I have planned and delivered lots of exhibitions and tradeshows in my marketing career. While this is not a definitive guide, it is a surefire way to kick-start and deliver a successful exhibition from planning to follow-up.
Trade shows and exhibitions offer a massive range of benefits; they equally demand a considerable amount of focus, budget, and commitment.
An exhibition is a perfect opportunity to meet and communicate with people whom you may not otherwise meet and engage as your brand. Attendees of exhibitions are potential buyers looking to source new partners, solutions providers, or buy your product.
I have shortlisted ten essential tips to ensure your exhibition is as successful as it can be.
Have a clear set of goals
Before even booking your exhibition space, be sure to have a clearly defined set of goals for the event.
Are you planning on selling a product? If so, set a sales target and consider payment solutions that will work within an exhibition environment.
Are you looking to network with other businesses? If so, consider a seating area within your stand space and pre-book meeting slots through marketing activities.
Once you have identified your goals, set yourself realistic targets. Ensure you and your team have everything you could need and more.
My biggest bugbear is when someone tells me they have run out of business cards.
For a successful and stress-free exhibition experience, ensure that you plan and consider every possible requirement before, during, and after the exhibition.
Allow enough time to reserve your space, the design and production of your stand, create any promotional materials required, as well as shipping and installation.
Pre-book electricity, catering, and any additional sponsored marketing activities such as wifi promotion, leaflet distribution, and digital advertising.
I strongly advise running a CRM to capture conversations and contact details. Not only does this quickly capture details, but it also allows for a seamless follow-up experience for both yourself and the potential customer.
Having a branded, unique, and eye-catching exhibition space is essential to be noticed. However, look at and consider what your competitors and other exhibitors have done in the past.
How you present your brand can make or break an event.
Consider what they are doing successfully and what they aren’t doing so well.
Stand design and planning
Once you have conducted your research and identified your approach, start working on the design and presentation of your brand’s stand.
Regardless of whether you are working with an external agency or an internal design team, allow enough time for initial concepts, revisions, final artwork preparation, and any production hiccups.
I recently had an issue 3 days before an exhibition, where our production company lost our stand graphics and notified me 30 minutes before boarding an 11-hour flight to the USA. Thankfully, I had a full backup on our shared drive, which I could easily reshare before boarding.
6-week marketing campaign
As soon as your space and stand number are confirmed, make sure you spread the word.
Take advantage of your company website by writing an article or press release. Design and send mailshots, data dependant, to let potential attendees know that you will be exhibiting, and most importantly, why they should visit your stand.
Follow and start engaging social media accounts for the event and join in the conversation using relevant hashtags.
Use this opportunity to inform attendees where you will be and maybe even what they can expect to see at your stand.
I like it when companies share stand visuals before an event. Not only does it show proper planning, but it will help people identify your stand when attending.
First impressions are key
Some exhibitions are incredibly busy, I recently exhibited at one where over 4250 other companies also had exhibition space!
Your exhibition space must make a good impression.
As well as an eye-catching design of your space, have staff members ready to welcome onlookers — Balance the fine-line between pushy and proper sales etiquette.
A break area with seating and refreshments can provide the perfect opportunity for you to share your product/service with attendees.
Appearing friendly and professional is a great conversation starter and puts you in good stead for a successful event.
If you can, and the budget allows, find a way to create interaction at your exhibition stand.
Not only is this a great way to attract people and generate interest in your stand, but it can also inform people of your products or services.
Touch screen activities are a great and straightforward way of doing this.
You may choose to hold a competition or a challenge where there are prizes involved — ensure that whatever interactivity you select, it is relevant to your business and your target market and it works within the exhibition environment.
Your stand’s visitors will have seen a lot of exhibitors in a short space of time. Ensure they remember your brand when they leave.
Promotional items such as pens, bags, and notebooks are a superb way to promote your brand and make your company more memorable. They can also give potential clients a further point of reference should they wish to contact you.
It is vital to remember that most exhibitors will be handing out promotional items. So be as creative as you can. My favourite thing this year has been a reusable coffee cup, which I continue to use most days.
It’s 2019, and going live is on everyone’s to-do list, and I am a huge advocate of this where possible.
Use the event hashtag to start a live discussion using video, highlighting where your stand is and why they should visit it. If you do not have the confidence to go live on camera, you can still join the conversation. Using static imagery or pre-recorded video, post at frequent intervals during the exhibition.
The biggest challenge most exhibitors will face is their follow up process. The excitement of the exhibition is over, and it has been a long 3–4 days where conversations may have slipped your mind.
I mentioned a CRM in being prepared. This is a gold mine when used correctly.
If you have been adding contact details and conversation notes during the exhibition, your follow-up will be effortless.
It is essential to follow up with any potential leads soon after the exhibition, while the conversation and your brand are still present.
However attractive your stand, charming your sales pitch and conversation, and high quality your promotional items are, it can be difficult for attendees to remember everyone they met on the day.
So don’t wait too long to get in touch with people. One or two days after the show is generally a useful guide and one that I have found to work very well.
Industry exhibitions are a significant investment, so the more prepared you are, the better.
Make your space and marketing strategy creative but cohesive and well-considered to carefully suit your brand.