Exhibition stands provide an opportunity for you to show off everything that’s special and unique about your offering, but planning for them can be a daunting and sometimes overwhelming experience.
It all starts with a plan and everything flows from there. Here we’ll guide you through our planning process, the goal-setting phase and a step-by-step checklist covering every nook and cranny of issues to have on your agenda when planning for your big day.
Whether it’s a product launch, press release, skill or service, it goes without saying that you should be maximizing this opportunity at a trade show or an upcoming exhibition to its fullest.
Follow a systematic, careful planning process
Planning for an exhibition or trade shows often starts more than a year before the actual event, depending on your product or service.
Start by putting together a set of clear and systematic checkpoints that chronologically cover your entire process, starting with planning and finishing with the measuring of your goals and objectives vs how your exhibition stand performed at a trade show.
Systematic really is the key word. If you dive into it all headfirst, things are bound to go pear-shaped.
Here’s our step-by-step strategy that should help you get a little bit closer to nailing down your exhibition stand year on year. No sweat, no nasty surprises, and plenty of good results.
It all starts with your goals and objectives.
What’s the best place to start? Just before the beginning. Before you actually build a systematic checklist to be ticked off one-by-one when you’re planning an exhibition, you should have a blue-sky goal-setting session.
Budgeting, target audience, targets & goals
Set tangible goals, allocate budgets, define realistic targets and outline your objectives. This way, everything that happens at the exhibition can be measured against these initial targets. You’ll also be in a better position next year, and so it goes on.
If applicable, don’t be afraid to look back at the previous year as a frame of reference for your next trade show.
With a clear idea of of what you you want to achieve at an event, you’re able to forge on in a clear and coherent direction.
So, let’s get going with the nitty-gritty business of a systematic checklist, shall we? You’re already on your way to becoming an industry leader.
Exhibition planning checklist
Create an event schedule or calendar
At the start of a frenetic calendar year, it’s key to jot down a list of events that you think it’s feasible that your business can attend. Include salient event info such as:
- Event name, date and location
- Stand size and orientation
- Names and numbers of stand staff you wish to employ
- Your broad qualitative and quantitative goals for the event
Logistics & prep
There really is no better place to start, than the beginning. First thing’s first, you’ll need to book floor space and get the ball rolling.
The location where you’ll be exhibiting your product within a space will play a crucial role in determining the rest of your planning process and overall strategy.
- Book floor space as early as possible
- Note down the size of your stand and its correlating number and keep it in the cloud so that all relevant parties can access that information
- Allocate a budget to the building of the actual exhibition stand (we will be covering budgeting a little more extensively a little later in this post)
- Set your marketing goals for the stand
- Select a broad exhibition theme
A warm welcome to attendees at your exhibit venue
What type of first impression do you want to make so as to attract passing visitors to your stand at a busy trade venue?
- An enticing, spacious and welcoming reception area
- A functional counter
- What type of special features would you introduce to at the outset?
- Maybe you can get in touch with a furniture hire company to lessen the burden on your existing resources?
Practical issues in an exhibition space
The practical issues can often be the ones that are most often overlooked as you get whipped up into a frenzy about spending money, allocating marketing budgets and getting excited about big picture concepts and “blue-sky thinking.”
- How much storage do you need?
- How big is your counter going to be and where will it be located?
- Do you need cupboards?
Make your stand into am inviting work space
If all goes to plan, your exhibition stand is going to be a high traffic location. As such, you should anticipate that it may well become an impromptu work space for your potential audience.
Just remember that exhibitions can become networking events, and you need to capitalize on that and all it entails.
These are high-paced hustlers we’re dealing with in the modern era. Give them the scope to be themselves and flex their professional muscles with the following:
- A tailored meeting space
- A formal meeting mechanism where passers by can talk shop in a conducive environment
- Informal areas to chill and wind down
- High-speed internet is a must
Grab the attention of anybody strolling across an exhibition hall with appealing audio visual elements that they can’t ignore.
Attendees should be made instantly aware of what you can offer them:
- A broad presentation on your core service/offering
- What type of screens will you be using, how many of them do you need and where will they be placed?
Major budgeting considerations
As we alluded to a little earlier, here’s a more extensive look at the major budgeting considerations you’ll have to make right at the outset. We’ve built an online exhibition price calculator to help you determine you project costs upfront.
