Nine FAQs on exhibitions.
- Why should I take part in a business exhibition?
- How much will a stand at a trade show or national exhibition cost?
- How do I measure my return on investment from exhibiting?
- Where and how often should I exhibit?
- How far ahead should I start planning for a major trade show?
- What really matters when it comes to stand location, layout and design?
- How many people are needed on an event stand?
- What is the key to successful exhibiting?
- How can I capture contact details at exhibitions?
1. Why should I take part in a business exhibition?
Exhibitions can be a valuable way to meet lots of 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 to attending trade shows:
- 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, giving them a chance to meet customers face-to-face as well as check out your competition.
- You may have the opportunity to meet overseas buyers and to look for agents here and abroad.
2. How much will a stand at a trade show or national exhibition cost?
Major venues in the UK typically charge £300-£350 per square metre, so even a small exhibition 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're booking at the last minute.
This price would get you a small shell stand (the bare frame, fascia name board and flooring).
County or agricultural shows cost much less. The former will attract up to several hundred thousand people, the latter maybe only 5,000.
The other main costs to budget for are:
- Stand dressing and decoration. Large photos (dry-mounted) and text panels cost about £50 each.
- Extras such as lighting, power points and furniture. Take your own chairs, tables, 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 invest in a self-build stand, you can just rent the space.
- Sales literature may need to be printed.
- You may want to run special offers or competitions to encourage visitors to stop.
- Travel, food and hotel expenses for you and your staff. Accommodation can be expensive near big venues during a show, so book early and be prepared to travel some distance.
- Finally, budget for staff time and training, including setting up the stand and breaking it down after the show, and following up leads.
3. How do I measure my return on investment from exhibiting?
Public or consumer shows usually generate instant cash through on-the-spot sales. 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 make use of 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 any measure of 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 that 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 trade 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.
Designing and printing literature also takes time. Look at your brochures to check whether they're up to date and appropriate for your next event. To work out how many copies you'll need, work on the basis that you are likely to welcome 5% of the exhibition's total number of visitors on your stand.
Don’t forget to update your website, either, including specific product pages.
6. What really matters when it comes to stand location, layout and design?
Traffic is the most important factor when it comes to choosing a spot. While you want your stand to be in a position where plenty of people will see you, they also need to be able 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 passers-by know who you are or what you do - spell it out clearly 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 an event stand?
Even a small unit should have at least two people on hand - even if only one is on duty at a time. Appropriate choices are those members of staff who are knowledgeable about the product, passionate about your business, and able to interact well with stand visitors.
Staff training is vital to ensure your team are well-presented, briefed on your products and services and understand the objectives of the event. Make sure your stand staff are easily identifiable to visitors, too.
8. What is the key to successful exhibiting?
- 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.
- Rotate your 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 as 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 the following common exhibition pitfalls:
- not making it apparent who you are or what your business does;
- providing obstacles to entry, such as steps or balustrades;
- using dull, amateurish or poor-quality stand decor;
- bored, tired or disinterested staff;
- letting your stand get untidy as the day goes on;
- failing to gather contact details to follow up after the show.
9. How can I capture contact details at exhibitions?
Many exhibitions provide technology to help you capture visitor details. This could include barcode readers that can obtain a visitor's contact details from their name badge, or QR codes on your stand.
If your chosen exhibition does not use technology, you should, at the very least, take every visitor's business card (or name and company details), 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 the person for attending your stand and confirming next steps, with the aim of eventually closing a sale.