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Achieving the best value for your exhibition buck?

Exhibitors are often confronted with this topic. The Covid-19 pandemic seems to be a thing of the past and there is a genuine scene of euphoria now that society seems to be on the way to the old normal. Trade fairs and exhibitions are on the agenda again.

Companies around the world, contemplating to partake in Trade fair and exhibitions, will no doubt be confronted with the question:

How do I achieve the best value for my exhibition and trade fair buck?

Rest assured you may not be the only person confronted with this topic irrespective your regional location, your business sector, your business, your responsibilities, and duties or perhaps more importantly your position within the corporate environment.

You have taken the decision to partake and participate, you contacted the event hosts, reserved your exhibition stand and paid the relevant participation fees. The stand location and design are the next challenges.

You are aware of the importance of location. There is the all too familiar saying “location is everything”. It comes at a price. It is not always available. It is true stands that offer the highest feet count and visibility come at a premium, but they are limited in number. Some may also argue expensive and always allocated to the large corporate with sizable advertising and promotion budgets or those loyal exhibitors that return year after year to exhibit. All of these are of course true.

How do you ensure that your current but perhaps more importantly, future customers find you? How do you attract new customers? How do you capitalize on your promotional investment and lastly, how do you increase visibility and impact?

Based on past experience, and having organized, and participated, in numerous international exhibitions and trade fairs, Chris Gerber, Managing Partner of Genesiss Consulting, and the author of this article offers some insights and pointers to both experienced and novice exhibitors.

Exhibitors always focus firstly on their principal products, product lines and services and then on their complementary business units, products, product lines and services. Stands should not only reflect the aforementioned, but also capture and portray their perceived USP (unique selling proposition). This could be the company profile, legacy and brand, the engineering capability and experience, product or service innovation, the production capacity, the state-of-the-art manufacturing process and equipment, product applications, the markets successes – market reach & customer profiles and after sales customer services and support. These aspects are normally captured and visually presented through a combination of conscious choices on stand design, choice of color, stand furniture, lighting, promotional and corporate branding, self-explanatory multimedia visual products and individuals manning the stand. All focused to play on and capitalize on the principles of neuroscience and human (customer or consumer) behavior.

The following guidelines could assist in ensuring the best value and returns on your exhibition investment:

  • Corporate branding. There is a saying less is more and this certainly applies to corporate branding. Select a single logo or single theme and ensure that this is instantly recognized and associated with your company and your business ethos. Display this proudly and prominently.
  • Optimize exhibition space through the use of visual media. Most stands are boxed in. As such you may have several walls and herein lies the benefit of stands not on corners which, are often perceived to be more of a beneficial location. Enlarged posters (photos of product, equipment, market, factory or services staff and factory) on the applicable stand walls enhance the attractiveness and eye appeal if selected consciously and purposely. A wall poster or wall photo enlarged so that it catches the eye, should be self-explanatory with limited, simple, and easily readable sufficiently large text and font to enable exhibition visitors to read and understand the message from a distance and in passing. Videos covering multiple topics with sound, looping, and continuously playing throughout opening hours have great value.
  • Handouts. Brochures, in the modern world may be considered by many, to be outdated. It need not be printed anymore, but brochures still have an important role to play. It can be downloaded on promotional and carefully branded memory sticks. It saves the trouble of ensuring sufficient and adequate bulk consignments that need either to be airfreighted or shipped with the exhibition stand furniture and equipment or carried as hand luggage on the way to the exhibition. It should cover different titles and depending on your type of business, can range from engineering, product design and innovation, product lines and ranges and application, to market information reflecting on your customers and reference lists to after sales and services. Distribution of inexpensive gimmicks and promotional items, like pens or lanyards with the company name and logo, folders and carrying bags with the company logo clearly displayed often ensures that your brand, logo and company profile substantial exceed the borders of your stand location.
  • Exhibition of the products samples. An exhibition stand is not a general dealer inventory. Care should be taken in the choice of what should be included in the exhibition inventory. Select those items that are most likely in demand and include them being mindful of the sea and freight constraints and delays currently being experienced in the freight industry following the covid pandemic. Use multimedia modelling as an alternative to create a visual catalog. The initial investment in creating three d computer modelling will certainly be worth its value if compare the amount of items that will require freight, clearing and tax if not re-exported.
  • Corporate attire. Corporate staff, neatly manicured, dressed in similar and uniform clothing leaves a lasting impression. It creates uniformity irrespective if the stand is attended by the all-important CEO of the newly recruited and appointed sales or business developer. Important in your choice of attire is to ensure that your clothing choice is linked to and representative of your business, sector, industry, and trade. If your business is in manufacturing and engineering be sure to ensure the presence of key personnel, if it is in IT, have some of your front and back-end developers there to answer technical questions. Dress appropriately – your attire will be completely different if you attend Comicon. Neatly printed name badges and titles on the chest of the people manning the stand encourage contact, ensure a level of familiarity, breaks down barriers, and enables the first questions leading to meaning full discussion once the ice is broken. First impressions count!
  • Staff in attendance. A rotation program for the staff attending and manning the stand is important. Exhibition hours are normally long, so a set program and stand attendance period and time frame assigned to each member. Ensure regular breaks to keep exhibition staff refreshed. Select your exhibition and stand staff carefully. A select group, verbally competent, neatly dressed and energetic staff goes a long way in ensuring exhibition success.

Coordinate a well-rehearsed and similar introduction on the company, its management, product or services, and markets irrespective if your staff manning the exhibition stand yields from sales, business development, IT, R&D, engineering or after sales services. A clear understanding of corporate structure and the ability to refer and introduce visitors to the relevant contact responsible person within your company to address questions is key to success.

Set time frames per visitor. It may sound coy, but this is important if you have a huge number of visitors to the exhibition stand. Ensure that visitors, are not encouraged to linger and take up time that could be allocated and spend on concluding business deals.

A business card reference system for follow up after the exhibition and the standardization of a response format in which people are emailed, thanked for attending and visiting the stand and importantly ensuring all queries raised during their visit to the stand are dealt with ensures customer appreciation, recognition, and satisfaction.

Combining your exhibition with something else

Exhibitions are ideal venues to launch new products or announce innovations. Exhibitions have evolved. It is no longer about exhibiting your product only. Utilize their services and the conference and media clout that has become customary to modern day exhibitions. Many have media partners and tapping into their media network will ensure exposure and media coverage which at other times could proof difficult. Linking the stand and exhibit to technical and other papers that are presented at the conference venue adds to further company exposure and market credibility. Arranging an exhibition stand opening and inviting present and future customers to attend the official opening of the stand with the required catering support goes a long way in ensuring attendance, recognition, and exposure. The ability to offer stand visitors refreshments are always appreciated by visitors particularly at large events. At all times ensure a neat and clean stand.

Play it again Sam…. Try it again in future?

Setting specific exhibition objectives, targets and performance indicators prior to the exhibition enables an assessment and evaluation of exhibition success. Did you get value for your money spend? It also serves as a basis for a future decision as to attend similar events or return to the event just attended. The number of customers and visitors, number of sales leads generated, number sales transactions and value of sales linked to the exhibition all serve as performance indicators, some short-term others long term. Keep track of these and no doubt the decision on returning to the exhibition and trade show venue will be easy.

*The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the Transformers Magazine and Merit Media Int.