Whether you’re a small business or a large corporation, exhibiting at a trade show can be a great way to promote your products or services and build brand awareness.
However, planning an effective exhibit takes time and careful consideration. From booking your space, designing your stand, promotional activities at the show, and post-event customer engagement strategies – it can be tough to know where or when to start.
Generally speaking, you should be planning your exhibition shows at least 9-12 months in advance. So with 2023 approaching quicker than we would like, this is a timely reminder that if you are exhibiting next year, you should already be well into your planning phase.
So, here we share some tips on how to plan for your 2023 exhibits.
Have a clear objective
Before you even start planning your exhibition, it’s important to have a clear objective for what you want to achieve from participating.
This could be anything from generating sales leads to raising brand awareness or launching a new product. Once you know what your objective is, you can start planning how best to achieve it through your exhibition activities. It is also recommended that you share your vision of success with your stand builder so that they can make specific recommendations and help guide your stand design journey to meet your objectives.
Give yourself enough time to plan
As a direct effect of global supply chain challenges, Australia has experienced unprecedented disruption to the events and exhibitions industry. In a recent study conducted by Deloitte, it was found that supply chain delays had the greatest impact on manufacturing companies in the 12–18 months.
If there’s a specialised material, a specific PMS colour finish you are after or you simply need to meet a deadline, it is now more important than ever to plan early to secure what you need for your event.
As mentioned, you should be having conversations with your internal sales and marketing teams 9-12 months out from the event date and engage with your preferred stand builder soon after this time. Your planning should include everything from researching which show or shows are the best fit for your company, to designing and building your stand, and booking travel and accommodation for your team. The earlier you can start to plan, the better, because essentially the more time you have, the less stressful it will be and the more likely you are to end up with a successful result.
Set a budget
From designing your stand, to staff expenses, there are a lot of costs to consider when planning an exhibition. Set yourself a budget and keep track of your costs. After all, trade shows are one of the most significant line items in the marketing budget for many
If you are engaging in a yearly event, be sure to allow for inflation. If this is your first exhibit, carefully research your costs to determine your budget needs. The current economic climate and industry challenges have increased costs in unprecedented areas such as materials, freight and labour. Ask your stand builder about what to expect in these areas to ensure you can budget accordingly and evaluate ways how to maximise your spend and ROI.
Once you have determined which shows you want to attend and what your business objectives are, it’s key to understand who will be attending these shows and who your prospective customers will be. Consider the audience demographics as well as the size and scale of the event – how many attendees do they attract and how successful is the event perceived to be? Then, once you have narrowed it down to a few trade shows that work for your business, identify and attend those with the highest potential.
Ultimately, knowing your audience will help drive your strategy and ensure you provide the right experience for them.
Invest in a good stand design
Your stand is one of the most important aspects of exhibiting, so it’s worth investing in a good design. Take the time to consider stand-out elements that will elevate and differentiate your space. Do you want to create maximum impact? If so, you’ll need to consider allocating a portion of the budget to overhead signage, lighting and rigging.
Not only do you want a functional exhibition stand that is easy to navigate, but having a point of difference will also help attract and engage exhibition attendees. Consider things such as a free giveaway, the latest photo booth technology (from augmented reality to your traditional selfie) or food and beverage offerings – coffee carts, juice stations and gelato bars are always a winner.
While it’s important to have a great product or service to showcase, without a well-thought-out promotion strategy, your trade show booth is likely to be lost among the hundreds of others on the convention floor. It’s important your promotions appeal to your audience, whether it’s discounts, giveaways, games or something else entirely. Your promotions strategy should be determined by your overall business objectives and your audience, plus be properly executed so that they’re successful in driving traffic to your booth.
Train your team
Firstly, determine who will be on your team. The changes in trade show environments make this an ideal time for exhibitors to up their game. Many companies set up booths but don’t show themselves very well, with salespeople sitting down while staring at their phones instead of greeting passers-by. Some of the salespeople who do speak to people haven’t given much thought to what they want to pitch.
To avoid this, you want to ensure your sales and marketing teams are briefed on everything they need to know about the exhibition before they head off to the show floor. This includes information on your company, products, or services, as well as any specific objectives or targets you have for the event. It’s also a good idea to provide them with some basic training on how best to engage with visitors so that they can make the most of every opportunity.
Follow up with customers after the event
Once the exhibition is over, don’t forget about following up with customers who showed an interest in your products or services. This is an important part of converting leads into sales, so make sure you have a system in place for capturing contact details and following up promptly after the event. According to EXHIBITOR magazine’s most recent Sales Lead Survey, at least 40 percent of leads generated on the trade show floor go unfulfilled. Essentially, four out of every 10 leads you collect in your exhibits might just as well go directly into the trash – along with nearly 40 percent of your program’s value.
Use post-show campaigns as an opportunity to thank customers for their interest and invite them back to visit your website or store.
Exhibitions can be a great way to generate interest in your company and products or services, but they take careful planning and preparation if they’re going to be successful. Start by defining what success means to you and your brand and by following these tips, you’ll be on track to putting on a great show in 2023.