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  • Writer's pictureClaire Elbrow

Let the show begin..

With the trade, consumer and business show season well underway, some of my clients have been booking their stands and preparing their plans for the shows they wish to attend this year.

These shows offer you a brilliant opportunity to get your business directly in front of your potential customer as well as potential new employees. They are not just about making sales – they also give you the perfect chance to build some great relationships and create a buzz about your business.

Plan your logistics

Do plan your logistics early on as nearby hotels tend to fill up quickly as do those associated with the show and offering show prices! If you are planning a large stand, make sure you can build it with your own staff or ensure you have booked some help from the show organisers.

Read through your package carefully to ensure you have not missed out on a vital service, such as booking the fitting of an electrical point, as these things are not always included. If you are attending a large show or outdoor event, do take into consideration the extra time you might need to travel to the show. Plan your trip too, as nothing is more stressful than being late on the first day because you didn’t know where you were meant to be going!

Agree your objectives

Why are you going to the show? You and your team need to decide what you want to gain by attending. Do you want to make actual sales and if so, what are you going to do to achieve this? Do you want to connect with specific attendees or other exhibitors? Are you looking for new contacts?

The most effective way to measure the success of the show while you are there is to set yourself and your team some individual and team targets. If it is vital that you meet with certain people, give yourself time to do this – make sure you connect with them before the event and set up a meeting, or actively search them out at the event.

If you’re at a show that’s taking place over a couple of days, it’s a great idea to have a quick catch-up meeting at the end of each day or over breakfast. Discuss what worked and what didn’t and adjust your tactics to suit.

Don’t forget that other exhibitors could be your perfect customer! Keep an eye on who is attending and actively search out those of interest.

At this point, decide on your key messages for the show. These may be about the company generally, or they may focus on a new product, but ensure all of your team have a short written brief outlining what you want them to project, how and why. They can refer to it during the show if they need to or feel they are going off-track.

If you need to provide advice on what to wear on the show stand, have a think about how you would like the company image to be projected. Either invest in some ‘uniform’ or make sure your team know what they are expected to wear.

We see many exhibitor staff at trade shows sat down behind a table. Make sure your staff get out front with the people – stand up and be ready!

Sort out your timetable for the event. You do need to give people breaks for lunch or a coffee, as shows are incredibly tiring and people can start to sound very stale if they are getting tired or hungry! Take into consideration the timings of the event as some have defined set-up and break-down times, which do not always fit easily around staff needs. If you sort your timetable out early, people can get their personal plans in place and make sure they are available to assist you fully.

Make the most of your marketing

Take full advantage of all of the marketing opportunities. Make sure you submit your entry to the show catalogue and book any advertising you wish to do. Some of the large shows have a huge number of opportunities, so make sure you read them all and use the best ones for your business. For some events, local or trade advertising can be considered, particularly if there are large-distribution ‘show issues’ of certain magazines or papers.

Don’t forget to send an email to your database. If you have a large customer base, then send an email to those customers who fit into the appropriate sector telling them you are attending and invite them to your stand. If you think you need an incentive, you can offer the chance to take part in a decent competition or take advantage of a show discount or offer. Sometimes just the offer of a decent cup of coffee is all that is needed!

Inject a bit of fun! If you are offering a competition, make sure you make it fun and worthwhile. The decent bottle of champagne still works to a point, but there is so much more you can do to help drive awareness and build a presence for your business!

Recently, we worked with a client to develop a competition around a Twitter hashtag specifically for a show they were attending. They linked a screen to their stand and show attendees were asked to post the hashtag to enter the competition. Every hour a prize was given out to the hashtag post closest to the hourly clock. Not only did this increase the show’s actual social media presence, but the traffic associated with the client’s social media was huge! Being a polite bunch, we made sure we had this approved by the show organisers beforehand!

Linking with another provider and offering a joint promotion can give you some useful results and is a great way to hit a large audience in one go. In the past, we have linked a healthcare company with a smoothie maker and offered free smoothie drinks to anyone dropping by the stand. Not only did this give the healthcare team a chance to engage and offer the visitor a free health check, it also gave the smoothie maker some instant feedback on their planned new flavours.

Launching a product at a show

If you are using the show to launch a new product, make sure your launch press release is ready to roll and your media list is in place. Check which media will be attending and book a one-to-one meeting with them. Don’t forget to connect with them on social media too. Take plenty of product with you and think of ways to ensure this gets in front of the audience. There may be a new product section at the show that you can use to showcase it or some screen media options which could be advantageous.

Savvy social media

Check which exhibitors, speakers and influencers are attending as the show lead-in gains momentum and connect with them on social media. Make sure you know the show’s hashtags and social media handles and connect with them early on during the lead-up so you start to build awareness.

During the show, take some short videos, post some live feeds and share some images as the show unfolds. Don’t forget to tag others in the images and don’t forget to include your show stand number in some of your feeds.

Connect your tablets and phones to social media apps before you go so you can post directly, or if you plan to be busy talking to contacts, get a colleague back at the office to help you out with the tweeting and posting. You can set up some of your feeds beforehand to a point, but live feeding is really what gets the best interaction.

Have a trial run

Set up your stand if you can and check out how it works and what works best. Plan the materials you need to take and give yourself plenty of time to get them designed and printed. Always take more than you think you might need!

You are there to collect data, so don’t forget to collect business cards from your stand visitors and other appropriate exhibitors. If you think you are going to be really busy, some of the electronic data collection systems can be really handy.

Devise a way to collate your notes on each person. Nothing is more frustrating than getting back to the office and not being able to remember who your hot leads were!

Once the show is over, make sure you have a follow-up meeting promptly with your team and that personal follow-ups are done in a timely manner. All that work will quickly be lost if you don’t follow up! A quick ‘good to meet you’ email within a couple of days is a perfect starting point.

Above all else, have fun and enjoy meeting others.

Where we can help

We can help by assisting with your research – finding the best shows, the best costs, possible speaker opportunities and product launch opportunities. We can help you devise the best strategy for your event, ensure you have a your staff have a clear brief of your objectives and help you the best promotional opportunities. We can build your contact list by highlighting those attending who could be interested in your product or service, and we can set up your 1:1 meetings through our telemarketing team or just by appointment setting for you. We can assist you with social media marketing during both the run-up and at the show.

We can devise press materials in the run-up to the event and ensure you make the most of the media resources at the event. This can include anything from a one-off press release to a run of releases, right through to a full media pack. We can work with you to identify the journalists available and ensure you get in front of them.

Within the BLM team, we have expert stand designers who can help with the smallest of banners right through to the full all-singing, all-dancing stand. We can also help with the graphic design and printing of your marketing materials.

We can source stand goodies and promotional items for you, and we can also help you create and place your advertisements.

If fact, all together, we are pretty much a one-stop shop when it comes to events!

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