What To Think About When Your Company Is Exhibiting

Having recently exhibited, I wondered what makes an event run smoothly for your company…

I’ve had a bit of a gap since posting, time flys when you’re busy! Part of this busy-ness is due to having recently exhibited at the Publishing Expo in London where I stayed at EasyHotel. AKA EasyHell.

EasyHotel, aka EasyHell

Needs more orange, right?

The experience did make me think how I do things a certain way during events organisation and maybe laying out some tips will be useful for others. So here are my top tips for managing your event.

1, Plan, plan, then plan some more.

In the ideal world you would book an event way beforehand and have 6 months to plan and campaign. This isn’t always possible, we all know that cashflows can fluctuate. This might mean that you have a short period of time between sign off and actual attendance of an event.

It will help if you have a process and update this process as your experience with events grows. You need a tick list of “To Dos” before the event itself, including who is responsible for what task. This should include putting together a pack for your attendees (see Tip #2) and a list of items you need to take.

Is the car hired? Who is picking it up? What is the agenda for this 3 day event? Not the event agenda – your agenda. When will you all meet and where on day 1? Who leaves at what time? When will one attendee be at a seminar so other attendees know to be on the stand?

Also, you need to plan your budget and how this breaks down. Overspending isn’t going to do you any favours.

Here’s a short list of things that can be easily forgotten:

  • Batteries.
  • Connection leads.
  • Packaging/Electrical tape.
  • Scissors.
  • Pens!
  • Splitter plug.
  • Chargers for devices.
  • Cleaning product and cloth (set up makes things dusty).
  • Food and water (it’s really expensive in exhibition venues).

2, Make a pack for attendees.

This should contain things like tickets/badges, how to get to the venue, your plan of action, seminar agenda, car park passes, car hire details, travel times, day budgets for travel and sustenance, etc.

I put together a front page brief that includes the event date and details and a map of the local area. Attendees can see details for local transport or nearby roads and landmarks if driving. Importantly, I also include details of the nearest coffee shops, supermarkets and Nandos (nom), especially if an overnight stay is involved. Sales people especially really need to have access to a constant supply of coffee!

Also, you will need to include details of my next point…

3, Set targets.

Some companies go to events just to be seen but most will want to get actual results. As an events organiser I need to justify the spend on these events, exhibiting is expensive! Even to get sign off I need to show that ROI is feasible. Firstly, I will try to show that the right kind of people are in attendance – those that match our known target audience. Getting a list of attendees off the organiser helps here, or last years attendees. Then I need to work out, based on budget and what I know a lead is “worth” to our company, what we need to generate in terms of leads and sales to consider the event a success.

For me, setting lead generation targets includes a target for hot/warm leads that have the potential to become a sale, as well as contacts collected. These are important to me because:

  1. Lead generation is my number one priority.
  2. I need more data to market to.

Your targets may be different as it will depend on what you are trying to achieve strategically as a company. If your average deal is £100k and the event costs a few grand then just 1 sale could justify repeating the event next year. But if you sell smaller value items you will need to make more sales so your target would be higher.

Maybe you can offer a prize for who generates the most business from the event? Targets can be really motivating for some people. Which brings me onto my next point…

4, Take the right people to your event!

Some people like talking to other people and some people don’t. If you take the person that sits at the back of the stand with their head down, looking miserable this will have a detrimental effect as it makes your stand look sloppy and unapproachable.

Take the person who is confident and approachable. The majority of visitors are just going to be footfall past your stand – unless you stop them! You can do this by grabbing their attention (see Tip #5) or by getting out there and talking to them. They can be initially unfriendly so confidence helps here. It also helps if they have the constitution of a mountain goat, standing up all day is tough!

mountain goat

I wore my brightest jacket, a big smile, set myself in front of the stand and talked to passers by. If I didn’t have this proactive approach we would have got zilch from this event!

5, OMG! Get people’s attention!! 

