You’ve booked your exhibition stand – now what? Planning is the key to successful exhibiting, writes Sarah Hawes from Izzy PR – FSB member and PR partner to Business Vision Live 2019.
Exhibiting at a business show can give your business a real boost – both for sales, awareness and personal reputation too. Throughout the day, you will speak to many people – more than you could ever fit in for appointments in the same amount of time. Not all will be interested in your product or service on the day you exhibit – but these people will now know about you and have the opportunity to keep you in mind for the future, or tell others about you, and a referral pathway has been carved out!
How do you get them to come over, engage and remember you?
First, you have to think ahead and plan – several weeks before the show to make sure you get the most from your investment. A small time commitment is needed, but it will pay off, giving you pre-show publicity, visibility and the chance to let current and potential customers and clients know you will be exhibiting. If you’re exhibiting at Business Vision Live, now’s the time to take a look and see where you are with your planning.
With just three weeks to go, hopefully, you have given a thought to how your stand will look, what you will have on it and if you will need anything printed. If you haven’t, there’s still time to catch up but move fast – or the weeks will slip away and you’ll be in panic mode! Your stand and your promotion are your two key elements – tips below on where to start and what to do:
Design your stand
This is a great chance to promote your branding, so go for it!
You’ll need to think about what you need to make it look appealing. Pull-up banners and other exhibition panels should be looked into, decided upon and ordered. If you need a graphic designer to create them for you, you need to get this work booked in now. Many shows allow you to order extras such as furniture and electricity so do think about what you need – chairs, tables? Delegates to shows are on their feet all day – a comfy chair on your stand may be very appealing to them to stop for a chat with you!
Be visual, stand out, be interactive
Try to avoid being the exhibition stand with a bowl of pens. Some services are hard to jazz up, but with a bit of imagination, you can do it. There’s nothing to stop a business service such as an accountant or financial advisor from offering a game on their stand or a competition. Interactive stands are always better, and you’ll notice when you visit shows that these are the ones where people are having fun and not necessarily talking shop – it’s the interaction and relationship building that’s happening…business comes later. Decide what you want to do and order what you need asap.
Tell people you’re going to be there – contact existing clients, prospects and use social media too. The earlier you start this, the better your chances are of having a busy day. If you’re using the show to launch a new product or service, start teasing this in your promo too. Add it to your email signature and think about a news/blog piece for your website too.
Three weeks to go:
Order your visuals
Having decided how your stand will look, your design work should now be on the boil for your exhibition panels. It’s time to think about getting them ordered, or at least, finding out from your printer when they need to be sent to them to guarantee delivery the week before the show. This is so that you’re not anxiously waiting for it to arrive the day before and also if there is a problem, there is time to fix it. 11th-hour problems are no-one’s friend!
If you’re thinking about handing out freebies, which is always a good idea, now’s the time to decide what you’d like to do. There is so much merchandise available, so if you want to be more adventurous than a pen or mug, you can be. Some people walk around exhibitions and just pick up freebies, and in my opinion, this is for two reasons. They like taking freebies home, or they want your info but aren’t ready to talk face to face yet. I would suggest having some cheaper freebies for those people – who you shouldn’t be writing off just as collectors, because they may need you or have a great referral up their sleeve in the future! I would also then have something a little bit more meaty and rewarding for those who stop for a chat to find out what you do or join in with your game/competition.
Tell people you’re going to be there
If people know you are exhibiting, they will come and see you, or share your news so that others do too. You can do this in several ways, but I would suggest at the least:
- Let your existing customers/clients know – via email, postcard, email campaign (Mailchimp etc.) and social media. These are people who already know and love you and your brand, so are great ambassadors to help promote you at the show.
- Social media – post that you are going to the show, give the date, location and time plus your stand number, so they know where to find you. Engage with the organiser, tag them into your posts, use the show hashtag and share their content, plus other exhibitors’ too.
Decide on a show offer:
This needs to be something exclusive and can only be taken advantage of on the day, at the show. It’s to encourage commitment, sales and a sign-up.
Start making appointments
Yes, it does sound strange start making appointments – to generate a few qualified visitors to your stand. You could reach out to prospects for this too, letting them know that you would love to meet them at the show – offering an informal first meeting. If you’ve got something interactive like a game, it could be a great ice-breaker too.
Never host your stand alone
It’ll be a long day if you’re on your own, so take staff, or enlist the help of someone trusted for the day. At some stage you’ll need to pop to the loo, get a drink or eat some food and leaving your stand leaves it empty – something you should never do! Eating/drinking on your stand also gives off the wrong impression, so leave the stand for that.
Two weeks to go
This needs to carry on using social media, email and personal approaches. If you’re out at networking, try to weave it into the conversation – a second meeting at the exhibition will help you to build the relationship with this prospect.
You should now be in a position to be sending off your design work for print. Your pull-up banners, exhibition panels, merchandise, flyers – anything printed should now be making its way to the printer.
Begin to brief your staff on what they need to do at the show. They’ll need to know the show offers, game, competition, details of any product/service launches and any other information you’ll be giving out too. It’s also worth reminding your staff to look well-presented on the day, avoid chatting amongst themselves on the stand which can put people off and only use staff who like this front of house type of role. Your shrinking violet will not enjoy it and could put prospects off if they look like they’d rather be anywhere but there!
Make sure you continue to interact with the show organisers, sharing their social media content, tagging them into yours and also using the show hashtag. Share your updates – your merchandise arriving, display stuff being delivered, shopping for items – it all adds to your content and shows your excitement for the show!
One week to go
Take delivery of your printed items
It’s a really good idea to have all your printed materials delivered a week ahead of the show. It reduced stress, because phew, they’re in, but also if there are any problems – a last-minute typo, damaged in transit or something else, you have time to fix it; and most printers will go into overdrive to help in this situation, so 7 days instead of the night before will be much better for both solutions and stress-management!
Keep it up – online and offline. Everyone should now know you’re exhibiting – from your emails, social media and conversations. Catch those last few, tell them about your new product, service, exclusive show offer or fabulous exhibition stand and get them along to support you!
Make a plan
Exhibitions are a place to learn too, so make sure you take a look at the programme and see what talks/seminars you’d like to go to.
Never host your standalone – hopefully, you will have arranged help by now and can free yourself up to go to the talks you’d like to. Meet other delegates and chat with the speakers – all good for promoting your business and yourself.
Decide on your outfit
This may sound daft, but by deciding the week before, you then know if you need to dry clean, wash or repair anything, get a haircut, manicure or source some nice (comfortable) shoes!
Leaving this until the night before will be stressful!
On the day
Wear something smart, comfortable, and that gives a good impression. Personal grooming is important for first impressions so make sure you are well-presented.
Wear a watch
Just to keep an eye on the time for any talks you’re going to and for lunch.
The stress and organising is done. What’s not done, won’t happen and no-one will notice, or know what’s missing. So don’t tell them the ‘coulda, woulda and shoulda’ – just let them take you as they find you and wow them with your business and you!
Keep a tidy stand
Bags and boxes need to be out of the way – display only what’s necessary! No eating/drinking on the stand, unless your guests are joining you!
Smile and relax
Yes, it’s not time to relax and smile at all those lovely delegates who could turn into clients or ambassadors for your brand.
Be warm, inviting and generous with your time and effort for them.
Find out how a simple sandwich could help you to make those all-important show sales. How to be a salesperson…when you’re not a salesperson. Hosting an exhibition stand at a big show can seem daunting but our guide next week will give you some great advice on how to find out what your potential new customer wants and how to make the sale.