Forgive me if I offer some trade show advice.
The summer season is here, it’s the time of year when the number of trade shows taking place drops dramatically (halls empty like the ones above at ExCeL London). Those who work in the industry take their holidays or work on stock control, do maintenance and other things that will help their business be ready, when the events calendar kicks-in again in September.
Although it’s holiday season, and the “autumn” may seem a long way off, if your company is exhibiting at a show in September or October, you may be only 6-12 weeks away from the event. This is the time when you need to be making sure your preparations are in place. Avoid the possible scenarios that cause stress and pain, described below, by taking action now.
1. You’ll be glad that you made time to prepare for the show
When you are standing on your stand in just a few weeks time, you will be really glad that you got the objectives for the event clearly defined with your boss and colleagues in advance of the show. You’ll feel more relaxed about the task ahead and what you are there to achieve, because you took the time to prepare thoroughly.
Because you did prepare, all of your stand branding and messaging links together. You have the images that link to the products or services that you are there to promote, unlike that stand across the aisle, which looks a bit of a mish-mash both in design terms and how things have been laid out.
Looking back to your stand, the branding looks strong plus you also know, that you and your stand team, have full technical details on each and every product. Each team member knows what they are there to promote and, they are motivated to do so.
2. You’ll be glad that you checked that you actually had a stand
Another thing that you will be really glad about is that you checked the details of your stand booking. You looked at the contract to double-check what was actually included. Doing this may have prevented a huge error from occurring, not noticing that your contract was Space Only, meaning that your company had just booked floorspace and also needed to provide a stand structure of some kind.
This mistake does happen and depending on the floorspace booked, it can take a lot of on-site creativity and some cash to get this problem sorted out. But, that’s not something that you need to worry about. You checked the contract; you know how much space you have to work with, the number of open sides, the location and how the stand position lies in relation to the show entrance.
3. You’ll be glad that you didn’t leave booking your stand team to the last minute
Wanting to be alone might have worked for Marlene Dietrich, but at a trade show it’s not recommended. Now, you are really glad that you contacted and booked all of the people you really wanted on your stand, three months before show opening.
You’ve got a big goal to hit, so having the best possible team to support you in achieving that goal is so important. You’ve taken the time to brief everyone about their particular roles, you have your rotas planned, you’ve got two reserve players lined-up to cover for unexpected drop-outs and everyone on the team has incentives in place linked to their performance at this event.
4. You’ll be glad that you checked where your exhibits were actually going to be on the show dates ….. and that they would fit on your stand
There’s a stand around the corner from yours which does look good, it’s brightly lit and the graphics are strong, but there’s a big space at the front of the stand where there should have been an exhibit.
Now that problem can happen for a number of reasons; the exhibit was delayed at customs, it could have been damaged in transit, your exhibit may have been sold…. but it can also occur because nobody checked until it was too late i.e. too close to the show, where the star exhibit that everyone had been talking about displaying, was actually going to be on those particular dates.
But you checked, you made the arrangements. You located the product, you checked with shipping about customs clearance times, you booked transit from the port to the halls.
You’re glad that now you can see the star exhibit and attraction for this event is right there in front of you, on your stand, unlike that other poor exhibitor you heard on the phone earlier, screaming into their mobile about how urgent it was that;
“our exhibits leave Customs immediately, because the show opens tomorrow!!!!!!”
You are also glad that you checked way in advance, that all of your exhibits, displays and people would fit into the stand space that had been booked. You plotted things out and created a scale plan of the stand so you knew how the mechanics of moving around during the show were going to actually work, before you arrived on-site. All you had to do upon arrival was double-check that the plan still worked with maybe a little bit of fine-tuning, here and there.
5. You’ll be glad that you remembered to invite clients
One thing that clients hate, is being ignored once a sale has been made, and not being invited to an industry trade show may count in some eyes as being ignored.
Good job that you avoided the embarrassment of having clients on your stand who said that they were surprised to see your company at the show. That would have been embarrassing, especially if it had been said in front of your boss (that would have been a real ouch!). But it didn’t happen. You made sure that the sales team invited all of their clients and that the invitations were sent out in good time. You even got them to invite some dormant clients. You didn’t miss the opportunity the show presented to re-ignite some old accounts and contacts.
