Foot-fall: If the event has run for several years ask for previous years visitor and exhibitor figures. If there are signs of decreases this might be a sign not to attend the event. But if you do want to go and the figures are down this might be an opportunity to negotiate a better exhibition space price.
Who is Attending: Is it Trade, Public or Both. Government Officials, Celebrities, CEO (C-Suite), Senior Managers, Decision makers, Researchers, Procurement team, Sales, Agents and Distributors, International Attendees or Fans. If you purchase exhibition space will there be enough of the people you want to attract attention?
Event Management Investment: What is the Events Management company doing to promote the Exhibition? Is their reach and spend enough to reach maximum attendees?
Event Positioning: Consider is the event the main event, a sideshow or even a walk-through filler for a conference where potential clients can only engage during coffee breaks?
Competitors: Will they be there? What level of presence do they have? If you're going to exhibit in your competitor’s hometown and they spend Six-figures on an exhibition stand and you turn up with a couple of pop-up stands and a few samples to stand in the far corner your just not going to cut it.
Suppliers: What percentage of your suppliers or potential suppliers will be there? It is often better to have someone in procurement on the exhibition stand (depending on the size) or to have a general procurement business card to hand out so that the suppliers are not clogging the exhibition stand or consuming sales peoples time.
Exhibition Space: What space is available? Is it Space or a Shell Scheme? Often you can get a reduced price if a business federation is exhibiting and they offer members space. Does the Governments Regional Economic Development Agency (UK: UK for International Trade (DIT), US: International Trade Administration or Small Business Administration (SBA)) or Country Area/Zone have a dedicated stand area?
Location: Being on the main walkway, or beside a major company who is within the same sector can be very beneficial in attracting new clients, however being on a side-walkway near the back which is nowhere near major brands is normally a low foot-fall area. Likewise, being located beside a food stall will generate conversations but chances are they are not serious clients.
When to book: For some events, you need to book directly after the last event closes to be sure of the space you want. For others, I would recommend 4-6 months before the date.
Exhibition Space: Regardless if space is a small 4x6ft shell scheme or you are the main exhibitor make sure the stand is engaging and inviting. You can have a small shell scheme with pop-up wall banners and scaled replicas of your products which can be effective.
Exhibition Stand: If you are going to use a custom-build stand you need to start planning the layout at the earliest opportunity along with understanding will the stand be used once or multiple times? If the stand is to be used several times how it will be erected and dismantled, stored and transported is all vital to cost and plan for. Will the design and layout be relevant in X amount of years? Can the stand structure and panels cope with international or national travel without looking worn? Can the stand be easily modified for different exhibition spaces?
Cost: Consider all expenses before purchasing the space, this includes hotels, flights, entertainment and expenses along with with all exhibition associated costs. The total cost must be considered versus meeting clients directly face to face in their company throughout the year or advertising.
Export Restrictions: If your business relies on Export Licence Approval, apply for the Licence and make sure its granted before booking exhibition space.
Attracting Customers and Potential Customers
1. A Footer banner should be added to everyone’s email including non-sales two to three months before the exhibition stating the Exhibition Name, Stand Number and Dates.
2. Write a personal letter or Email six week before the event to all key clients asking them to attend. You should be able to offer;
a. Free entry tickets
b. Propose a date and time to meet.
c. Potentially a product launch.
d. Agree to sign a deal and attract media attention.
e. Evening entertainment
3. Have the event’s organisers forward you the contact details list for any VIPs attending the event at least 2 months before the Exhibition. Write each VIP a personal letter or email explaining who you are and what you would like to have the VIP attend the stand to show them the latest Widget. If there are multiple VIPs try and split up the days and times they will attend. If there is a VIP attending I personally believe the owner or CEO of the company should be there. The Queen, The President, Senior Vice President of Global Procurement or even a Celebrity should be greeted by the owner. If you are having a VIP come to the stand make sure that you have their assistance email and mobile number and continually follow-up with them to make sure that the visit to the exhibition stand is seamless.
4. Understand if any of your customers will be attending. If they are – who is it within the company.
TIP-1 If the MD is walking the exhibition with all their technical team to get new ideas to make sure you either have the capability to speak technically about the product or that you have someone on the stand who can engage with them. It cannot be emphasised enough that preparation is key and that the technical person knows who the client is and has predicted and rehearsed any potential questions.
TIP-2 If a customer asks, “show me something new” makes sure you have something to say and show.
TIP-3 Match the employees from your company to the customer's team attending.
TIP-4 The Cardinal Sin, if you haven’t been engaging with the client the way you should have, or if you have had a problem that you're keeping quiet, it's vital that you share that with the Exhibition team. There is nothing worse than standing in a group and an issue is highlighted that your colleagues know nothing about.
5. Set-up a company group calendar 2 month before the exhibition so that each team member can schedule their client's visit times and days.
6. Record everyone who went onto the exhibition stand. You can take a scan of their business card and write notes to it, to follow-up with or create an action point.
7. Safety and Security:
a. Back-up all laptops and mobiles to the company server before the exhibition.
b. Password protect each electronic device.
c. Screen lock each device after 1 min.
d. DO NOT USE PUBLIC OPEN WIFI.
e. Do not leave out specification or price lists to be lifted by competitors.
f. New products should be taken off the stand or secured away after the exhibition.
8. Follow-up with Clients until you know if they will be attending but possibly can’t commit to a day or time.
9. Have a list of customers names, emails and mobile numbers. Make sure this is in “soft” format, password protected and is not on public display.
10. After each customer, visit send out an email to the client detailing the points discussed and the next action steps with a proposed date to move to the next step.
11. Follow-up after the event, with a personal email - hope they had a good exhibition, enjoyed the entertainment etc.
12. Follow-up the following week to start engaging to move the prospect forward.