Event planning and exhibitions

In this article we will look at how you can plan to get the most out of an event or an exhibition.

From SPATEX to a shopping centre.

It doesn’t matter where you intend to exhibit your business, there are do’s and don’ts to getting the most out of a show or exhibition that apply to all events, large and small.

Exhibitions and events used to play a more important part in the wet leisure industry calendar and perhaps they would again if we all knew how to get the most out of these opportunities.

For some of us, competition from the Internet is a real bone of contention. Well, an exhibition is as opposite from web based trading as you can possibly get. It’s a chance to talk to potential customers face to face, to shake their hand, to let them touch and feel the products and even dip their feet in a spa or sit in a sauna.

A picture on a web page is one thing, but the real thing is something else.

Decide what you want to achieve.

Knowing what you want to achieve from having a presence at an exhibition or show might sound rather basic but it is worth making a short list of how you can benefit.

Of course, people do sell products at exhibitions but selling isn’t perhaps the biggest benefit to being there.

  • Getting your business known.
  • Generating sales leads.
  • Developing your database.
  • Being seen in the ‘right’ place by the ‘right’ people.
  • Generating a PR story.
  • Presenting your business in a memorable way.

All these things can make attending a show or event worthwhile.

Of course, you need to make sure that the exhibition that you are thinking of is the right one for you. Event organisers will be happy to provide you with as many facts and figures as they can so ask them how many people they are expecting to attend, who else is exhibiting, what sort of audience are they drawing in and how are they going to market the event.

If it sounds like a good opportunity for your business to be in front of good numbers of the right sort of customer, then you need to start planning.

A good plan leads to a great result.

Some major exhibitors will start to plan for a show 6 to 12 months in advance.

Obviously one of the things that you’ll have to plan is your stand. Aim to make it as striking and memorable as possible but in a way that fits in with your business profile.

If it’s hot tubs you sell then don’t just take a couple of hot tubs, have a gazebo over them and use decking and plants to create a really attractive environment that people will want to visit.

Try and make the stand as open as possible so that there are no barriers to people entering your space. Make it inviting.

Use your products and display boards, props and graphics and even the staff that will be manning the stand to create an appealing theme that people visiting the show will want to explore. Be creative.

There’s more to a show than a stand.

It’s easy to focus only on the stand itself and think that if you have that right, the rest will follow, but there is much more to successful exhibiting than that.

Well-placed PR stories can be invaluable to your business but a PR story has to be about something. An exhibition gives you something to talk about. Release a story that you are intending to attend the show in question. Tease or tell about how different your stand is going to be.

Make sure that you contact everyone on your customer database and invite them to the show. Perhaps there could be an offer or incentive attached that they can only receive by being there?

Go back to your list of what you want to achieve. If you want to generate sales leads then come up with an idea that will encourage everyone who visits your stand to leave their contact details. It might be a competition or a raffle but those details of people who have shown interest are worth their weight in gold.

Choose the team that will man the stand during the show. Have enough people so that individuals can take a break and make sure there will be enough people on the stand at all times to answer questions and talk to visitors.

The people who work the stand should be enthusiastic and outgoing but not pushy. It can be quite daunting to be faced with hoards of visitors or sit and watch the crowds seemingly ignore you so choose that team with great care. The right people with the right attitude will make a huge difference.

Brief that team well. Tell them to spend more time listening than talking. Tell them what your goals are for the show. Explain that they represent the business so they should be smart and polite and helpful.

No chatting on the mobile. No slurping a quick drink. That’s what breaks are for.

Getting information and giving information.

On the day you need to be prepared to get and to give information.

From the visitors that are interested in your products and services you need to get as much information as you can. Contact details certainly, but also specifically what they are interested in.

Having a simple, pre-printed form is a great idea. It reminds you what questions to ask and gives you a space to write the answers in. Each of those forms, at the end of the show, represents a really solid lead.

You also need to have some brochures or information sheets to give out along with a compliments slip or business card.

It’s a certainty that there will be reporters and journalists attending the event and it’s a good idea to know beforehand what information you want to give them and have a story that is interesting either about your stand or your business in order to increase the likelihood of some good PR.

Thank you and goodbye.

After you have packed up and put away, the most important work begins.

Quickly follow up on all those leads. Add all those new contacts to your customer database. Get in touch, even if it’s only to say how nice it was to meet them.

If you made sales at the show, that is almost a bonus. The core purpose of exhibitions and events is marketing rather than selling. Now that you have the leads, the selling can begin.