Preparing For An Exhibition

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Perfect Planning Prevents Poor Performance

We’re all familiar with the above concept (and some may remember it with an added “P” word but for the sake of professionalism I couldn’t possibly publish any expletives!).

When it comes to exhibitions, it’s vital to plan, plan, plan because it’s a key opportunity to develop business and present yourselves as experts in your sector. An exhibition executed well should help  to build relationships, generate new leads and gain visibility. Putting in the work pre-event is vital to a busy, dynamic exhibition stand and your overall success.

First things first. Make sure you have researched the exhibition and its relevance to your business objectives, before spending out on a stand. There are many exhibitions out there and you need to spend your budget wisely to maximise the results.

For the sake of this blog we’ll assume you have done your homework in booking the right exhibition for your business, and that you have chosen your stand position and size to capitalise as best you can with the budget you have available.

Pre- Event Checklist-

Design your stand – graphics, screens, pull ups, pop ups, display panels, internet access, point of sale, special offers, flyers, brochure stands, promotional merchandise, exhibition uniform …

Remember that all these things take a little while to produce so be kind to your suppliers and give them as much notice as possible. Most things cost more money to produce if they are needed on an express service, and it can limit choice as well, because not all products have suitable processes for express production. Forward planning will save you stress, tight deadlines & money whilst affording you the greatest choice!

Exhibition advert – often you have the opportunity to place an advert in the exhibition guide, so make sure it’s well conceived and designed professionally, and submitted in time to meet the print deadlines. If you’re not good with words, get someone else to write the copy for the advert or the business summary.

Special Offers – consider an exhibition only offer and send that information to the exhibition organisers so it can be advertised in advance.

Social Media – get a social media campaign going to broadcast the show, and to invite your followers, customers and prospects to visit your stand. This engagement can greatly boost the footfall to your stand and optimise your exhibition investment.

Invitations – add details of the show to your email signatures, and send out invitations (quite often supplied by the exhibition planners) to customers and prospects and email reminders as the day gets closer.

Staffing – ensure you pick the right staff for the stands, and that they have cleared down their other workload for those days. Brief your chosen exhibition staff about the plans for the day, including objectives, key clients, on point messages etc…

Insurance – check the exhibition providers insurance cover and take out any additional insurance you require.

Health & Safety – the regulations under the Health & Safety Act 1974 impose duties and responsibilities for all employers to their staff whether they are in their place of work or exhibiting at a show, so make sure you have everything covered.

Transport – If you have large display items/objects that need to be featured on the day then speak to the exhibition organisers to arrange access, and make sure you have suitable transport arranged to get everything you need there!

Busy, Busy, Busy

That’s what you want your stand to be – a dynamic, buzzing environment that attracts visitors all day long, to make your exhibition investment  worth every penny.

As well as putting the groundwork in prior to the event there are many ways to keep your stand busy throughout the day, and here are a few to get you going-

Offers and competitions – both traditional ” register here/ post your business card here” type mechanisms to win something, and social media campaigns.

Professionally presented staff – perhaps using eye catching colour themes and/or coordinated outfits branded with your logo to stand out – also creates a “team” feel for the staff.

Engaging visuals and interactive mechanisms- people are stimulated by visual treats so it’s always good to offer them something.

Active social media engagement – using the exhibition hashtag to narrowcast to the visitors anything exciting happening on your stand.

Attractive branded seating area for visitors to sit and  experience your products or services in comfort.

FREE promotional merchandise or samples with key contact details on – make sure you can control its distribution! Unfortunately there are still “exhibition locusts” who swarm stands and consume any promotional freebie in their path, without ever considering the product or service you are offering!

Show “scoop” material – offering visitors to your stand the first glimpse of new products or services.

Exclusive access to free content for visitors- this helps to demonstrate your expertise.

No, No, No

Now this is only my point of view, and the list of no no’s has come about from personal experience as an exhibitor for my own business, and also from walking around many exhibitions and business shows as a “visitor”. So I guess you can say I’ve seen it from both sides.

No no 1– Poor planning and promotion – people need to know you’ll be exhibiting to know you’re there! No pre-event marketing means you’re relying on everyone else’s efforts and their target customer may be completely different to yours!

No no 2– Not having an entry in the event guide – again you are then “invisible” to a certain degree until people stumble across your stand as they walk around. Make sure you get your advert across to the organisers by the print deadline.

No no 3– Poor stand presence – weak stand design and graphics that don’t clearly define your business, boring display and nothing that visitors can engage with on the day.

No no 4 – Poor staffing – a) staff with limited knowledge- eg if the staff need to have  particular knowledge of certain products or services it’s no good putting someone on there who has no experience, b) badly presented staff, c) not enough staff, d) too many staff, e) shy staff.

No no 5 – Bad briefing – everyone should know what’s expected of them on the day, and be focused on that and not on their lunch, chatting with colleagues, sitting down in the corner or more engrossed on their mobile phone than engaging with visitors. Everyone should be able to “pitch”

No no 6– Hard Sales techniques – personally I think an exhibition is not the place for a hard sell but perhaps for certain sectors this is acceptable. I prefer to consider it a platform to demonstrate expertise and integrity.

No no 7 – Packing up early – regardless of how long the day has been or how quiet it appears to be getting, stick it out- that lone straggler could be your best contact that day. They may be late arriving because they’ve been very busy running their very successful business but they’re desperate for the solutions you may have to offer in a particular area of business!

No no 8 – Not capitalising post event – make the most of all your hard work on the day by connecting via social media and building them into your database.

Let’s end on a positive note though because it’s not realistic to expect exhibition perfection! If you’re a newbie exhibitor, or a start up with limited budget, or you get an opportunity to exhibit at the last minute, then you can’t do it all so just get it going and refine it as you go along. Just try to “walk through” the process and experience your stand from the visitors perspective so you make the most of each and every opportunity presented. Good luck in all you do.


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