Getting the best of out of conferences & exhibitions
Whether it’s BIBA Fever or the Financial Services Expo, it’s that time of year again when the exhibition season steps up a gear.
We all know that exhibitions and conferences are a good chance to attend industry drinks and dinners and catch up with contacts, but are you really making the most of your time and money there? Is your stand buzzing with activity or are you wondering why you bothered?
Using our experience of exhibitions, here’s a few pointers to turning any event to your advantage.
Picking the right exhibition
Like any marketing activity, think first about what your objectives are and who you want to reach. Are you taking a stand solely to raise brand awareness? Or do you expect to make specific deals and drum up new business? Do you want to use this opportunity to push a particular product or service?
Dig deep into the attendance statistics offered by the exhibition company and ask them to substantiate their claims. Ask your industry contacts whether it was worth being there last year. Review any other opportunities such as sponsorship of seminars or a drinks party.
Once you’ve decided to exhibit, set yourself some specific targets and decide how you will measure your success.
It sounds obvious, but tell all your contacts you are going to be there – put it on your website and social media, send an email to your database, make sure it’s at the end of all communication in the weeks leading up to the event.
Of course exhibiting can be expensive and there’s a limit to everyone’s budget. Discussions need to be had about how much spend you put into your stand versus the return. At the very least, make sure that your stand is strongly branded, well-positioned and well-organised so that people can have conversations and get information with ease.
It’s also important to pick the right team for the job. You want people on the stand who will represent your brand values – not too pushy but engaging enough to build a rapport with stand visitors, and for goodness sake don’t leave the stand unattended.
If you don’t have the budget for an all-singing, all-dancing stand, have a think about novel ways of attracting people. Computer or sports games, competitions with decent prizes (ipads and the like), quality well targeted merchandise and of course booze all go down well. But make sure that you don’t cross the line between enticing (belly dancers anyone?) and appropriate.
A clever exhibitor will make use of all the potential opportunities for publicity before, during and after the show. Find out what journalists are going to be there and ask them beforehand how they are going to organise their coverage of the event. It may be that they are scheduling interviews, vox pops or photoshoots. Invite them to your stand, or visit the show press office. Many large shows have “dailies” – publications written during the event, so you need to work with your PR team to pre-prepare a schedule of news to meet their deadlines. News could include a new product launch, but it could also be a survey or some new statistics. Ensure all your PR includes your stand number at the show.
Don’t forget social media
Make sure that you are engaged with the show’s own social media around the event and get involved in any active industry forums or groups where you have a corporate viewpoint. Post photos, comments and updates on how the show is going. If one of your executives is speaking at a staged event, make sure you promote the time/date of their speech and schedule content to go out at optimum times across your platforms on the day.
And finally….when the last night drinks party is over and your stand is packed up, remember that your job is only half done. Make it your business when you get back to the office to grab everyone for at least half an hour to get some real feedback on how it went, the good bits, the bad and what you could do better. Collect all of the business cards and email contacts from the day and make sure that you follow up in the subsequent weeks.
For those of you heading to BIBA this year – see you in Manchester!