The big exhibitions come around each year with what might feel like increasing regularity – and perhaps monotony. But don’t allow this year’s stand, seminar or hospitality event to become only a slight modification of last year’s. Exhibitions are the best public relations vehicle that many products and industries have available to them. They present an opportunity to raise awareness and increase understanding about your products and services. Your future customers will be directly presented with the company’s personnel, its brand, basic product, and new initiatives. This enables you to ensure that they are fully informed and involve them in two-way communication and in doing so, speed up the process of a sale. Exhibitions also allow companies to talk to those they may not normally meet – from large potential clients to competitors.
Given the multitude of opportunities and the methods of communications available, it is all too easy to get bogged down in practical and logistical considerations and fail to capitalise on the long-term benefits an event can bring. Preparation and follow-up are vital to long-term success.
Your first priority is to decide what you plan to achieve – this will steer everything from allocation of resources, to evaluating success for the future. In setting objectives, consider the aims of both the organisers and the likely audience. Consider your achievements in previous years, and anything that might be improved upon. Your objectives might be:
- To improve awareness of the company
- To attract potential customers
- To reinforce relationships with existing customers
- To identify new potential sales outlets
- To introduce new products or services to existing customers
- To strengthen relations with trade associations and industry leaders
- To position the company in terms of price and competition
- To evaluate market attitudes towards the company
- To demonstrate practical support for distributors
- To create sales leads and enquiries
Your planning from this point onwards should relate directly to your objectives. Use the list to ensure that your actions are relevant to your aims, and to ensure that objectives all are being covered.
You will need to consider media well in advance of the event. Talk to the exhibition’s press officer as you may be able to supply photographic material for publicity purposes. Find out which journalists are previewing the event, send them relevant information and invite them to your stand.
Do the staff managing the stand have up to date technical knowledge about the product, good interpersonal skills and a subtle but firm sales technique? A combination of these attributes is vital and so training in advance can prove a worthwhile investment.
An increasingly wide range of techniques are available to you – don’t be inclined simply to repeat last year’s efforts, but consider how a variety of communications techniques – particularly the advantages of new technology – can help you to meet your objectives:
- Face-to-face interaction
- Stand and brochure design
- Video replay / interactive computer programme with projected screen
- Business cards or postcards to take away
- Interesting fact and figures on a handout sheet
- Press kits for journalists
- Company newsletter
- Sponsorship of an event / newsletter
- Social event / seminars
- Visuals – drawings, photographs, computer-generated, models, TV
Following an exhibition, however well it has been planned, you are bound to be busy with practical issues – including contacts and sales enquires to follow up and media coverage to be collated. However, take some time to look back over your objectives, evaluate – measuring the outcome, not output – how and with what success they were achieved. Where they were not met, consider what needs to be done differently next time, and the annual drag can turn into an upwards spiral of opportunity and success.