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Making an exhibition of yourself

Having organised and attended ‘just a few’ exhibitions in my time (in the UK, Europe and much further afield), I think I’m pretty au fait with what’s entailed in effective event management. There’s lots to consider in advance of the event, at the show and that all-important follow-up. If you just want to rock up to the show and ‘wing it’, then that’s all well and good but trade shows are expensive and often take a huge slice of the marketing pot; so you need to ensure that you get return on investment – or at least try!

Exhibitions are a fantastic way to promote your brand to your desired audience but it’s vital that you choose the best show and make sure the stand location is right for you. Before you sign on the dotted line, find out who is located nearby. Will you be adjacent to competitors or near to aspirational brands that may be beneficial?

Shows can be expensive, particularly the overseas events. Therefore, is it cost effective to go independently or, if you’re launching in a new market would a collaborative approach be more cost-effective? If you’re a speciality food brand looking to venture into an overseas food trade show, you may wish to read this case study.

When thinking of your stand design consider the best use of space. Will meetings be held on the stand, do you need a table and chairs? Will you be offering things to taste? Is there a competition that needs promoting? Ensure that there’s a focal point for your key messages.

Make the most of your attendance … Contact the show’s marketing team in advance to advise them of any new product launches, show offers etc. Provide press packs, images and (if possible) samples, to make your product visible in the press room and throughout the event.

Whilst at the show … when taking a sales lead make copious notes! This may seem basic, but believe me, I’ve witnessed sales sheets returning from shows with little more than a business card attached. It just makes the job ahead much harder! It’s also worthwhile prioritising the sales leads so that those who need an immediate response, get just that and those that are perhaps of a lower priority don’t get followed up with quite the same level of urgency.

Make sure you follow up! It’s not fair to name and shame, but I do know of businesses that have attended trade shows, been inundated with enquiries, gained lots of interest – and done absolutely nothing. I can’t quite comprehend this as it’s very easy to manage. If, for example, after a couple of weeks you’re still completely snowed under, why not send a polite ‘holding’ email, advising contacts that you’ve had a fantastic response at the show and are trying to respond to everyone as soon as possible? The contact doesn’t feel forgotten and, of course, it shows professionalism.

Above all, make sure you keep an eye on the bottom line. Trade events can be expensive so effective budgeting in advance, working to deadlines (to avoid penalties and additional costs) are absolute essentials.

Splat Marketing & PR organise trade shows and exhibitions for clients as part of the outsourced marketing services they provide. PR support includes securing coverage in show previews, journalist briefings, creative ideas to raise your profile at the show and post-show follow up.