough staff for the size of stand, each will need at least 3 square metres – don’t over-crowd. Make sure they are immaculately turned out or dressed suitably for the occasion.
      • Draw up a rota so everyone gets a break after a couple of hours so the stay fresh and interesting. Send staff off the stand to take a break, they can chill out, then have a wander to network.
      • Golden rules are no eating, no drinking and certainly no smoking on the stand – that’s what breaks are for.
      • It’s advisable not to have seats on the stand for staff. If there’s a stool they will sit on it and become more unapproachable- that’s what breaks are for.
      • Don’t engage in conversation with fellow sales / stand persons, whenever there is a possibility to engage with a potential client take it, that’s what you’re there for.
      • Turn off mobile phones while on the stand. You have just invested a lot of money to get to meet new people and you would rather take a call you could take at any time?
      • Body language. Make sure you understand the basis of good body language; no arm folding, hands out of pockets, smile, approachable; get some training if you don’t know or even buy a book and encourage staff to read it.
      • Don’t hand out brochures until you have a qualified reason to do so. Once you’ve given a brochure you’ve often suggested closure and the visitor will move on, it’s all about the conversation.
      • Enjoy the time on the stand and make it entertaining for the visitor. Just because its business doesn’t mean that it needs to be serious and boring.
  • 9. Data Capture

      There are many ways you can capture and process the data you are going to acquire at exhibitions. The important thing is to decide how you are going to do this early as it may be that you build a competition, an incentive or interaction into your pre-show advertising. Make sure the stand staff are trained to use the chosen technique e.g. bar code scanners, light pens, iPads. Buying into the show data retrieval system is often the most effective way of acquiring accurate data.  

  • 10. Follow Up

      So you’ve been so successful you’ve got a truck load of enquiries, now how do you deal with them. The best plan of action is to decide how you are going to deal with the enquiries you are likely to get right from the word go. This goes back to your objectives, if everything has gone to plan you should be approaching their conclusion. Therefore decide on a strategy to manage the data and respond accordingly within a pre-determined time frame. Do use images and your presence at the exhibition in follow up marketing such as newsletters and advertisements. Capitalise on your investment spent going to the show, you’ll find that you can use it as an advertising reference long after the event has finished.