Nine FAQs on exhibitions.
- Why should I take part in an exhibition?
- What is taking a stand at a trade show, a county show or a national exhibition likely to cost?
- How do I measure the cost-effectiveness of exhibiting, compared with other marketing activities?
- Where and how often should I exhibit?
- How far ahead should I start planning for a major show?
- What really matters when it comes to stand location, layout and design?
- How many people are needed on a stand?
- What is the key advice for successful exhibiting?
- How can I capture potential customers' contact details?
1. Why should I take part in an exhibition?
Exhibitions can be a valuable way of meeting many valuable prospects in one place and in a short space of time. Providing you choose the right show and plan carefully, you could lay the foundations for profitable growth in contacts and sales.
Apart from making contacts there are other valuable benefits:
- It raises your profile and improves your reputation to be seen at major venues like the NEC or Olympia;
- Shows are a good place to get instant feedback on new products;
- Your team can help staff the stand and they get a chance to meet customers face-to-face as well as checking out your competition;
- You may have the opportunity to meet overseas buyers and to look for agents here and abroad.
2. What is taking a stand at a trade show, a county show or a national exhibition likely to cost?
Major venues in the UK typically charge £300-£350 per square metre, so even a small stand is like to cost around £3,000. That said, there's always room for negotiation and you could well get a sizeable discount if you book at the last minute. This would give you a small shell stand (the bare frame, fascia name board and flooring). County or agricultural shows cost much less. The former will attract several hundred thousand people, the latter maybe only 5,000.
The other main costs are:
- Extras include lighting, power points and furniture. Take your own chairs, tables, pot plants, display boards etc with you as hiring them can be pricey.
- Some venues will prevent you doing wiring or stand building without using their contracted union labour. If you have a self-build stand you can just rent the space.
- Graphics - large photos dry mounted and text panels cost about £50 each.
- New sales literature may need to be printed.
- You may want to run competitions to encourage visitors to stop.
- Accommodation can be expensive near big venues. Book early and be prepared to travel some distance.
- Staff time and training, including setting up the stand and breaking it down after the show.
3. How do I measure the cost-effectiveness of exhibiting, compared with other marketing activities?
Public or consumer shows usually generate instant cash; at trade shows the real selling is done after the show with follow-up sales calls and visits.
Keep a record of all the visitors who express an interest in your goods, services or company. This could be as simple as a visitors' book or a box for business cards; training staff to ask for contact details will ensure you don’t miss any opportunities Larger exhibitions often use technology to help you collect visitor details such as barcode scanners that read the badges of visitors. The contact details of all those visitors are then sent to you following the event.
Bear in mind that there is often a surprisingly long lead time between making first contact and an order being secured, so measuring cost-effectiveness has to take a long-term view.
4. Where and how often should I exhibit?
Where you choose to exhibit will be governed by the industry you are in and the range of events that are available. Look for shows where most of your target audience are likely to attend. Event organisers should be able to give you a detailed breakdown of exhibitors and visitors from previous years. Check this to see if your rivals, customers and targets are listed. Are the major players in your sector there? Ideally, visit first before booking for next year. This will also give you an idea of the best spots to book.
You can find out about all the UK trade and consumer exhibitions at Exhibitions.co.uk.
5. How far ahead should I start planning for a major show?
Shows are expensive and success usually only comes from planning well in advance. A good show organiser will produce a guide giving deadlines for booking items such as show catalogue entries, electrical requirements and so on.
Printing takes time. Look at your literature to make sure it's up to date and appropriate for your next event. You can work out how many copies to print based on the fact that you are likely to meet 5% of the total number of visitors on your stand. Don’t forget to update your website, including specific product pages.
6. What really matters when it comes to stand location, layout and design?
Traffic is the most important factor. While you want your stand to be in a position where plenty of people see it, they also need to stop and look properly. You can attract attention by providing good visual interest on the stand - such as well-designed graphics or digital displays. Never assume visitors passing your stand know what you produce - spell it out with words and pictures.
It is possible to design a stand yourself using simple components but be careful not to look too cheap. Modular stands are generally the most affordable option; for a tailor-made stand, use a specialist exhibition stand designer.
7. How many people are needed on a stand?
Even a small unit should have at least two people on hand - even if only one is on duty at a time. The appropriate people are those who know about the product and who can interact well with stand visitors. Staff training is vital to ensure your team are well-presented, briefed on you products and services and understand the objectives of the event. Make sure your stand staff are easily identifiable to visitors.
8. What is the key advice for successful exhibiting?
To improve your use of exhibitions:
- Promote your stand in advance on your website and via social media and by inviting customers to visit you at the event.
- Make sure your stand looks professional, interesting and busy.
- Try putting something arresting (but relevant) on the stand to attract attention.
- Rotate the staff to keep them fresh and alert.
- Be attentive and friendly but don't pounce on visitors or place yourself in the entry point to the stand. Be on hand, but behave like wallpaper until needed.
- Mark new products NEW.
- Address visitors by reading their name tags.
- Follow up promptly on any enquiries.
- After the event finishes, but while things are still fresh, hold a debrief meeting with your staff and set targets for the next event.
Avoid common pitfalls:
- not making it apparent what it is your business does;
- providing obstacles to entry onto the stand such as steps or balustrades;
- poor quality graphics;
- bored, tired or disinterested staff more interested in colleagues than greeting visitors;
- untidy stands;
- no name tags or common dress code;
- failure to identify the visitor early in the meeting.
9. How can I capture potential customers' contact details?
Many exhibitions provide technology to help you capture visitor details. This could include the use of barcode readers that can obtain a visitor's contact details from their name badge or QR codes that allow exhibitors and visitors to obtain lists of contacts they have met during an event. If your chosen exhibition does not use technology, you should, at the very least, get every visitor's business card and make a record of what their query was and what action is required. Follow-up should be done within days, preferably by phone, thanking them for attending the show and trying to close a sale.