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Making the Most of Business Exhibitions

Last updated August 24, 2012
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To Exhibit or Not?

It must be that time of year when exhibition sales companies gear up for the Autumn sales push because many of my clients are now wrestling with the dilemma: To Exhibit or Not.

On the face of it exhibitions are a great idea and can be a valuable marketing tool, but all too often they are just a waste of money. Why? Because companies don't plan, prepare or follow up. Here is my essential checklist for achieving a successful exhibition:

A. Ask yourself these questions before you go any further:

a) who is going to be exhibiting - customers, suppliers and competition?

b) who will be attending - those you know and those you don't?

c) how good is the exhibition organiser at attracting the right target market for you?

d) what happened at the last event that might affect your decision?

B. Now with the answers to the above questions, be  very clear about your objectives, this is money straight off your bottom line - spend it wisely! It shouldn't be a difficult question to answer - what do you want to achieve? If you can't answer this, then don't exhibit!

C. Can you achieve just as much by attending the exhibition as a visitor rather than an exhibitor? If you can, then save the exhibition fees and concentrate on working your contacts and opportunities hard.

Now that you have decided to attend as a visitor or as an exhibitor you need to get super organised! Unless, of course you are going to stay at home!

1. Document your objectives and measurable goals

2. Set a budget, don't forget to add in everything - staff costs to attend and the value of lost work in other areas, transport, giveaways, etc.

3. Book the stand, hotel, travel etc

4. Tell everyone you are going to be attending or exhibiting at xx event. Use Linked In, Twitter, Facebook, etc., good old fashioned email, announce it on your web site, notes on your invoices - in fact everywhere. Start the conversation early and build on these relationships before the event.

5.Don't leave it to chance. Don't just wait on the stand for hopefuls to drift by and hope that they stop for a browse or a chat. You need to go out and find your targets.

6. Have your hit list of people to meet with - now book an appointment with them, now. You could do breakfast, coffee early and late morning, lunch, afternoon tea, early drinks and dinner - potential time for lots of meetings. These can be on stand or off stand. Don't forget that there may be several visitors from the same company so make sure your target the influencers as well as the decision makers. 2 or 3 day conferences whilst tiring throw up more networking opportunities with dinners, drinks parties etc. Plan your time and don't drink too much!

7. Set up a rota to staff the stand and make sure that when you or your leave the stand that you go to find the people on your hit list.

8. Be prepared with 'takeaways' for visitors - make them small, light and useful - no heavy brochures are needed these days!! If it's a gift make it useful, memorable and unique.

9. Ask yourself what will attract visitors to my stand? What is your exhibition USP? Don't forget that you are looking for interactions so have things to help you interact with visitors.

10. Now you need to decide how to collect interested parties information - business cards, scan or Bump? How will these details get onto your CRM system etc?

11. What is your follow up plan after the exhibition - this is usually when the hard works starts! Who is doing what and when?

12. How will you know if the exhibition was a success? What can you improve on next time you exhibit?

Just like everything in business, if you have a clear goal with great objectives that everyone understands then you are half way there. Focus on what you are going to achieve by exhibiting work hard before the event , at the event and then the really hard work converting sales post the event. This same checklist can be used if you are considering a seminar, an event, a conference or a presentation.

What else is on your checklist for making the most out of events?

Shirley Mansfield
Master Business Problem Solver

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