Getting the most from exhibiting

Exhibitions offer one of the most effective ways of engaging directly with your target audience, yet if we fail to invest enough time and attention on doing it properly the ROI may not be what we expect. To help make the most of exhibiting we’ve spoken to Steve Lloyd, who is MD of Exhibition Mastery and knows more than most about capitalising on exhibition spend.  Here, Steve shares some valuable insights into getting the very best outcomes from exhibiting.

What do you do and how did you get there?

“I’ve been exhibiting since 2006 and my experience has taught me every aspect of the process. In lockdown I formalised this expertise by launching my business, Exhibition Mastery, to help organisations use exhibiting as a successful sales and marketing tool to accelerate their post-pandemic recovery.

Exhibition Mastery considers the whole exhibition life cycle – from the initial decision to take a stand, right the way through to post event analysis. We view an organisation’s exhibiting activity in its broader marketing context and at every stage we improve on the blind-spots we find, such as the way exhibitors set up their stands or plan their communications.”

What other credentials do you bring to your role?

“I have project management qualifications, have undertaken a host of different process and digital sales training and development, and was formerly a member of Mensa – the high IQ society.

After thousands of hours’ exhibiting, I can spot a bad stand at 200ft and, even with no advance preparation, can tailor a story about your product that will resonate with the person standing in front of me.

During lockdown, I joined the Exhibition Think Tank, which brought together the brains of the global exhibition industry to determine what exhibitions would look like post-pandemic.”

Why are you so passionate about exhibiting?

“I believe the engagement opportunities offered by exhibitions beat almost every other business development activity in terms of return on investment.

Where else will you find so many members of your target audience gathered together in one place, literally walking past you? Given that opportunity, surely it makes sense to do everything possible to gain their interest.”

What’s your pre-show advice?

“The best exhibitors I have seen and worked with are those who treat exhibitions as part of their overall marketing strategy rather than an isolated exercise.

Exhibition Mastery focuses on two elements of preparation: logistics and promotion.  Once you have arranged the operational aspects, it’s time to fire up the promotion. Good exhibitors don’t rely on passing traffic; they take active responsibility for bringing visitors to their stand – via pre-event communications.”

What’s the key to success during the show?

“Assuming your promotional comms were effective in drawing people to the event, you have a great base to start from. Your stand is where you will capitalise on that important early work. Be happy, be upbeat and energetic, because that makes you approachable and approachability leads to engagement.

When you have people’s attention, be focused on the one thing you want to achieve that day: spark their interest, agree next steps and then move on.  Don’t try to ‘sell’ the whole solution at the show; everyone else will be doing that and your aim is for your contact to remember you positively – as the starting point for building a longer-term relationship.

When we work with clients, we also teach them about cold reading, body language and facial expressions as well as questioning techniques and active listening. We also warn them about falling into the trap of ‘false success’.  Being remembered for professionalism and positive engagement is so much better than being memorable for hard selling and gimmickry.

Oh – and the most important piece of advice: leave your phone in your pocket!  The biggest turn-off for visitors is seeing people using phones on their stand!”

And after the show – how can companies get the best out of the event?

“That’s easy: follow-up, follow-up and follow-up!  Having spent time, effort and money meeting people and collecting names – you must seize this opportunity. And quickly: exhibition leads suffer from the law of diminishing returns –  the longer you leave it, the harder your follow-up will be.

It’s best to have defined your process beforehand, so that immediately after the show you have your messaging prepared, you’re primed to send out emails, and your giveaways are ready.”

What’s the one thing exhibitors need to do above all others?

“The single most important thing is to be prepared. Even the smallest amount of pre-event planning will significantly raise your chances of success.  If exhibitions represent new territory for you, or you’re a little lost as to where and when to start – get help. The returns you can make will far outweigh the costs of professional support.”

Our thanks to Steve for his invaluable advice. And if your role extends to organising the exhibition itself, you’ll have the added responsibility of sourcing a location.  The Venues Collection offers a choice of seven properties across the country, all offering large meeting or exhibition spaces and conveniently situated close to train stations and motorways. Talk to our sales team about finding the ideal space for your exhibition:

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