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September 4, 2013

Get ready to exhibit this fall… part 1 of a 3-part series

ExhibitorBadge2The conference season is right around the corner… ESOMAR, TMRE, QRCA, CASRO, etc.  And many of you have committed to exhibiting at one or more of these shows. I’m a big fan of exhibiting… done right, exhibiting can be an outstanding marketing vehicle and help you to generate highly-qualified sales leads, launch a new product or service, generate market awareness and support your association.

On the other hand, with the cost of the exhibit space, travel and lodging, building or updating your booth, shipping, event marketing, etc., your firm’s presence there could very well be the single largest marketing expense you have all year. Exhibiting is one of those things you must do really well to see a solid return on your investment.

As part of my 30-year career in marketing & sales, I spent almost seven years in the conference and trade show industry working for two of the nation’s top independent event producers. I’ve helped produce hundreds of B2B events… and in doing so, learned a lot about exhibiting.

This 3-part blog series will provide some insider tips on managing your exhibiting efforts BEFORE, DURING and AFTER the event.

Part 1: BEFORE the event

  1. Read the exhibitors’ manual… everything you need to know is in there.  Complete and submit the forms early – there is always significant dollar savings when you do (services ordered on-site are often twice the cost!).  Most importantly, make sure the shipping of your booth to and from the event is taken care of.  Note: If the exhibits are on a cement floor – order carpet… your feet will thank you.
  2. If your booth/display has been in hibernation for a while… pull it out, set it up and take a look at it.  What kind of shape is it in?  Do you need new graphics?  Is the message up-to-date and consistent with your brand?  “More imagery – less words” is the proper guideline for booths.
  3. Check your booth supplies – make sure you’ve got plenty of pens, a couple of staplers, lots and lots of business cards, note pads, sales literature, etc.  I’d also suggest a ‘lead form’ for writing down notes about each person who comes to the booth – the back of their business card just isn’t enough room.  P.S. skip the giveaways (frisbees, coffee cups, etc) – if your presentation in the booth is not compelling, no amount of freebies is going to help.
  4. Staffing… who’s going to go?  Schedule shifts for your team – have two staffers in the booth at all times (assuming an 8’x10′ booth); prep and train them; and no rookies, please – send your best and brightest.  And it’s not just about the exhibit hall… take a look at the event schedule and make sure you build in time for attending/networking at the educational sessions and planned social events.  By the way, how’s your elevator pitch?
  5. Pre-show marketing… use email, social media, phone calls and your website to let everyone know you’ll be there and what you’ll be showcasing in your booth.  Schedule meetings/social time with key clients/sales prospects ahead of time.  Take advantage of what the show producer offers – a listing in a directory, online ads, etc.
  6. Finally, set your goals for exhibiting.  You do have them don’t you?  Your goals could be the number of booth visitors, number of demonstrations/presentations given, number of follow-up appointments set, competition-watching, etc.  If you don’t have a reason for going… why go at all?

Exhibiting effectively cannot be approached haphazardly… spend some time on the front-end getting ready.  As Ben Franklin once quipped, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

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