After recently appearing at two large trade shows as an attendee, I felt compelled to write about my experiences. As we are all aware, conferences, trade shows and conventions provide significant value for the stakeholder’s organization. In a time when resources are limited, attending a conference can offer a larger return to your exhibitors. It is the exhibitor’s responsibility to not only show up, but also to make the most out of their time. Along with a creative meeting design, you can provide many benefits for your exhibitors and the entire customer base.
I am pleasantly surprised to discover that many organizations of all sizes have been strategic about sharing best practices and tips to maximize their exhibitor’s success before, during and after the show. While I believe exhibitors are already fundamentally aware of the keys to a successful show, we all need reminders every now and then. This blog is written from a show manager/meeting planner perspective to help enhance an exhibitor’s ROI.
Set your show objectives prior to registering for your booth. These objectives are the seeds to plant for a successful exhibit season. Often, a series of well thought out questions can lead to better success. What are your company goals? How will you find and attract new prospects? How will you connect with prior or current customers? How would you introduce a new product? Are you prepared to hold face-to-face customer meetings? Assuming that the audience is part of the research, you should also have a good understanding of attendee demographics, who else is exhibiting, and who has exhibited in the past. An exhibitor prospectus with robust statistics and analytics can differentiate your event from the competition.
Be sure to register for a booth and once you have made the decision to participate as an exhibitor, remember the early bird gets the worm (early purchase = better location). Book your flight up front to get the best airfare and stay in the official hotel. Show management has negotiated the best rates possible for the convention (see more on this critical issue Project Attrition by the Convention Industry Council ). In addition to Project Attrition, staying in the official hotel allows more networking opportunities with potential customers.
A well thought out marketing plan is essential to your process. Plans for pre, during, and post show should be discussed the instant your organization has committed to participate. The type of audience attending the event should determine your booth content including giveaways and prizes. Some groups like to have literature and handouts to take with them, while others prefer information be sent to them after the convention is over.
Most conventions participate in social media by using hashtags (#) at their events. Use it, it’s free exposure! Talk to your social media team to develop a plan.
1. Take advantage and optimize your marketing efforts prior to the show by sharing your booth information.
2. As the event gets closer, step up your social media presence…and don’t forget to use it during the convention. Just don’t go overboard with self-centered messages.
Think about reserving a suite instead of a regular room and use the parlor for private meetings/demos with key contacts you may not normally have the opportunity to meet with individually. These are the types of attendees that have extremely limited time. The earlier you can personally invite and schedule a meeting with them the better. This strategy also allows you to optimize your exhibit hall hours.
According to The Meetings Mean Business Coalition, “Great things happen when people come together. Face-to-face interaction is the platform where deals are struck, relationships are forged and ideas are generated.” You have direct access to your customers and potential customers, take advantage of it!
I know this tip may sound obvious, but maximize your team’s interactions during the entire show. For functions such as meals and social activities, divide and conquer. The more spread out your team is, the more opportunities there are to network. Remind your team that when you reach out and meet new people it will lead to more positive outcomes. You never know who you may be to sitting next to. If you are allowed to attend sessions, be sure to select the ones that will help you gain insight and listen to challenges facing the industry. Think of ways that your product can be a part of the solution. This is a great way to stay involved in your industry. Ask questions and be engaged during the sessions. Rotate your team during exhibit hours so that there is always someone at your booth (not playing a game, texting on a phone or catching up on emails)…I beg of you – it looks horrible and makes an attendee feel like they are interrupting you…and they are likely to walk right past your booth.
Organize and develop a system to follow up on leads. This task is where utilizing a lead retrieval app can save you hours of time and energy. Lead retrieval apps allow exhibitors to easily capture and qualify leads and record key data and notes. Instead of manually entering in hundreds of business cards into your CRM, lead retrieval compiles an excel spreadsheet of your captured leads instantly. Don’t scan a badge if you are not going to follow up. Prioritize and look at business opportunities forged during the show. Along those same lines, follow up promptly and reference your connection, i.e. something personal discussed or what was documented in your lead notes. And please do not send a form email simply because you were provided with the attendee’s email address. I recently went to a large exhibit hall and received several form emails that thanked me for stopping by booths I never visited.
Hold a meeting with the staff involved in the exhibition and ask questions like: Were our objectives met? What changes could be made for improving in the future? What can we do better next time?
I wish you a successful season of meetings and exhibitions and a wonderful spring.
Posted by Christina Buck, CMP