If you’ve attended an exhibition you’ll know that they can be massive, busy and a lot of the stands look the same. So it’s competitive to get the attention of passing footfall. Things that help are…

  • Bright colours on your stand – eg. banners, wall hangings, etc.
  • Take a big screen – stick a video or demo on it. Moving things grab people’s attention.
  • Hold a competition – we gave away footy and rugby tickets. This was a great conversation opener too.
  • Give freebies away – some stands go the whole hog with candy floss machines and remote control helicopters, however, if you have a lower budget simple branded pens are handy. People tend to need them for note taking in seminars.
  • Costumes and themes – Dressing stand attendees up in something eye catching and bright helps. One of the stands had a library theme with staff dressed as nerdy librarians. It was really engaging and seemed fun so they were busy.
  • Reach out to all the senses – As well as having a good looking stand  you can turn the sound up on videos, give away tasty cakes, have a fluffy sofa, smell like strawberries! Sounds weird but some people prefer to experience via differ senses. Plus they are more likely to remember if you touched a variation of senses.
  • Interactivity is fun – Playing a physical game, controlling a robot, playing on a gameboy, entering a literary quiz or playing with a demo. Visitors will spend more time on the stand and engage more deeply with you.
  • Hold a timed PR event – This could be simply announcing your competition winner at a certain time, having a person of importance visit the stand, holding a mini seminar or unveiling your super new product! But make sure you promote this event (see next tip)

6, Campaign during the run up to the event and afterwards.

This event is a great opportunity to get in touch with contacts in the industry and let them know you are exhibiting. Send mailers to announce your attendance, let them know about competitions and remind them what time your seminar is. Make sure it’s out over social media networks and plan to update them throughout using the correct event hashtag – if this is going to be difficult you can schedule updates with a tool such as Social Oomph.

What relevant content could you produce and post in the LinkedIn group? Who can you phone to arrange a meeting with at the event? Even just letting people know you are attending this important industry event will put in their mind that you are on the ball, understanding their industry and needs. The call might just act to remind them that your service exists in case they have a need.

Afterwards, send updates on competition winners, seminar recordings or a “nice to have met you” email. Keep an eye on who’s interacted with your social media, they might have said something nice you’d like to share!

Twitter reaction

7, Get a speaker slot.

Most of the time buying stand space entitles you to a speaker slot. This will really help to boost your exposure. You need to ensure the presentation you give adds value to attendees and event organisers, no-one wants to hear a big fat sales pitch. However, you still need to sell it into the organisers so ask them what other people are presenting and what are the hot topics; then try to fit your proposed subject into that.

This will also give you some nifty content to share after the event for those who attended and want to review what they learnt, as well as for those who missed out.

Seminar Session

…and here’s a photo of us on the beach…

8, Time for some competitor research!

Go look at their stands, get some collateral, see how they sell. You might even want to talk partnerships with them! Either way, this is a perfect opportunity to see how your competition is selling.

9, Research all networking opportunities (or hold your own).

It helps to allocate certain attendees to go to networking opportunities. Bear in mind that these might be within the event, held by the organisers, but that there could also be other networking events held externally by associations and the like that aren’t connected to the event. For example, we went to PPA events on both nights of the exhibition. They knew industry people would be in town and took advantage of this opportunity. You should too. If your research doesn’t throw up much maybe you could even hold your own networking event at a nearby venue?

10, Negotiation is always possible.

Whatever organisers tell you about fixed prices negotiation is always possible. Know what you want to spend and what price point you will not go past beforehand. Think about what benefits you are giving them in return – filling an empty space last minute? Booking super early? First time client? Use those points in your negotiations. You will be helping out your finance department if you can break payments down over a period of time.

Remember, this isn’t an argument and both sides need to emerge happy with the result. Hopefully, the event will be successful and this will be the start of a beautiful friendship!

——————————————————————————————

There are some great seminars online for marketers from the Technology for Marketing and Advertising event that ran alongside Publishing Expo. You can register to view them at http://www.connectwisdom.com/tfma

People of interest to follow:

@publishingexpo

@tfma_event

Please do follow me at @lauraofbrighton

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