Aside from an overall budget for your exhibition stand, you’ll need to consider the following line items that create the largest costs and heavily affect the bottom line:
- A venue with excellent an excellent exhibition space don’t come cheap
- Marketing and digital marketing can become pricy if they aren’t done strategically
- Technology and technological aspects of your exhibition stand
- Special guests and/or social media influencers will deliver solid ROI for your business but you’ll need to weigh up the costs
- Food and drink, whether you like it or not, can be the deal-breaker for many attendees, so allocate a budget to them that reflects their importance to the success of an event
- The staff that toil at exhibition stands spend hours on their feet, and deserve to be paid handsomely for their time
Marketing your overall offering from top-to-bottom is arguably the most important aspect of anything you’ll be doing at a trade show.
At your exhibit, you’ll need to think carefully about how you and your team can best accentuate your unique selling points to potential clients.
Identify the major verticals and strengths of your business and see to it that they can be communicated by the following display mechanisms.
Internally, your marketing plan should incorporate all of these aspects too:
- Showing off the physical products themselves
- Custom graphics
- Old-school collateral (brochures and flyers)
- Social media marketing strategies that embrace your emerging audiences
Digital strategies form a crucial part of any successful exhibition planning, no matter which industry you’re a part of, in the year 2022 and beyond.
You could save money and ignore it altogether, but then you’d be spurning huge potential success in other segments of the market.
Social media marketing, we cannot stress this enough, is an integral business tool.
Consider the following aspects of when you construct your initial planning and budgeting phase, because they can generate sales:
- Google Ads expenditure
- Extensive keyword research that reflects the online behaviour of your audience
- Promoting your business’ social media accounts and posts before, during and after an event
- Raise awareness of your service in new and potentially lucrative market segments
- Reaching a predominantly mobile audience through your trade show marketing collateral
- Marketing yourself to the correct, specific audience
- Ensure that the digital aspects of your exhibit accurately reflect your product or service and its personality
At an exhibition stand, it goes without saying that the visuals on display are all-important, especially with the knowledge that new clients have relatively short and fickle attention spans.
With a unique design strategy, you can stand out from others vying for the discerning attention of those wandering through a cluttered sea of exhibition stands.
Consider these elements:
- Unique, striking branding
- Clear logos in calculated locations
- The visual messaging that you want to convey at a show
- Taglines that align with your brand
- Custom artwork
- An art exhibition, if applicable
- Inhouse creative design work where possible
- External, outsourced creative design work that falls within your initial budget
Attendees at a trade show can be a demanding bunch. We’re not saying that you treat them like VIPs at a cutting-edge music festival, but user experience (offline and online) is a pivotal aspect to consider.
Just think about any website or app that you frequent – will you be back for more if it provides a poor UX on your first visit? Obviously not.
Is User Experience the most important thing in the world? Probably
UX is at the top of our list when it comes to considerations about your visitors. These are some pointers to consider:
- Exhibition stand aesthetics must align with your brand and objectives and need to be striking
- A coffee station with freshly breed black gold is a must
- Event merch and branded clothing will serve as a keepsake, if they’re made of high quality materials and look good
- Indoor plants will beautify the exhibition, and any environment for that matter
- Special features can be memorable and have long-lasting positive effects on brand perception
- Giveaways are always cool
- A lead capture mechanism is win-win because it affords you the opportunity to reach your customers again, and it makes them feel engaged and important
- Digital engagement with visitors makes your brand memorable and accessible
- Engagement with visitors on a human level helps you resonate with them and them with you
Follow up with leads
A feedback mechanism is critical in order to sustain the momentum and excitement generated at a successful exhibition. As we have already said, the attention span of most people is a fickle thing, so you need to strike while the iron is hot.
- Build contact and inquiry forms on your website
- Organize meetings and follow through
- Connect with your customers on social media
Planning a successful exhibition: Closing thoughts
Exhibitions and trade shows are a unique opportunity for exhibitors in any business to identify new customers, increase sales and generate leads. In order to optimize this wonderful opportunity, it’s highly advisable that you take advantage of that by planning everything down to a tee.
In order for you to accentuate your unique selling points, it’s vital that your exhibition planning strategy and marketing mechanisms are on point.
Central to your entire exhibition plan is a commitment to pre-show planning and ticking off a comprehensive checklist. You simply can’t go wrong if you adhere to this strategy. With offices across South Africa, UK and Europe and the USA, we’re always happy to help!