Exhibitions provide invaluable face to face opportunities to build on existing, and forge new, relationships with clients in an environment conducive to networking. Exhibition attendance costs, so here are a few of our tips on how to increase the ROI of the events to your company.
It might feel like a rehash of every bit of business advice you’ve ever been given, but the first step to getting the most from your exhibition is to ascertain your OBJECTIVES! What do you want to get from the experience? You can only decide how to tailor the rest of your exhibition activity once you know what you want to achieve. Make sales? Establish new leads? Build on relationships? Of course, you can have more than one objective; spending time clarifying and prioritising these means you have much more to rate the success of the endeavour against.
If your objectives involve meeting with and building relationships with existing clients then CONTACT them ahead of the event to see whether they’re going; it could be a great way to open a dialogue. See if you can arrange a meeting at the event (if the event permits), sometimes facilities are, or can be, provided for these private networking meetings.
Take the time to read through the exhibition literature and NOTE THE DEADLINES given. Being aware of the deadlines can be advantageous if you are able to choose your stand location as these are often offered on a first come first served basis. If you do get to choose your STAND LOCATION then decide whether one or two open sides works best for you, do you want a plot near a catering stand? Are there any other activities in the exhibition area that it may be advantageous to be near?
Are you thinking of running a COMPETITION for delegates or does the exhibition run one that you can get involved in? The organisers will be able to let you know if there are any restrictions regarding competitions and may be able to help you promote your activity.
Allowing time to read through the exhibition literature properly will also allow you to identify allocated SET UP TIMES and UNLOADING arrangements. With these in mind you could mark out the space of your stand on the floor and have a run through the set up and layout. This will help you take only the equipment necessary and know what is and isn’t achievable in the space and time provided.
Make sure that your staff at the event are BRIEFED; a unified message is stronger than a mismatch of information. Let them know what your objectives are and the approach you want them to take. If you have the resource, select those staff personalities that are best suited to the objectives you’ve identified. Sometimes this means a more senior person is not appropriate!
SUSTAINABLE THINKING: Before attending the exhibition think about what INFORMATION and MERCHANDISE you want to supply and how you’re going to supply them. Many delegates don’t want to carry around masses of paper and brochures, plus they aren’t great for the environment! How many ‘giveaways’ make it to a delegate’s desk rather than the bin? It may be just as cost effective to look at branded, pre-loaded USB sticks (which double up as useful merchandise) or to simply email information or utilise a file sharing website.
Hopefully your preparation means that you have spent time considering your stand’s APPEARANCE. Try not to block any open sides – they could help invite delegates onto your stand. If you have lots of members of staff but a fairly quiet stand, ask some of them to check out the rest of the exhibition or visit catering points to network with delegates and other exhibitors – too many staff on an empty stand can be intimidating to delegates.
The exhibition may provide opportunities to ENGAGE with delegates via social network feeds or news updates. If the exhibition runs parallel to a conference, does your attendance package include conference sessions? If so try and attend these, as well as providing insight into the issues your potential customers may face, they could provide talking points for later conversations with delegates.
SUSTAINABLE THINKING: It seems that today everyone claims to have green credentials. Take the time to think about how you want to convey your company’s SUSTAINABLE ETHOS. Delegates may know an awful lot about the topic and can recognise a ‘Green Wash’ – ensure that you and your staff are up to speed with the message you are delivering.
Try to FOLLOW UP leads within a couple of working days of the conference, so long as delegates indicated they were happy for you to do so. Keep contact as personal as possible, not just adding new leads to a generic mailer database.
Take the time to fill out any EVALUATION surveys you are sent. Exhibition organisers value the feedback of their customers and strive to improve their experience in order to better the event – in the long run this could help you!
As well as event feedback, have a DEBRIEF session with your team. What did they think they got from the experience? As a company, how can you improve your exhibition presence? It is best to conduct this as soon after the event as possible, while it’s still on people’s minds.
SUSTAINABLE THINKING: Only send out catalogues and brochures if necessary and requested – try and keep as much information ELECTRONIC as possible. How can leads help you as a business to be sustainable? Could swapping sustainable practices continue a dialogue?
So, our advice for getting the most out of your exhibition experience; PREPARE - read the supplied information, ask any questions, know exactly what you can do, where and at what times and brief your staff. Actively ENGAGE with delegates, both virtually and face to face. Gather and communicate your FEEDBACK – it’s your chance to have your say about any recommendations and changes to your experience. Always consider SUSTAINABILITY in every decision you make!