Exhibition planning – part one

How to plan a successful exhibition

Exhibitions remain an important element of many organisations’ marketing plans.  They offer a perfect opportunity to meet customers face-to-face, network with industry colleagues and demonstrate products in ‘real-life’.  But exhibiting at trade shows is a costly affair. They can often absorb a considerable proportion of a marketing budget and a substantial amount of time with their planning.

To get a good return on investment (ROI) you need to make the most of the opportunity.  In ‘exhibition planning’ blog series, we’re providing top tips for maximising the value of your exhibitions in 2019.  First up we’ll look at what you need to consider when planning for your show.

1. Set out your exhibition objectives

Before booking any exhibition you should consider what objectives you are trying to achieve.  For example, do you want to launch a new product?  Raise awareness in a new market?  Research a new idea?  Whatever your goals, make sure that exhibiting is the most suitable medium to accomplish them.

2. Choose the right shows

Carry out as much research as you can about the range of shows in your industry.  Ask your customers and suppliers which events they attend or speak to your trade associations.

To get a good ROI from the show it’s critical that it attracts the people you want to talk to.  And whilst the show organiser’s media pack will give you a good guide to the visitor breakdown, nothing beats actually attending for yourself and talking to exhibiters about their own experiences.  Remember your objectives and evaluate which show will help you achieve them most effectively.

3. Location, location, location

The difference between a show being a success and a complete flop can often be down to your stand’s location.  Think of an exhibition hall as being a shopping mall and you want to ensure that your store is on a main mall with lots of people passing by.  Often the largest stands get the spaces at the front of the hall, so opt for other areas with high footfall, such as near cafes or conference hall entrances.

4. Optimise your stand design budget

Make your stand build budget stretch as far as possible by thinking outside of the box in terms of design.  For example, do you need a large stand space if you’re not showcasing products?  Can you make more of an impact by increasing the height of your stand over your footprint?

Make sure you understand the difference between a shell scheme and a space only stand.  Weigh up the pros and cons of a space only stand versus a shell scheme stand in terms of cost versus impact. Often a space only stand will generate a bigger impact and if you find a low cost stand builder it doesn’t have to be as expensive as you think.

5. Have a strong message

Before briefing your stand builders about your stand design go back to your original exhibition objectives and make sure that the messages you plan to communicate meet those goals.

Don’t try to say too much on your stand – keep your messages simple.  Remember that people will be walking by your stand, so you won’t have long to keep their attention.

Remember, you can use media to communicate more detailed messages e.g video, touch screens, social media feeds etc.

6. Plan well in advance

Don’t leave organising your exhibition until the last minute.  Even with the best intentions, it’s easy for other projects and day-to-day business to take priority and before you know it, your show is around the corner.  If you don’t have a marketing team, consider getting support from a marketing agency or consultant to ensure you have time to plan for the most effective show possible.  Download our free exhibition countdown organiser for more advice.

7. Shout about your stand

Invite all your customers and suppliers to your stand – either via email or even better, with a good old-fashioned phone call!  Perhaps offer them an incentive to visit your stand e.g a free gift, champagne or food.

Make use of any free promotional opportunities offered by the show organisers, such as social media mentions, or exhibitor listings on their website and in the show guide.  Speak to the exhibition’s press office and their media partners, who will always be on the lookout for exhibitor news to share on the run-up to, and during the show.

Produce a press release about your stand well in advance of the exhibition and send it to all your industry press contacts.  Invite editors to your stand to see your product in action or meet your Managing Director for an interview or video.

8. What’s the take-away?

You want to give your stand visitors a lasting impression of your business, so as well as planning you stand design, you need to consider what you’ll give them to take away.  This could be a simple business card, a company brochure, or why not go paper-free and opt for a handy, loaded memory stick?  Alternatively consider promotional items, such as notepads or pens with a clear contact call-to-action, or something quirky that everyone will want to pick up and take away.

In summary

When executed correctly, the planning of an exhibition should begin months prior to the event.  Download our free exhibition countdown organiser for more information.  But by taking into account our top tips, you should be all set by the time exhibition week comes around. Sign up below to receive our next blog post when we’ll look at top tips for optimising show time!

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