Successful Conference Exhibitors Do These 5 Things
Whether you’re looking to meet new prospects, strengthen your relationship with existing customers, or simply build brand awareness, there’s no doubt that exhibiting is worth your while. However, it’s no secret that conference exhibitions require an investment. So, how can you get the best ROI?
In this article, we share five things that successful conference exhibitors do to ensure they achieve their goals.
1. Plan, Plan, Plan!
Don’t underestimate the importance of good planning. A good plan means that you know what your goal is, and you have an idea how you’re going to reach it. Ultimately, it’s your roadmap to success.
First up, give some thought to why you’re attending the conference and who’s going to be there. Are you aiming to convert leads into sales? Perhaps it’s an opportunity to learn more about the competition? Are you viewing it as an opportunity to raise awareness of your business’ brand? Taking time to think about this up front will help you set priorities.
Once you have an idea of what your goals are, set some targets. Only by having clear KPIs will you be able to truly measure your success after the event.
Now that you have an idea of what your goals are, create a plan to achieve them. Some successful exhibitors create a production book – a sort of recipe for running a successful conference stand. If you’ve never made one before, then it’s worth putting the time and effort in now. You’ll be able to reuse your production book for future conferences by tweaking it with new ideas and improvements as you learn what works and doesn’t.
Make sure your production book is useful for your business. Include things like your conference goals, budget, detailed timelines, travel plans, logistics, staffing, and stand design. Take some time to think about who’s going to be at the conference, whether it's your customers or potential partners. Think about what their aims are and how you can engage with them. Ultimately, ask yourself “what’s in it for them?” if they take the time to visit your stand.
Put in as much detail as you are able to now and you’ll be rewarded later when you’re able to flip to a page to check an obscure detail, like whether anyone is able to car share to the venue!
So, invest some time up front to plan and prepare for your conference to make it as successful as it can be.
2. Let People Know You’ll be There
Before you even step through the shiny glass doors of the conference venue, you need people to know you’re going to be there. Successful exhibitors leave nothing to chance.
If long standing customers, potential prospects, and partners know you’re going to be exhibiting in advance, there’s more chance that they’ll carve out time in their busy schedules to visit you once you’re there. So, go ahead and shout about your stand!
There are lots of ways of engaging with your audience to let them know your plans. E-mail newsletters and social media are increasingly common. The power of social media cannot be underestimated, and a catchy reel or photo can be a useful tool for triggering people’s memories later. Don’t forget to use social media on the actual day – a well-timed Tweet or Instagram post will do wonders to draw people over to your stand. Furthermore, using the conference’s hashtag to widen virtual exposure for your business.
You could even resort to ‘snail mail’. An eye-catching postcard pinned to a cubicle wall is still a great memory aid to encourage your customers and partners to visit you on conference day.
If you have your eye on a few key prospects, then now’s the time to make sure they know you’ll be there and ready to talk to them. You could even pre-arrange a meeting with them during the conference. Check out the other exhibitors and look for any potential partners that you may be able to work with, either on the day for mutual benefit, or later on. Connect with them and let them know that you’re keen to work together.
3. Best Team
Like every other aspect of running a productive business, using the right people with the right skills is a critical factor in running a successful conference exhibit. You’re going to need people with a wide range of skills to prepare and run your conference stand successfully.
Behind the scenes, not only will you need team members who are good at planning, research, and numbers, but also creative people to design the stand, marketing materials, and any freebies or promotional items.
On the day itself, you’ll need to have enough team members to man the stand at all times. There’s nothing worse than an unattended exhibition stand, or not being able to leave for a bathroom break. It’s simply a recipe for lost sales, leads or networking opportunities. Aim to have two people man the stand at all times, particularly during typically busy periods, like breakfast or in between talks. On the other hand, overstaffing the stand can make it look too busy or that customers don’t want to engage with you, which can be off putting for people attending a conference. A good tip is to have two team members for every 9-10 sq m.
Make sure the team manning the stand are friendly, natural, and approachable, no matter how tired their feet are or how many times they’ve been asked the same question. Aim to have a team present that can show your customers that you want to be there and that you value them. Consider investing in some training to prepare your team on how to represent your business and ensure they’re fully briefed on all unique selling points for your products and services. Not only does this help to present a professional front to everyone at the conference, but it also helps you to deliver your key messages quickly and consistently, without the need to refer to a Subject Matter Expert.
As well as a great “front of house team”, you’ll also want at least one person on-site who can deal with practical matters. From sourcing an extra extension cable to troubleshooting electricals, conference day will run much more smoothly with a practical person on hand.
4. Promotional Freebies
Everybody loves a good freebie! Giving away a promotional item at a conference has a number of benefits. If you’ve branded your item, then people will be carrying your brand around with them, wherever they go in the conference hall. Your company will be getting a lot of visibility, and hopefully a lot of foot traffic along with it.
Later, when the conference is over, a well-placed promotional item can serve as a memory aid for your potential customer. It could be the little nudge your prospect needed to contact you to discuss their needs. Clever, unique, or useful freebies will stand out from the crowded marketplace. For example, a small laptop mouse with your branding is both useful and prompts your potential customer to think of you each time they use it.
Announcing your freebie in advance as part of your publicity campaign will give your customers an incentive to visit you during the conference. A complimentary bottle of water or a tote bag are great examples of things that are extremely useful at a trade conference and may be enough of a reason for people to go out of their way to visit you.
5. Prompt Follow-up
After a trade conference, it can be all too tempting for exhibitors to switch off and relax. But for successful exhibitors, the conference is just the beginning of a busy period of working towards goals.
Once you’re back to your desk, you’ll need to follow-up and connect with all the people you met at the conference. Connect with them on LinkedIn. Follow-up with a post-event e-mail. Give them a phone. However you choose to connect with people, make sure you do it promptly after the event, while you’re still fresh in their minds. It’ll give you the opportunity to make the sale or nurture the relationship you initiated at the conference.
Make sure to thank visitors to your stand via social media or e-mails so that they know they’re valued. A carefully planned press release or social media reel can draw in more attention and remind customers that you were there.
After all, building on existing relationships and making new ones, whether potential partners or new sales leads, was very likely a big part of the reason why you signed-up to be an exhibitor in the first place.
A Bonus Tip
Remember our first tip to “plan, plan, plan” some goals and set some targets? That’s right – now’s the time to objectively review the outcomes of your conference stand. Take a look in the immediate few weeks after the conference, then again a few months later. Did you succeed in achieving your goals? Is there room for improvement?
A Recipe for Success
Whether you’ve decided to take the plunge and exhibit at a conference for the first time, or you’re looking to improve, investing time and finances into exhibiting is well worth the effort. Of course, attending a conference can help you to achieve the more obvious financial goals. Nothing beats face-to-face time, and a conference is the perfect opportunity to ask and answer lots of questions, allowing you to truly understand your customer’s needs and show them how you can help.
All-in-all, the most successful exhibitors prepare for a conference and start putting in work and effort, long before the conference doors actually open. As Alexander Graham Bell once said, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”