With Autumn setting in, you may be looking forward to exhibitions to attend next year. In event planning world there’s no such thing as “too early”, so here are some tips to make the most of any show.
If you are booking far enough in advance, go to the current show before deciding whether you want to fork out to exhibit next year. You’ll get a great feel for it wandering around, seeing what’s engaging and spotting the best places to have your stand.
- Suss out the speakers, the theatres and what people are listening to - if you've got a relevant point of view then discussing a speaking slot is a must
- Meet the organisers - creating a relationship with the event team will help smooth the bumps which will come along!
- Book the “early bird rate” - most exhibitors offer discounts for next year’s show if you book during the current show, or in the two weeks following. If you know that this is a show for you, then it’s worth booking it in .
Space and location
Take your time to work out what space you need and where you want to be. You may want to be as far away from a competitor as possible, or right next to them, you may find people are in a hurry if you're at the entrance, or too hidden away if you're at the back next to the toilets - whatever you want, make sure you know the floorplan inside out before booking.
- Lay out your space in the office so that you know how big it is
- Factor in what furniture you need and where it's going to go
- Check what businesses are booked around you
- Make sure you're facing the direction you want to be facing!
- Check out where the stage and coffee areas are
Now you've confirmed your size and location, it's time to decide if you're going to go for a shell scheme or space only stand. If you have the budget and want to make a huge splash, then a space only stand is a good way to stand out. You will need to hire an events company to design, set up and take down, and it's worth deciding whether you want to do any more shows as you can touch up elements and reuse the stand.
You can still make a splash with a shell scheme stand. Seamless graphics can make the stand look like a space only space, and modular units can be used again at other shows.
- Make sure the key message or branding in your visuals are eye-line or above - anything low down is likely to be covered up by feet or furniture
- Work out what your key message is going to be and what's relevant to your audience
- Decide what furniture you need - do you need a cupboard, a TV, shelves or product hooks?
So now you're all booked and ready to go, here's a handy countdown to keep everything on track.
4-6 months to go
- Start thinking about what you're doing to show - think about getting stock linked up and any show offers that you want to run
- Take a good look through the exhibitor manual and create calendar reminders for when services need to be booked. If you miss deadlines you'll have to pay more.
- Book hotels if you haven't already. They get booked up quickly and you could end up carting yourself, and your merchandise, miles each morning.
3 months to go
- Sort out your staffing plan for the event. Have a rota to give people a break every two hours. And remember, your entire sales team is likely to appear quite scary to someone just wanting to see what you do!
- Organise uniforms - decide on your look, whether casual, smart, coordinated.
- If you're selling products on the stand, finalise show offers, order your product and organise payment machines
- Check what marketing material you have - order brochures, flyers or giveaways
- If your aim is to gather leads, work out how you're going to gather and track them. Get your business cards sorted, order lead scanners, organise questionnaires on tablets or go back to plain old pen and paper, but make sure you have a plan for capturing contacts
- Work out ways you could bring more traffic to your stand. Could you run a drinks and nibbles hour, have a special guest appearance or talk for an hour, run a competition? Whatever works, or you have budget for, make sure you've left plenty of time to get it organised.
2 months to go
Tell everyone you're going!
- Schedule your social media calendars
- Put your stand number and the show logo on your email
- share information with the media
- follow the show's handle and hashtags to join the audience for the show
- personally invite people to come along
- Make appointments with customers and press
If you're having a TV on your stand, start getting your videos together in a playlist to run in a loop
1 month to go
- Start collating or sending stock where it needs to go
- Print off and send passes to relevant people. Don't forget that delivery vehicles need passes and hall numbers too
- Test out your videos on the TV and make sure that they're the right format!
- Start thinking about what's going to happen after the show. Get an automated email set up for leads that the show generates, telling your potential customers what your next steps are. Map out your social calendar with space for insights, feedback and images that you're going to populate during and after the show
1 day to go
- Dress the stand. If you don't want to leave stock out then lock it away, but make it easy to pop out in the morning
- Double and triple check that the videos work and everything that needs batteries has batteries!
- Get an early night! (Who are we kidding?!) We know that events mean dinners, awards, general team bonding loveliness which takes over most nights, but at least attempt to get to bed early on the first night, so that you're bright and fresh to...
- .. get to the show early! Shows open in advance for exhibitors so get the stock out, sweep the floor, line up brochures and swig some coffee before the masses invade!
- Take photos of the team, the stand, the show and upload regularly to social media to let everyone know what you're up to
- Use video - do a live walk through of your stand highlighting your key messages/products and the timetable for your stand if you have one
- Chat to your neighbours - take them a coffee, get to know them - shared experiences are a great networking environment
- Do a walk around and note the best places to be, see what's attracting attention on other stands. If there's things you can change there and then, DO IT! Otherwise make a wish-list for future events.
- Check out your competition - what's working for them? Go and say hi :)
- Use time off of the stand to use phones and computers - no-one will come to talk to you if you have your head down
- Similarly don't hide in the cupboard
- Find the show photographer and ask for some shots of your stand!
- Talk to the show organisers and book for next year if it's gone well - you'll have a time period to cancel, so make sure you're not led into anything you can't get out of
You've done it! Your feet are killing you, but it's been a great success. Just a few more things to do to mop up straightaway.
- Distribute leads and make sure the team follow up in the next few days
- Put opted in contacts into your CRM systems and send a thank you email
- Analyse the number of leads, sales of products, media coverage and visitor numbers of the show
- Write a blog or an article detailing any insights you took away from the show