Getting Exhibitions Right – Our 7 Step Guide


Industry shows and trade exhibitions can be a great way of getting in front of a large number of prospective clients in a short space of time. Whether you are selling B2B or B2C, these events can effectively bring buyers to you. But it’s not simply a case of rocking up on the day with your wares and expecting to meet your annual sales target by the time the event closes. It’s important to properly plan if you are exhibiting at events and in doing so you should consider the following:


  • Set your objective early and work towards it

“Get some sales” or “Generate some new leads” may be well and good, but as objectives they are too vague and difficult to measure. Consider who is going to be there and what you are looking to get out of attending and then set objectives that are SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound.


If you worked in Car Sales and were attending the Motor Show then your objective might be “Get contact details for 50 people who are looking to upgrade their current vehicle to a SUV in the next 6 months”.


  • Determine what you are there to promote

Most organisations have a range of products or services they offer, but trying to showcase too many on an exhibition stand that probably isn’t going to be that big might be difficult.

Identify the products or services that will make your objective more achievable and stick with those. If you are trying to attract the car buyer who wants an SUV then take props, literature or even a car that helps you highlight that model and get more interest. You’re probably not going to get significant leads for your SUV if you are showcasing your new hatchback, so make sure you have a cohesive plan for this.


  • Decide what your ‘hook’ is

People are reluctant to give away their personal information cheaply and when they do they expect to be followed up by proactive sales people at a later date, so you need to consider what you can offer them in return. This might be a competition, a giveaway on the stand, the possibility of a free test-drive or the promise of useful information after the event.


Over the years we have seen some innovative methods of getting potential customer information, from Scalextric races, Spin-the-Wheel giveaways to Round the World trip competitions – each of which designed to get people to give their details.


  • Speak – if you can

Many events are based around a conference or there are seminar sessions available for people to attend. These are an opportunity to show knowledge and pass on insight to the audience. If there is an opportunity for someone to speak at an event then take it – it doesn’t have to be you who stands up in front of the room of people – the speaking slot can be taken by the best person in your organisation to do the job, or you may even consider hiring a public speaker to give you even more kudos. Seminars give you the ability to raise your profile and drive footfall towards your stand, so use it.


  • Promote your attendance

It is the event organiser’s job to market the event and get delegates to attend, but don’t rely just on them to drum up interest. Identify existing and potential customers who might benefit from attending and personally invite them to meet you on your company stand. They may be going already, but knowing you are there will ensure they pay the visit to see you.


In addition to personal invites, you should also use both the companies and the event organiser’s marketing channels to promote the fact that you are exhibiting.


Bear in mind your objective – if you don’t do your bit in the run up to an event to encourage the right kind of potential client to attend then you are less likely to achieve it.


  • Have a proper plan to follow up

Unless everything goes horribly wrong, you’re going to get some level of interest and someone in your organisation is going to have leads to follow up on.


Make sure you have a structured plan for this part of the process else the conversion rate will be in danger of being low. If you have promised information or activities to people when you have met them at the event then make sure you deliver on them.


It is important to remember during this part of the plan that these people will probably have had several positive discussions with several other exhibitors at the event and so you have to ensure that you are memorable and stand out when you follow up.


Ensure there is a clear next step in the process – a free test drive for example in the SUV scenario – and that there is a timescale to complete this.


  • Evaluate and update you plan

There are many variables when it comes to exhibiting at an event and so it is vital to review after a period of time to see what worked, what didn’t and what needs to be improved for future events. The evaluation should be considered with the objectives in mind to fully examine what helped and what may have hindered that goal. Some good questions to ask when you evaluate include:


  • Was it the right audience for your objective?
  • Was your stand in the right position to attract visitors?
  • Did your hook work?
  • Could you have done more to attract more visitors?
  • Did your follow up activities work?
  • Have you converted leads into business?


Successful events are a mixture of a range of project management, marketing, sales and interpersonal skills and at different stages in the process you may need to wear different hats.


Our team of consultants at Maguire Training have vast experience of these areas and we can put together bespoke learning solutions to maximise the opportunities your team may have from the events you attend. Please feel free to get in touch if you’d like further information.

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