What is the difference between hosting an exhibition stand and exhibiting to your full potential?
The answer; the engagement and impact made with exhibition visitors. Whilst many exhibitors intend on exhibiting to make an impression, the unanimous objective is to make a lasting impact rather than passively attend trade shows. After being in the industry for 13 years, we know there are a million ways to ‘come out on top’, ‘compete against competitors’ or ‘lure in customers’ – scrap the secrets and the jargon, these are our top tips to attract quality leads to your stand everyone can understand.
The attraction of visitors to your stand starts the moment the decision is made to exhibit at the trade show or exhibition. Enter your marketing campaign; alongside deciphering the objective of exhibiting, consideration should be given to the marketing distributed in the leadup to being onsite.
This marketing approach can be broken down into two avenues that every business can utilise based on your existing clients and potential audience.
The Existing Audience:
Whilst tapping into an existing client base is a no-brainer before going onsite the ‘See you at the Exhibition this weekend’ email won’t quite cut it. Consideration should be given to the strategy behind liaising with the audience. According to TrueList 2022 it takes eight touch points for a message to be comprehended, so unfortunately one email with every single detail squashed in won’t have the impact you desire. Instead prepare an eDM calendar which not only reminds your audience to see you at your upcoming event, but gives them FOMO should they not see you there. Stuck for ideas? Here are a few:
- Attendance announcement and launch
- What’s on the stand | staff, new products, education
- Guest speaker highlight or stand activities
- Exclusive trade show offers
- Stand number and event information
- “See you at the exhibition this weekend” – don’t worry we weren’t going to forget this one!
TIP: Keep eDMs short, sharp and to the point. Think of the emails you receive and how you retain information. Strong headings, imagery and infographics are more engaging than paragraphs of detail.
Aligned to the eDM campaign, companies should look to extend their messaging across their social media platforms.
The Potential Audience:
Whilst attending exhibition and trade shows offer a great opportunity for the business to re-acquaint and strengthen relationships with existing customers, one of the likely objectives of exhibiting will be to generate leads and build relationships with potential clients. It is at this stage that companies should look to target potential customers in their pre-show marketing campaign.
Need ideas? Here’s a few we prepared earlier:
- Enable ‘share’ functionality within eDMs for your database to share with their industry contacts.
- Incentivise and encourage word of mouth with the existing audience
- Tap into the audiences of any guests or presenters visiting the stand
- Align with influencers or key personnel within the industry to reach their audience
- Tap into partnership and sponsorship opportunities within the exhibition to increase awareness to all attendees
- Place targeted paid ads behind social media posts to target look-a-like audiences.
With consistent marketing in the lead up to the event your business has already started attracting visitors to your stand without even being onsite.
The attraction of attendees goes beyond what’s happening within the stand and what it has to offer. To attract attendees, first you must attract their attention within the event space. There are three phases to catch attention onsite; first upon entry to the event, second walking past the stand and third retaining their attention whilst on the stand.
Upon entry to the exhibition hall competitors will likely sit between your business and the entryway. There are a number of ways to attract people and eliminate the distractions of other companies starting with placement. Before signing the contract, review the floorplan carefully to understand a suitable location for your stand. Key things to consider include proximity to entryways, aisles and key features, as well as space exposed to the aisles. For example larger real estate along an aisle creates greater opportunity for your stand to be seen. Stand design also plays a strong role in appeal and luring people to your exhibition stand. To create an eye-catching space consideration should be given to rigged, or hanging banners from the ceiling which often act as a halo above the stand, which can often be identified from the entry.
Design plays an even more significant role when attracting attendees who are walking past. Creating raised flooring works to separate the stand from the aisle in addition to harnessing exclusivity. LED Screens can work to project imagery and movement with the stand to catch attention. Ensuring the stand design is unique with bold graphics and a striking content also works to gain more attendees. Strong company branding that is readily visible also supports attracting attention and retaining brand recognition.
The final element of catching attention onsite sits within retaining visitor’s attention once in the stand space.
You’ve done the work to attract visitors onto your stand, now you need to keep them there. A lot of this comes down to the layout of the stand itself with space at the forefront. Ensuring there is room for visitors to step onto the stand is key regardless of whether they are there to be educated, trial new products or converse.
Consideration should be given to ensuring the exhibition stand is a welcoming environment with adequate space within the stand to sit and speak. This should be an area that provides respite from the fast pace of the event, where attendees and staff alike can take a breather and converse being able to hear each other. This can be harnessed through a partial wall, or lounge area within the stand.
