Exhibitions & Events
“I go to all of the trade shows, know a lot of the people making marketing decisions, and I want to keep my finger on the pulse” – Nate Holland
Exhibiting your business at exhibitions or events is often an excellent route to meeting new prospects and growing your pipeline of enquiries. However, attending a show is often a serious investment in both time and expense so you need to ensure you maximise your return.
Firstly, you need to think strategy:
- Why are you exhibiting?
- Who will be attending?
- What message have you got that might capture their attention?
If you simply attend a show on a whim and don’t purposefully integrate it into your business marketing then you are at risk of not getting the best results for your business.
First, when booking your position at the show (assuming you have a choice of where to book) you need to think about your stand and how you will be able to interact with the people passing by. If you have a corner or end stand position you might have two or even three sides to cover which means needing more personnel to man the stand.
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Exhibitions that use a shell scheme system are often set up with the smallest stands being a 2 x 2 meter unit where you will have other exhibitors either side of you. A 2 x 2 is not massive and 1 or 2 people would normally be more than sufficient to deal with this size.
Exhibitions: How to get your stand to ‘stand out’?
Clearly, you are competing for the attention of the visitors so you need to make sure your stand is eye-catching and visible. The DIY route often involves sticking some posters or printouts up around you and it will look like you’ve done it yourself. OK if you’re selling cakes down the local community centre or school fete but not really the impression for a B2B business to business company.
Roller banner stands are a good, budget option. On a small stand, 2 or 3 banner stands can look very effective (assuming they are professionally designed and consistent in style). At exhibitions, banner stands tend to be very practical being light weight and easily portable – they’re also quick to put up and take down and easy to transport.
Professional ‘pop up’ exhibition stands are much more expensive and are normally quite large – with a dedicated carrying case normally doubling up as a leaflet display or table. These can be heavy and difficult for a single person to put up. However, they portray a very professional image and are useful for larger stands or exhibitions where there isn’t a shell scheme.
Another option can be to get printed panels created that you can then stick / attach onto the shell scheme panels (assuming the panels allow for this – normally hook and loop self-adhesive tape will do). This can often cost the same as banner stands but you retain the full square footage of the stand taking this approach. This then allows you to display more equipment or marketing materials within the stand area itself.
Whatever route you take, we would always recommend that you get your graphics professionally designed and produced to ensure the quality is right. The last thing you need is for the graphics to be pixelating or blurry and a professional experienced designer will make sure you don’t make school boy errors like putting your message low down on the graphics (where no one looks!), etc.
Finally, remember that manning your stand and ‘working exhibitions’ is hard work – you’ll be on your feet all day (DO NOT sit behind a table assuming people will come to you!) and you’ll be talking all day. You need lots of energy and enthusiasm … if you’re taking others with you, make sure they understand the rules. A huge jar of sweets or a chocolate fountain is sure to pull visitors to your stand … we’ve seen cup-cakes hundreds of times and even a magician being used to lure people onto stands.
Marketing the show
If you’re going to the trouble and expense of exhibiting then you should also take some responsibility to promote your attendance to your prospects at large. This can be through your normal communications, through specific advertising or even through personal invitation. It’s not just the show organiser’s responsibility to market the show – all exhibitors should make an effort too as it’s in their interest!
You can certainly include techniques to increase attendance to your stand at the show … special ‘show only’ offers, show trials, competitions and demonstration opportunities are all normal and, to a certain extent, expected by the attendees of the show.
And don’t assume that’s where your marketing ends … you should have a clear marketing strategy to follow up after the show as quickly as possible. Any good marketer would plan for a 6-8 week window before AND after a show to raise your profile and drive through enquiries so be prepared for some work!
Essentials for Exhibitions
Based on our own experience, here’s a list of the essentials and basics to take to a show:
- Plenty of note paper, pens and a stapler to allow you to take notes and attach business cards, etc.
- Scissors, craft knife, sticky tape, etc.
- Water … you’ll be talking a lot and you’ll need to keep hydrated.
- Mints … no one wants bad breath.
- Power … take extension leads, phone chargers, power cables, etc – a lot of show organisations now insist on electrical PAT testing!
- Gel … take hand sanitiser with you, you’ll be shaking a lot of hands!
- Pain killers … you’ll get a headache if you’re working it right!
And don’t forget your leaflets, business cards, brochures and any promotional items you want to take!
Ask for help and don’t DIY your stand – your customers expect you to be professional! Use professional designers and printers to help you stand out from the crowd!