I wrote this article a while ago for www.hampshire-business-events.co.uk based on my experience in exhibiting at and organising events and exhibitions and thought it was worth sharing again:
Think about the event as a promotional campaign with three stages – before, during and after and plan your activities for each stage. You will see that most of the work needs to be done before the show so please don’t leave it all until the last few days!
Good planning will make the difference between a fantastic day and a disappointing one. Read your exhibitor guide thoroughly, return any forms promptly and then start your planning.
- Think about why you are attending the event and set objectives. The reason we generally attend exhibitions and events is to:
- Be seen: Showcase your business – raise your profile and let everyone know who you are and what you do
- Get known: Establish your credibility and position yourselves as THE local experts – make sure other businesses know who to turn to when they need help
- Get business: Meet new clients and business partners and widen your network of contacts in the local business community.
So how can you capitalise on this opportunity? Your first step is to decide what you want to get out of the event and set some objectives, and if you have more than one objective prioritise them so you know where most effort should lay. For example:
- Are you promoting a specific product or service or is the show about general brand awareness?
- Are you launching a new product or service?
- Could you use the event to do some research? It’s a good way to get people talking, and everyone has an opinion!
- Will you have any special show offers and how long will they last after the show?
2. Decide what you will do on the day
- Make sure your stand reflects your brand – traditional or funky?
- Think about the 5 senses – can you design your stand to appeal to every sense?
- Make your stand approachable and open, think about the positioning furniture, banner stands etc. Do you actually need a table?
- Make it clear what you do and how you can help the visitors – promote benefit not features and keep your message brief.
Have a bit of fun
- Gadgets, gizmo’s and games, contests, quizzes and giveaways can all draw visitors to your stand. When a stand is busy other people want to find out what’s going on so think about how you can grab their attention.
Make the most of the exhibition
- Read the exhibitors manual, and make sure you know what you are getting.
- Don’t just think about your stand, talk to the organisers and find out what other opportunities there could be to promote your presence. You may be able to suggest some ideas to add value to the event.
Draw up a budget – work out what you need to do and how much it will cost and keep a track of spending.
Keep control of expenses – if you are providing expenses on the day then set an allowance.
4. Publicise your presence
- Let your customers and prospects know you will be at the event – invite them to visit you on your stand or to meet you for a coffee at pre-arranged times
- Remember to return your form to ensure we have your details correct in the event guide
- Send out a press release and use social media to create a buzz around your presence at the show
- Put the event on your website
- Include an event brochure in all customer communications
- Use the event to reinforce your existing marketing activity
5. Prepare your promotional materials
Don’t over do the promotional literature – it is more efficient for you to collect visitor details for follow up after the show than give them your promotional material. However it is worth having some materials available and you don’t need to spend a huge amount of money – a well thought out business card can be as effective as a brochure. A list of top tips which promote your service, and is more likely to be kept after the event – make sure you include your company name and contact details!
Banner stand – if you don’t already have stand think carefully about your message, ensure the stand has life after the show and remember that visitors will be looking at sea of stands so ensure it clearly states what you do. Think about the message you want to communicate in the first 3 seconds that a visitor sees your stand.
6. Prepare your team
- Draw up a rota for the stand
- Only take people who really want to go and involve them in the planning
- Ensure your team is fully briefed and understand their role and your objectives
- Look after the team and arrange breaks through the day
- Think about how you could incentivise your team
- Establish some basic rules covering timing, dress, etc.
7. Sales technique
Plan your approach and decide how you will work your stand
- Have a few questions ready to engage visitors and draw them onto the stand
- Practice your pitch – and make it compelling
- Ensure the team know what you are offering and what the follow up will be after the even
- How will you record visitor information
- How you will handle leads – prepare enquiry forms to enable information to be recorded quickly and notes made for follow up after the event
8. Setting up
Allow time to prepare and get set up on the day before the event. It gives you time to make last minute tweaks and get anything else you need.
All your hard work and planning comes into effect. A quick team huddle in the morning will ensure everyone understands their role. Make sure you are on the stand when the doors open and you are ready to rock and roll!
9. Stand etiquette
- Organise exhibitor badges in advance and collect them early
- Keep your stand space tidy and clear of boxes and bags
- Try not to eat or drink on the stand
- Take regular breaks
- Stand up, look friendly, approachable and positive – smile!
- If you need to talk in more detail move to the seating areas
- Don’t leave the stand unattended
10. Follow up and evaluation
- Qualify your leads into hot, warm and cold and follow up the hot ones fast. Allocate sufficient time for follow up after the event and make contact within one week.
- Evaluate the event and what you achieved – for example, number of new contacts made, value of sales, number of hot, warm and cold leads, level of awareness achieved and other less quantifiable outcomes such as customer retention, team spirit etc.
- Think about what you would do differently if you attended a similar event in the future and make some notes.
- If you have any feedback (good or bad) for the show organisers then let them know.
For more help and advice about exhibiting visit www.exhibitingmagazine.co.uk