Taking a stand

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1 April 2005 | 0

Exhibitions are one of the best forms of marketing bar none: they offer face to face contact with new and existing customers. Slowly we are beginning to change peoples’ perceptions and show that exhibitions are a valued and honest part of the media mix.

Here is your step by step guide to going live …

Why do I want to exhibit?

 

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There’s no point exhibiting if you haven’t got something to say. If you do, then establish exactly what it is. Some sound reasons for going live (in no particular order) are:

  • To establish a higher profile in your marketplace using the only three-dimensional, direct marketing medium.
  • To meet your audience face to face and know, within hours, whether what you have to offer is what they want or need.
  • To get to know your target market better.
  • To gather a rich and pertinent source of new leads.
  • To improve and expand your customer relations activity.
  • To generate new — and grow existing — business; also for networking opportunities.
  • To present your product or service alongside your competitors.
  • To conduct research into your industry, product or service.

Where do I find the right show for my industry or product?

There are a number of Websites that list events in Ireland by subject, date, venue and organiser. Visit www.expotrail.com, or www.expocentral.com/location/Europe/Europe_Ireland.html.

How do I know which is the right show for me?

Contact the organiser and ask for an information pack. This will give you all the basic show information from who’s taking part to who visits and what seminars, workshops, demonstrations and other salient features are being incorporated within the exhibition. Major shows often spawn satellite events and knowing about these will also give you an indication of the quality and impact of the show on your marketplace.

What questions should I ask about an exhibition I might take part in?

Is the organiser a member of a trade body such as the AEO or the IEOA? If so, they are guaranteed to adhere to a code of conduct that includes visitor auditing, high levels of promotion, commitment to excellence and rigorous health and safety standards.

Are the other exhibitors my competitors: if yes, do you want to exhibit alongside them? If no, are those taking part going to complement or antagonise your presence?

Does the visitor profile match the audience you’d like to meet? For example, AEO members are required to audit and research their events and will be able to supply detailed information.

Do you know anyone who’s either exhibited or visited? If so, ask them what they think about the event; an ‘insider’ viewpoint is always worth having.

Are the added-value elements to the show pertinent to my audience? If so, the organiser will be working hard to attract the right visitors for you.

How is the show promoted? Make sure you’re happy that a thorough job is being carried out on exhibitors’ behalf.

Can I become part of the visitor promotion campaign? This is only feasible if you book early enough to take advantage of the organiser’s pre-planning — and some lead times can be months in advance of the show.

Do I have the resources to plan my participation properly, exhibit well, follow up and measure effectively? The AEO has published a series of free guidebooks that will help you do this; they can be ordered through the Website, www.aeo.org. Additionally, AEO members often run seminars and workshops to help you do this. Ask them.

I’ve decided to exhibit, what do I do now?

First of all, establish how much you will spend on taking part. Dedicating the right resources to your attendance is pivotal to making the show work for you. Effective exhibiting doesn’t rely on big expenditure but on being precise about what you want to achieve and how. Be aware of all the cost-centres involved in exhibiting so you can establish a budget for each.

Select the best stand for you from the floorplan supplied by the organiser. Consider how close you might be to features, hospitality or catering areas and how being in a crowded area might impact your activity. Ask the organiser about people-flow around the show and book a stand to suit your purpose.

Get the exhibitor manual and make sure you know what needs to be done and when; plan each stage against the lead time to the exhibition and avoid last-minute panics.

Consider how you can piggy-back on show promotion and dovetail your presence with your own marketing and PR strategies. Brief your staff and agencies at an early stage so they can plan ahead with you.

Plan your stand; your original reasons for taking part are your key objectives and are your ‘story’. How you choose to tell the story will steer your stand design.

Once you know your story, consider how you will tell it on the stand, who will represent you and how.

Establish how you will monitor and record activity on the stand — will it help you measure your performance during and after the show?

Seek advice, if you need it, about your stand design. Both the AEO Website and your organiser can point you in the right direction or introduce you to trusted agencies that understand the medium. The nature of the stand might also depend on whether or not you plan to use it again.

Take advantage of the support that’s set up by organisers for you; many run training sessions on maximising opportunities at their shows. Use them.

… and finally

Be ready on time, brief your staff, make sure everything is in place to meet your objectives and measure the results.

Follow up after the show: don’t let your leads or prospects go cold, use the PR machine to let people know what you’ve achieved.

  • Austen Hawkins is deputy director of the Association of Exhibition Organisers Ltd (AEO) a trade body for those who conceive, create, develop, manage, market, sponsor, supply or service trade and consumer exhibitions.

03/03/2003

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