You’ve spent upwards of £30,000 on your 56 square foot bespoke stand at the most prestigious Trade Show of the year, but there’s been minimal footfall and you’ve gained hardly any sales leads. You’ve been standing for hours, trying to catch the eye of delegates who are rushing between plenary sessions and refreshments, running the gauntlet between competing exhibitors. Where did it all go wrong, and what can you do to prevent this from happening again?
Successful Exhibition Tips
As a former Marketing and Events Executive, with experience of working within both the Pharmaceutical and Educational sectors, I’ve seen amazing stands do badly and smaller pop ups achieve great success. Although the amounts of money thrown at the stands are vastly different between these sectors, the objectives and planning remain the same. Here are some of my top tips for making your exhibition stand a success:
Booking The Stand Space
Adhere to the old adage ‘location, location, location’. In order to ensure good footfall, make sure you study the hall layout. A stand location outside the plenary hall will work well for footfall, as will areas close to refreshments. Stands on main thoroughfares always work better than side alleys, and being close to popular (but not competing) businesses will definitely convey additional delegates to your stand.
Stands with open sides will always look more welcoming, as will a nice clean space with seating, work stations for product demonstrations and plenty of friendly stand personnel, all wearing branded t-shirts. While an off-the-wall theme may sound appealing when planning your stand, I think it’s optimal for delegates to understand what you’re selling from a quick glance at your stand, rather than wander onto an enigmatic stand that will hold no interest for them. This may make your stand look busy, but it probably won’t provide many worthwhile leads.
If you attend the same Shows annually, it’s beneficial to book next year’s stand while at the event. Not only will this give you a discount, it will also mean you can maintain the same hall position or have early options on moving to a new area. The only issue I came across with this type of planning is that while conferences stay in the same venue, the hall size and layout can change so you must ensure you keep an eye on any changes in layout. A good working relationship with the organiser is essential to ensure you’re well informed of changes that impact your position and any new opportunities that arise.
The options for branded giveaways are vast – from the staple of brandedpens and water bottles – to high tech and expensive items such as VR headsets and wireless headphones. Some companies will go for quirky and fun items. While these are excellent for generating brand awareness, the greater the long-term value to delegates, the greater the long-term impact. Exhibitors wanting to stand out from the crowd will need to not only be creative but also provide delegates with something they can use after the event – branded memory sticks are always popular and can be loaded up with product brochures, as are USB and phone chargers, while microfibre screen wipes, lip balms and hand sanitisers will all be used after the event and are a cost-effective way to target delegates.
Stand giveaways can also be used to advertise your presence at a Show. Branded bags are excellent for this, but make sure they are large enough for delegates to use to stash all their other conference materials. Large tote bags with handles that are long enough to be carried over your shoulder work well. If only printed for one specific show, include your stand number as well as your company name and website, but if you plan on using them for multiple events – which is more economical as unit printing costs decrease with larger print runs – then avoid including the stand number. It’s also a great idea to have the bags pre-filled with your printed promotional materials and brochures.
Targeting Giveaways for Lead Capture
In terms of budgeting, think about how you are targeting giveaways – some stands will give promotional items to all and sundry, but I think it’s a better idea to give items away to delegates that are relevant and show an interest in your product, especially if your giveaways are more ‘high end’. After all, you’re at the conference to gain customers – some can be encouraged to order your product at the event (especially if an exclusive discount is on offer) but you are also there to capture leads for future sales.
To this end, it’s important to invest in data capture devices – either simple WuFoo forms for your own data collection or consider hiring data pens from the venue. At larger conferences, these are invaluable. Stand hosts simply scan the delegate badge and link each entry to a call to action on a tailored data capture sheet, invaluable if you are promoting more than one product. The leads are downloaded for you each day and sent to you as a spreadsheet, or via an App, for post-conference follow up. Another tip – make sure the follow up is ready before the event. Have templates ready to be sent out 1, 2 and 4 weeks post-event, as you only have a narrow window to capitalise on the interest gained at the exhibition.
In order to attract delegates on to your stand, consider creating an experience for delegates. As well as on-stand promotions such as competitions and exclusive discounts, think about including presentations from opinion leaders, or ‘meet the expert’ sessions. I’ve even seen magicians, who can tailor their performance to include company and product names, and exhibitors that hire masseuses to provide on-stand massages, which were incredibly popular but are obviously budget-dependent.
Advertising and Promotion
Lastly, this is not the ‘field of dreams’. Just because you build it, doesn’t mean delegates will automatically flood to your stand. You’ll be competing with many other stands, including direct competitors, so you want delegates to be aware of your presence and any on-stand activities before the event. Advertise your presence and any on-stand events on your social media platform as well as the Show’s website and social media channels. You can also pay extra for features and advertising within the Show Guide, but in my experience these have little impact at the larger conferences as the Guides are like telephone directories, so delegates will plan their day using the conference website/App.
You may be able to get your logo on maps and signage, especially if you are an event sponsor. Also, are there sponsorship opportunities for events such as a breakfast symposium or the delegate drinks? Is there an award process in place for best new product? Winning stands will be heavily promoted by the organisers and attract delegates to your stand. Can you get your stand featured on a show reel/daily roundup at the event? During the event, you can also raise awareness of your presence – as well as a little intrigue – by hiring a mascot to walk around the venue. Make sure the costume relates to your brand and this can can work really well, bringing delegates to your stand in a ‘Pied Piper’ fashion.
In short, explore and exploit every opportunity available to give your stand the edge over your competitors. Good luck with your event planning – budgets will always be a constraining factor but the right strategy will help ensure your exhibition stand is a success.