For stands that showcase products, sample products should be placed in a space where they are easily accessible. By comparison, products that require trialling should be placed in a space away from a thoroughfare to ensure disturbance isn’t made for other attendees and the trialler can utilise the product efficiently. If education is an objective, space should be created to either encourage standing room, or seated areas away from thoroughfares and other distractions.
TIP: Offering hot drinks works to elevate the space as not just a break away from the exhibition floor but as an opportunity for staff to converse with attendees.
Alike your exhibition signage the staff selected for event work as the face of your stand. Consideration should be given to optimise the staff working onsite, ensuring that they are not only knowledgeable on the business but are aware of the enthusiasm required whilst onsite. Staff selected should be well trained in communicating with prospects and be comfortable to approach new leads in a friendly and informative way, rather than being overwhelming and pressuring.
It is recommended to develop a plan to approach potential clients at the trade show including noticing social queues to inform whether they are happy to explore the stand independently or seeking further information. As part of this, staff should be informed on how to position themselves within the trade show booth, ensuring they are actively walking around and engaging, rather than being seated behind trestle tables.
Ahead of going onsite ensure the staff on the trade stand are familiar with talking about the company and the products, as well as the company’s expectations about being onsite. This will include the exhibition goals, whether it be to generate new leads, build rapport with existing customers or educate on new ideas, products or services.
To maintain staff motivation and energy whilst at the trade show, companies should consider incentivisation programs for example competitions with generating new contacts or rewards for sales. This works not only to maintain engagement with the staff but ensure guests that walk past or within the stand are liaised with effectively.
Stand exhibitions have the potential to go beyond showcasing products and services. Consideration should be given to the guests that can be featured within the stand. Tapping into industry experts (who are perhaps already attending the event), are a strong opportunity for companies. For newer or smaller companies, guests can consist of featuring key personnel from within the business itself. Utilise staff from different teams to educate on their specialised area, alternatively key leaders within the company can feature on the stand as a source of trusted education. There are a number of engaging activities industry experts and companies can engage in whilst on the exhibition stand:
- Presentations and talks on specialised topics
- Product demonstrations
- Q&A and panel discussions.
Ensure you are using the guests to their full potential onsite by promoting their participation and timing on the stands LED screens to grab attention of attendees. When presenting, ensure adequate AV is provided including screens for presentations, and microphones so that they can be heard.
For product demonstrations, live feed videography can be presented onto screens to ensure all visitors can engage with the presentation. Roaming microphones may also work to enable visitors to ask questions throughout the presentation. Throughout presentations, comfortable seating and standing room should be provided to encourage attendees to stay as well as keep the aisles clear.
TIP: If industry guests are appearing on the stand, request they market their participation to their network to further expand your exhibition stand awareness.
There is no doubt that exhibition stands and trade shows are a competitive environment which is why your exhibition stand should aim to be unique within the trade hall. Whilst appearance often comes to mind for a clear difference, the exhibition success often sits with the engagement among your target audience and ultimately more traffic.
There are a number of ways this can be achieved:
- Stand promotion: placing a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) and boosting exhibition stand traffic, creating a stand promotion uniquely for the show will help drive traffic into the stand.
- Competition or giveaway: Although competitions aim to drive traffic to the exhibition stand, ensure the correct practices are implemented to ensure your company is receiving the most information from the interested attendees. Competitions and giveaways are the perfect opportunity for obtaining new leads and completing market research, by asking attendees information about themselves to enter.
- Create a relaxing space: with hot drinks, offer free wi fi, create a relaxing space, encouraging attendees to take a seat and reflect upon their day. Positioning charging stations within the stand will encourage attendees to stay in this space longer, giving the company more time to create new contacts.
- Interactive technology: Not only do attendees look to be educated at exhibitions, they also look to trial and engage with new products. Ensure products within the stands are readily available for trial to encourage attendees to extend their time on the stand and engage with you.
Whilst the exhibition stand will work to play to the desires of attendees, and work against the habits of competing stands, it’s important to ensure the stand remains a strong reflection of your brands to maintain focus on your target market.
The Follow Up
Attracting visitors to the stand goes beyond the stand itself and leans into the follow up after the event. Ensure shortly after the exhibition all new leads are corresponded with using tailored content in line with the conversations you’ve had with them when at the show. (TIP: No one wants to be constantly bombarded by a new company contact after being onsite). With considered communication distributed to all new and existing leads the relationship will not only develop in the immediate future but their experience and word of mouth will impact your company’s success at future events.
Representing your business at a trade show can be both exciting and daunting. By taking a considered approach to being onsite with the aforementioned points will ensure more visitors are attracted to your exhibition stand. With the support of these seven suggestions your business can feel rest assured that visitors will be driven to your booth and engage in meaningful conversations.