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The newbie challenge: “My boss has put me in charge of our exhibition stand and I don’t know where to start”

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Posted by , 10th October 2017

The trade show newbie: help is at hand from Exhibitors Only

Not too long ago, I was running a seminar for exhibitors focused on helping participants sharpen their trade show strategy. The goal was to improve their sales results. It was at this seminar that I met my ultimate newbie.

At the beginning of the day everyone introduced themselves, talked about the show or shows they were preparing for and what they were hoping to get from the day. Everyone had exhibited before until we got to the lady who provided the quote that heads this article. Yes, she was truly the newbie of this group and probably the most raw recruit I had until then met.

My first thought was…

What a bad boss! This lady was the PA to the managing director of the company that she worked for. Suddenly she was responsible for a space only stand (she didn’t know what that was) of 40sqm and a total ballpark spend, with staff included, of around £35-£40k. She had never even visited a show before.

My second thought was that I had better say something constructive as she was really worried, especially after hearing the other delegates speak. To her they all seemed to have a much better idea of what was needed to be done for their stands and this wasn’t helping her confidence. (I experienced this feeling on a recent sailing course).

Happily, she was much more confident by the end of the day and checking with her later in the year, the show had gone well and her demanding boss was very impressed with her work.

I revise my first thought

Then, I thought;  perhaps he was a genius boss instead. She had been resourceful and had gone and found a solution to the problem he had dropped on her. He was freed-up, the lady in question rose the the challenge..I noted this management technique.

Some readers may be in a variation of the situation described, hopefully not quite as drastic. If exhibiting is all fairly new to you, here are my top ten newbie tips for dealing with your  exhibiting challenge.

1. Be clear on what your site booking is for 

The first thing to check is your contract paperwork. What has your company signed-up for? How big is the space? Where is it? What shape is the stand? Is it a Space Only site or a Shell Scheme? If your booking is for Space Only or Floorspace Only, it means that your company has to provide the stand that goes on that space. Not a minor detail.

2. When & where is the show?

Points 1 & 2 are interchangeable in their order. Hopefully when you discover that you are in charge of running the stand, you won’t also discover that the event is just a few weeks away. Hopefully, we are talking 3 months at least. If just a few weeks away, do everything listed below but, faster!

3. Newbie to Pro: Confirm the objectives for the show 

To be a real star, you need to know why your company is exhibiting in the event. Request objectives in writing from your boss so that there is no confusion. Confirm that you understand the objectives and don’t be embarrassed about having things clarified in very simple terms. If you are unsure about what “build brand awareness” or “win orders” actually means in tangible terms, get things clarified.

This is important for you, because post-event, you want to be able to refer to the things achieved against the list of objectives.

  • Order value achieved: Tick
  • Met 25 clients: Tick.
  • Collected 55 firm leads: Tick. And so on.
4. Organise your stand 
  • As already mentioned, get the basics together; stand number, hall location, site dimensions, site layout checked and get all of the paperwork in one place
  • If you are building a stand for this site (because it’s a Space Only site) write a design brief, confirm the budget and approach design and build companies
  • If you need help with this, read this recent Exhibitors Only article 
  • Circulate design submissions internally, choose the winning design, appoint the build company
  • Ensure that your stand builder has details of build-up and break down times plus show opening hours and organiser and venue contact information
  • Submit your design for approval to the show organisers – if changes need to be made, get the information back to your stand designer ASAP
5. Book your stand team and accommodation
  • Confirm your stand team at the earliest possible time so that each member knows the dates of the event and the days that you need them to be present
  • Put together a listing of all staff contact details including mobile numbers and home addresses/home contact numbers
  • Book accommodation for everyone that’s going to need it. The earlier you do this, the better your chances of being in a hotel that’s close to the venue or city centre
  • Once you have your accommodation sorted, book travel arrangements to and from the venue
  • Circulate details to your stand team. Add to this venue and stand location information; show opening and closing times, timing of team briefings, after show dining and entertaining etc.

