Exhibitions and trade shows are a unique chance for potential customers to see, hear, touch and experience your product or service first hand, for the same cost of a colour page ad in a trade journal.
There exists no other way in which you can demonstrate your product or service to so many potential customers in such an effective environment. Nine out of ten visitors to exhibitions have an influence on the buying decision of their company or organisation.
Before the Event
Which Show? Most organisers of shows and exhibitions can supply you with all of the information you will need. Questions to ask are:
- How well established is the event and how will it be promoted?
- What sort of visitors and how many market leaders attend?
- Which Trade Bodies support the show?
- What was the previous year's attendance?
- Which press and media attend?
- What is included in the cost?
Once you have chosen your event, the first thing to do is appoint a show manager to have overall responsibility for organising the stand and show staff.
Decide on your objectives. Are you launching a new product or service, or raising company profile, or contacting a new market, or re-launching existing services, or conducting market research, or measuring the competition. What you want from a show will affect your decision on how to exhibit.
Fix a budget that includes stand hire and design, transport, security, insurance, catering, accommodation and the cost of all the follow up work. Remember, the cost of exhibiting is likely to be roughly four times the cost of the stand/space, so add in a 5% contingency to cover the unforeseen.
Finally book your site as far in advance as possible and choose your stand design and the products to be displayed.
Some planning tips
- Produce a progress calendar and aim to begin you’re planning up to twelve months and not less than three months in advance.
- The earlier you book your site the better the position you'll get. Generally a central location is best as that's where most visitors will want to go. Others gain from an entrance or exit position.
- Remember the little things like vehicle passes and I.D. badges for staff
Stand Size and Layout
There are often only two options of display area. The shell scheme or open space. The shell scheme will give you an enclosed walled area with a fascia board displaying your name and the stand number.
A space is just that, an open area for you to do with as you wish. The size of stand will depend on the nature of your product and the size of your graphics/backdrop. The smallest shell scheme is normally 2 metres x 3 metres.
Some do's and don'ts
- DO - Use the 3 second rule: In the 3 second that it takes for a visitor to pass your stand they have to know who you are, what you do and a good reason for using you.
- DO - Have as much lighting as possible, a dark stand is a dead stand.
- DO - Keep it simple, at a glance information.
- DO - Have a staff rota for rests and walkabouts, more than 2 hours a shift is too much.
- Include time for staff to visit seminars or "Meet the Buyer" forums.
- DON'T - Put too many staff on the stand at once, it is too intimidating.
- DON'T - Leave personal belongings or litter in full view, take a waste bin.
- DON'T - Just give away your card, write your stand number on it and the name of the show.
At the Event
The individuals you choose to staff your stand make or break the event. Nothing is more off putting to a visitor than a gaggle of bored, hung over staff sitting around chatting on your stand.
A briefing session is a must to define your targets. Give each person an area of responsibility, front of stand, walkabout duty. An organised stand is actually fun to work on...Honest!
Dealing with Time wasters
- Competitors... will usually give themselves away. Find out who they are and what they do, most competitors will fall at this first fence.
- Windbags & Magpies.... A prearranged code word to a colleague conjures the forgotten appointment or the emergency phone call.
- Complainers & Salespeople...... You are there to sell not be sold to, or be solving unconnected problems. An exhibition stand is the last place to be dealing with these things, if they must be dealt with take them off stand into a neutral area.
- At the end of the first day hold a debrief session with your staff, It'll help discover what works and what didn't.
The Art of Attraction
Your display, your floor show and your special offers can only do so much to attract potential custom, the rest is up to your people. Ask open ended questions, don't allow visitors to answer just "yes" or "no". The phrase "can I help you?" has very rarely worked. Your body language is also as important as what you say, try to develop a way of making eye contact with potential clients, whilst still talking to an existing visitor. Practice passing on a visitor to other staff thus freeing up your front line troops to bag another passer-by.
Don't miss these little tricks for getting the most out of the show: Take a camera, you never know when a local celebrity may wander in unannounced, if you get the shot you could use it again in future publicity.
Build in time for you and your staff to walk around the show, you may find potential new business in and on other stands, or even new suppliers. Always be prepared, the next enquiry could be the big one.
The Follow Up
The whole event will have been a waste of time unless you are prepared to devote as much time and effort to following up your leads as you did for the show.
Generally the first contact should be in writing within the first week. You won't lose any business by being too quick to follow up. Your letter should be an acknowledgement of your meeting and the subjects discussed, this will show the potential client that they are important to you.
You have already spiked their interest at the show, but remember that on average it takes up to 11 separate contacts to secure an order. A successful exhibition can keep working for you long after the event, keep up the PR by sending out photos and press releases of the stand full of people and customer stories of discovering you at the show.
And most importantly – Do not forget to re-book for the next year!