6. You’ll be glad you checked that you had furniture and electrics for your stand
Not only did you check if furniture and electrical packages were included in your stand booking, you also got the particular items you wanted because you ordered in plenty of time. Plus, you avoided a surcharge for late orders, a cost that would have eaten into your already stretched budget. The money you saved, was put towards some excellent show promotional items and that feels good.
7. You’ll be glad that you checked where you were going to store all those exhibit cases
Even small stands seem to require a lot of storage for exhibit cases, boxes of brochures, stock and other items of exhibiting paraphernalia, when you are on-site and putting things out or away on your stand.
That’s why it was such a good idea to list how many boxes were going to be delivered to the venue; to log what was in each; where they were going to be stored after they were emptied and to decide which ones needed to be re-used and sent on after the show closed. That’s definitely a job you can do without during a busy build-up in a drafty exhibition hall.
8. You’ll be glad that you checked what the WiFi supply was like in the halls
Many halls now offer free WiFi as a standard service but the supply is usually only good for checking email and web surfing, and even those functions can disappear when a show is open and busy with lots of people trying to do the same thing.
You booked an upgraded data supply, well in advance of the show. You avoided the extra costs and delays that can arise from late booking. You were able to set-up your data displays and check things were working as per the schedule you had set in your pre-show plan and this has kept your overall install plan running smoothly and to time.
9. You’ll be glad that you checked on all the travel and hotel arrangements
It’s a real pain to be booked into a hotel that’s miles away from the show. Everyone has to be up and out earlier each morning and after a long and tiring day, you can all do without a long journey back to the bar, to the bath or bed.
When you leave booking your rooms late, your hotel may not just be miles from the venue, it could be miles from anywhere to go out in the evening and that’s not good for team morale. Booking early got you and your stand team into a good city-centre location with facilities everyone will appreciate including, the short travel times to and from the show.
10. You’ll be glad that you didn’t miss extra promotional opportunities
Trade shows offer lots of extra promotional opportunities for an exhibitor if they are ready to respond. Things like speaking slots in a conference or seminar can be be excellent for attracting show visitors to your stand once the talk has ended.
New product showcases; in-hall displays and features; thought leadership articles, all offer great possibilities for promotional exposure that can extend the value and sales that you generate from a show. By paying attention to those organiser email bulletins, you didn’t miss anything suitable for your business and you now look like a star in the eyes of your boss, because, you got him or her into a high exposure speaking slot alongside other industry leaders. Kudos.
11. You’ll be glad that you thought about how you were going to attract visitors onto your stand
A stand empty of visitors is not what you want to be looking at once the show is open and you definitely don’t what that scenario associated with your tenure as stand manager. To avoid this happening you took action to ensure as far as you possibly could, that this would not be the fate of your stand.
You sweated on the graphics and stand displays – you made sure that they were as strong and as visible to visitors as possible. You got your company’s marketing team involved in putting together an effective pre-show promotional campaign, highlighting your company’s participation and show attractions.
Those promotional products, are working really well in bringing people onto the stand and your team are clearly visible to show visitors, so it’s easy for both parties to engage with each other.
The opening phrases you and your team discussed and chose are working well and all of the preparation is now providing you with a well oiled, trade show sales machine. And, your stand looks good and busy in comparison with many of your neighbours.
12. You’ll be glad that you planned how show leads were going to be recorded and followed-up on
Even though you have never exhibited before, you are fully aware of the possibility of losing sales due to a slow or ineffectual follow-up of sales leads. That’s why you thought about how leads were going to be captured at the show and what the follow-up procedures were going to be.
You are really glad that you did this thinking. Any sales that are generated as a result of exhibiting will not only be good for your company, they will be good for you too.
You’ve arranged for emails to be sent to stand visitors on the day they visit you at the show. Further follow-up steps have been laid down. All leads will be entered into your CRM so that data is updated and you have insisted that a show code is used, so that all subsequent actions and results can be tracked.
All of these arrangements will help you report accurately on the results obtained from the show and on how the event has delivered on the objectives that were set.
Avoid the angst!
The problems listed above are all real situations that I have encountered in my time as a show organiser. Don’t let them happen to you. Believe me, you don’t need the angst and stress that they can cause. Instead, exhibit like a pro. Make time for planning and for checking all details now, and not only will you enjoy your next show, you’ll enjoy the summer too, knowing that you have things in hand for the autumn show season.
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