Read this article on stand teams for an alternative approach to manning your stand

6. Submit service orders to the venue
  • Submit orders for your electrical, data supply, rigging (if needed) requirements to the venue
  • If exhibiting with a shell scheme stand, note when you can access the halls to “dress” your stand
  • Organise graphics, lighting, furniture and storage areas for your shell scheme stand
  • Check that you have adequate insurance cover for public liability; loss of or damage to exhibits and for event cancellation cover. You can book insurance for these items via the Exhibitor Manual or through your company’s insurance broker
7. Arrange shipping & transport of your exhibits

One of the things that can be overlooked when you are new to exhibiting is ensuring that you have the products that you need for your stand. You can’t assume that they will be ready just when you need them.

Your exhibit or exhibits may need to be shipped from an international office or factory. Your samples of a new product or their packaging, may have to be organised as an additional production run because all of the other samples are booked-out to sales people or to other offices or to clients.

Shipping and delivery both national and international, can arranged via the show organiser’s official logistics contractor. You will find their contact details in the Exhibitor Manual.

Newbie tip: Don’t forget about getting your exhibits back or delivered to where they need to be after the show. This can be overlooked when the focus is all on being ready for the show opening.

8. Supply all requested or required information for the Exhibitor Manual or Exhibitor Portal
  • The Exhibitor Manual or online Exhibitor Area/Portal contains order forms for most of the services that you will require from the venue or the organiser of the show
  • Each service will have a deadline for completion
  • Missing deadlines may incur surcharges for services like data, electrics and rigging
  • You may also miss some of the promotional services offered by the organiser of the show
  • Upload all marketing and promotion related content for your company including your show guide entry, press release details, white papers, reports and videos
9. Market your presence in advance of the show
  • Determine why people should make the time to time to visit your stand
  • Translate these “whys” into pre-show promotional messages to the people within companies that you most want to meet
  • If promotional giveaway items will help you create added impact with your pre-show messaging, order these well in advance of when you plan to start your pre-show marketing campaign
  • There are many ways to publicise your presence; email; direct mail; webinars, through your website; telemarketing; trade journal editorials and advertising; video releases… choose your vehicles and schedule their timing
  • Don’t rely on just one email to announce/highlight your presence; think “Campaign”
  • A campaign is a series of planned activities to achieve a desired result
  • Always tell your prospective visitors how to find your stand
  • Invitations to existing clients should recognise their client status and if possible offer an added bonus for these guests
  • Don’t forget to keep the show’s Marketing Team informed regarding any product launches, celebrity visits or other newsworthy items that you have organised for the show. They will promote these things too
10. Arrange your show follow-up measures before the show
  • When you exhibit at a trade show you are competition with the other exhibitors for the attention and orders of the show’s attendees
  • It’s for this reason that you need to organise your post-show follow-up measures in advance of the show. Time is of the essence when it comes to closing sales
  • Write your email copy in advance of the show; have brochures ready for mailing; draft copy for your website and for press releases. If you will be filming at the show, know how you are going to distribute this content during and immediately after the event
  • Arrange the distribution of leads with office staff if they will be handling this and provide clear instructions on the steps to be taken by them as part of your lead processing and follow-up strategy
  • Arrange for your show leads to be entered into your sales database, with details checked at entry to avoid duplications and to update new data for people already on file

Get these things organised and you will feel a lot more confident about enjoying a successful show. You will also feel in control of things rather than unforeseen things controlling you (which is always stressful).

At the show, ensure that you and your stand team are welcoming to visitors and listen carefully to what they have to say. Follow-up quickly providing the information requested or promised. Do this, and you are creating the best possible conditions for sales to be made.

To exhibiting like a pro!

PS. Please share your tips and advice to help those new to exhibiting. I’ll publish them on this site and in issues of our inbox magazine.

#exhibitorsonly #exhibitlikeapro #tradeshows

Posted in Marketing  /  Sales  /  Stand Management

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