Trade shows and exhibitions – what to consider before you commit

This is the first in a short series of blogs giving support and help to those thinking about exhibiting or paying for a stand at an exhibition, trade show or fair. The information here will mainly be of use to those in the B2B market, however much of it will be relevant to those targeting B2C events.

If you find this series useful, please do share it and be sure to let me know what you think!

This blog will focus on how to choose which event to attend, and what questions to ask to make sure you’re getting value for money from the event you choose. We are all bombarded with a multitude of events with hugely varying price tags, all claiming to be able to do wonders for your business. So how do you sift the wheat from the chaff, the events which will give you a good chance of a sound return on investment from the ones which are a waste of time, poorly organised and poorly attended; or which simply don’t attract the people who you want to speak to?

The first tip, as with any marketing decision, is to be sure why you are considering attendance at a show in the first place. What do you want to get out of it? Brand awareness? To be ‘seen’ in the right places? To establish yourself as a market leader by taking advantage of a speaking opportunity at a seminar? To generate leads? All of these are valid reasons, and I’m sure you can come up with many more – but until you are clear in your reasons for attending, you can’t decide which is the right event for you.

Remember in your interactions with the ‘space sellers’, particularly for the bigger exhibitions, these guys are trained to close your involvement and they are only really interested in the bottom line, it’s your responsibility to make sure you ask the right questions! So, what should you ask them?

  • Ignore any ‘estimated attendance’ figures, and ask for the figures from the previous year or previous running of the event. Make sure you ask for the actual attendance figures, not the number registered figures, as these often vary quite significantly. If the previous event attendance figures vary wildly from the expected attendance being bounded about, let the alarm bells ring; if they match, happy days.
  • Enquire how many have already registered for this event, and how this compares with the number pre-registered by the same time for the previous event.
  • Take a look at the pre-advertising for the event – and critically evaluate whether you would invest the time and travel costs in attending. Is it being well advertised and promoted? Is there added value in attendance for delegates? Seminars, networking opportunities etc ?
  • Ask for a sample of the type of person who attended the last event. The event organisers are unlikely to give you names, but they should offer a sample of the attendee job titles and market sectors. Are these the people you want to target? If not, the event is unlikely to be for you.
  • Find out how many exhibitors from the previous event have rebooked, and ask if you can give any of them a call for a reference. If the answer is ‘no’, let a search engine be your friend, and hunt down the information, then pick up the phone.

Once armed with all this information, let’s assume you’ve decided to go ahead and book exhibition space. You’ll need to understand what is included in the price you’re being quoted.

‘Space only’ means just that – just simply the space on the floor, so you’ll be completely responsible for providing everything to go on it. A better option for many small businesses on a limited budget is a ‘shell scheme’, this often includes stand ‘walls’ to closed sides of the stand, carpeting, a name banner and occasionally some lighting. Sometimes a basic table and chairs are included, other times not, so do check. If you need to hire stand furniture it can be a very expensive exercise, especially as for larger shows you often have to use the approved supplier and aren’t allowed to bring your own.

Think too about where is best to be located in the exhibition layout. Avoid dead ends, or around the edge of the show as traffic here is often slow, choose a centrally located spot. If the show has a seminar venue or networking area, close by is good as traffic volumes will be higher, but the show organisers are usually clued up and these areas tend to be laid out for larger, more expensive stands. Try to go with a shallow, wide stand, it’s your shop window width that counts, not lots of depth to the stand which can be expensive and difficult to fill properly.

Before you finally agree to buy, do haggle on the deal you’re getting. Try for a shell scheme for the ‘space only’ price, a slightly larger stand for the price of a smaller; or if there are speaking opportunities at seminars, see if you can persuade the organisers to let you have one of those included in the price, or an additional sponsorship of a break-out area. Don’t take anything at face value; there is always room for negotiation and if you don’t ask you don’t get.

Your decision to attend is now made, you’ve chosen your stand location, know what you’re getting and have got a good deal… How to plan and prepare in the lead up to the show will be the subject of my next blog.


About The Marketing Angel

Inspired by those with the passion to succeed, I work with business owners to create tailored strategies for cost effective lead generation.
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2 Responses to Trade shows and exhibitions – what to consider before you commit

  1. ospreypools1 says:

    Good article Lesley. If you have a website try and intergrate it into your website


    John (Osprey Pools)

    • Thanks for the comment John, I’m glad you found the article interesting. I do have a website but I’m in the middle of a revamp right now, where the blog will be an integral part of the website :).

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