Exhibitions are a fantastic way to meet face-to-face with potential clients. For me, it’s not necessarily the most impressive build and design of an exhibition stand that captures my attention – and subsequently my business – it’s those exhibitors that consider the entire visitor experience; right from from the environment to engagement.
As a marcomm initiative, an exhibition stand represents a sizable investment of time, money and resources. And since it’s only standing for a few days, it must reliably attract and connect with the audience to elicit desired responses. There’s a lot you can do to maximize your ROI and ensure you achieve key objectives from every show. Start by avoiding these ten epic fails of exhibiting:
1. We have plenty of time
No you don’t. Successful exhibition stand experiences are meticulously planned months in advance, not rushed through a few weeks before. Think carefully about objectives and key messages. Why are you exhibiting? How many leads and business opportunities are you looking to generate? Your exhibition stand is a powerful marketing tool and a sizable investment; approach it very professionally.
2. We needn’t spend that much
Exhibition stands don’t come cheap. Presentation is everything. If you don’t take the design and aesthetics of your exhibition environment seriously, then it shows that you don’t care. Visitors make immediate subjective decisions based on visual quality so don’t undermine your brand. Be prepared to spend a little more and engage an agency that crafts an appealing and visually attractive experience.
3. It’s a real work of art
If you think your stand is a work of art, put it in an art gallery, not a trade exhibition. If your stand doesn’t clearly communicate what you do, you’re sunk. Always presume that visitors have no prior knowledge of your company. Your stand design and graphics must effectively convey key messages. Comprehensively brief your agency, and then work closely with the designers to bring your stand to life.
4. This soft lighting really sets the mood
It’s an exhibition stand; not a romantic dinner for two. An under-lit stand is a big turn-off. Not only is it dark and unwelcoming, but also your products and graphics suffer as no one can see them. Professional stand lighting makes a profound difference to the approach and walk-on stand experience. A well-lit stand shines and beckons for all to see.
5. We only need a few people
While you are debating about the number of people you should allocate to your stand, remember that visitors only wait a short while to speak to someone before they move on and never come back. If your stand is adequately staffed then not only is every lead captured, but your staff can also take regular breaks to refresh themselves.
6. We’ve selected our most well groomed staff
It’s not a beauty contest. You have a brief window of opportunity to engage visitors. It’s crucial for your stand to be manned by people who understand your company – not just eye-candy. If you’re hiring promotional staff, invest time prior to the show to train them. The worst thing someone representing your stand can say is “I don’t know”.
7. We’re inviting everyone via Facebook and Twitter
Just because you’re using the exhibition hashtag to continually bombard people to visit your stand doesn’t mean people will actually visit it. Put a little thought into your social media messages. Try tantalizing people with a reason to visit. Don’t just broadcast; instead engage with people online and encourage them to do the same. And don’t forget to use the power of photos and videos to maximize engagement.
8. This will only take a minute
If I agree to share my data with you, please ensure you capture it quickly and efficiently. Asking me to complete a form myself, or worse, watch you slowly complete a handwritten form is not acceptable in this day and age. It’s also in your best interest to capture the data swiftly, so you can move onto the next visitor.
9. It’s been a long day
No matter how long the day, exhibition staff should still smile and make eye contact at all times. I expect to see them on their feet, interacting with visitors and prospective clients. If they’re on their mobile phones, sitting down, yawning, eating, looking grumpy, or have their backs to the walkway, I may simply go right past them to another stand.
10. We’ll pack up early and beat the rush
Why bother at all then? You should be milking every last minute of your presence at the show that you have invested so much in. Packing up early isn’t just a potential health and safety issue, but it also reflects terribly upon your organization and the show’s organizers. Generally, exhibitors are expressly forbidden from packing up early.