How to maximise the return from exhibitions

Selecting the right trade show, the perfect position and booking the space is the first step in securing future sales leads, but it’s then that the hard work really begins. If you really want to make it a success then here are a few vital tips

1.       Understand your objectives – This may sound a no-brainer, but unless you know what the goals of exhibiting are, then how can you measure the results.  Think about who you want to attract onto the stand, what # of qualified leads you are aiming for and how you can differentiate yourself from any competitors. 

2.       Plan ahead  – whether you are having a shell scheme or a large bespoke stand, draw up a schedule at least 6 months before the event, so you have plenty of time to draw up designs, create stand graphics and messaging to achieve your key goals.  Don’t leave this to the last minute! Ensure that everything is ready 1 month before, leaving you a buffer of contingency for modifications or delays along the way.  Book hotel rooms as soon as your stand is confirmed as these are often snapped up quickly.

3.       Get the Message Out and maximise your impact at the show.  Don’t make the mistake of spending so much time planning your perfect stand that you forget to let anyone know about it.  Tell all your existing clients, new prospects and press, make personal invitations via phone, email letter or during conversations. Many shows will offer you access to pre-registered journalists to help set up any media interviews and some will even provide html templates that you can use for emailers. Start promoting your event at least three months ahead and offer free tickets via social media, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Follow up invitations with prospects and arrange meetings at the show.  Ask your staff to add the show to their email signatures.

4.       Take advantage of all the free marketing and PR opportunities available from the organisers, such as show guide entries, online exhibitor info, press packs, telemarketing and speaker opportunities. Or why not entice visitors to your stand with a promotional offer, competition or free beverages, which can also form part of your marketing messages in the run up.

5.       Brief your staff to work the room – How many times do you visit an exhibition and see staff on an empty stand looking at their feet or browsing their phones. Before the event starts, give everyone a pep talk to explain what the overall objectives are. There’s no need to ‘pounce’ on visitors, but staying glued to your chair or hiding behind a monitor will not encourage people onto the stand. Encourage staff to network with a ‘how can I help you today?’ rather than ‘Can I help you’. Engaging in small talk and a welcoming smile can work wonders for breaking the ice. Favour open rather than closed questions to keep the discussion going. Remember crowds attract crowds and people are reluctant to enter an empty shop. A show de-brief, post-show is also recommended.

6.       Record keeping is vital, so whether you are using an electronic pen or another system, ensure that ALL leads and all notes are recorded centrally with sufficient background (it’s difficult to recall all your conversations after the event) and someone is assigned to ensure this happens.

7.       Follow up immediately – get the most out of your investment in the event by following up with every contact, within a couple of days, even if it is just with an email. Then follow up again within two weeks, to keep the lead warm, using phone, letter or any other method to secure a meeting (minimum 6 times).  If the timing is still not right, ensure the lead is placed in the CRM system for follow up at a later date

8.       Measure the results – review the number of conversions 3 months after the show and the £value of sales made. Do this again 6 months and 12 months after to ensure the total revenue is calculated.

9.       Keep a note of best practices – By collating a file of all your hard work, with notes on what worked best and what didn’t, can help you to refine and/or replicate your success at future exhibitions.

Exhibiting is like any other business practice, the more you take part in events, the better you will become at them.  Finally, good luck and Enjoy showtime!

If you don’t have an in-house marketing resource that can manage the promotion of your event, then why not outsource? For further information on project-based work please contact