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10 Actions To Make Your Conference Exhibition Stand Stand Out

Conference exhibitions can be productive, fun places to drum up business. Especially because so many exhibitors don’t make the most of the opportunity. Before you snigger at everyone else hiding behind their stands, hunkered down over laptops, oblivious to visitors passing by, see how many of these actions you’ve taken.

1. Write down your business goals

Do this before you even think about why you’re exhibiting. It’s to remind yourself what’s most important to your business while you’re planning your time away from the office. If you don’t, you’ll get back to the office and wonder how your time away helped your business.

2. Work out your trade show goals

Exhibitors’ lists of goals include: find sales leads, sell products, parade in front of existing customers, search out new suppliers, check out the competition, increase brand awareness, build mailing lists and subscribers, and grow online traffic.

The lists seem to grow during and after the trade show. That’s probably because of failure to achieve the most important goal. So work out your most important goal. And aim for that.

Come on. Aren’t you there mainly to find sales leads and sell products? Like any other marketing activity, set yourself some targets.

3. Decide on a compelling call-to-action (CTA)

So how will you achieve your goals? What will your visitors get out of it? Your call-to-action is the reason why visitors will do something (like become a sales lead, or buy a product). And it’s best to settle on just one, maybe two. It’s a unifying, clear direction that you can repeat over and again, during your promotion, and at the trade show itself.

Writing down an elevator pitch that pinpoints your call-to-action will make it easier for you to repeat, and easier for your visitors to understand and do something about.

It should appear on your stand, posters, flyers, giveaways, promotions, on-line, and in your words.

That way, you’re focusing everything on achieving your goals.

4. Cost it

You’ll only know if it was worth exhibiting at a trade show if you know how much it costs. Adding up the cost of the pitch, stand, and giveaways is the easy bit. What about man-hours? And promotion?

5. Create online and offline promotion

If you can, it’s a good idea to create a landing-page on your website, specifically to support your tradeshow call-to-action. And give it an intuitive extension, for example, info4security.com/IFSEC. Here you can showcase an irresistible offer for visitors, and useful content for people who didn’t get the chance to talk to you.

Talk about your call-to-action, and quote your landing-page URL in relevant emails and letters to your network. And don’t forget your social media. Find out (or make up your own) Twitter #hashtags and LinkedIn or Facebook event pages. Start and take part in conversations there.

Repeat the call-to-action, and your offer on handouts and posters before and during the trade show.

Stand panels printed with lists of products are common, but boring. Instead, use the space to boldly spell-out how you help people. And, of course, focus on your call-to-action. To save reproducing stand panels each time, why not print posters with your call-to-action to stick over the panels, on the sides of desks, or straight on the wall?

Don’t clutter stand panels, posters, or other signage with lots of detail. Focus on your call-to-action and offer.

Even repeat your call-to-action on your clothing. Printing polo-shirts is cheap, and stands out. Just think of everyone else in suits.

6. Think about giveaways

Creative giveaways can be fun. But how will they really help you achieve your goals? Unless the trade show is specifically about creativity, what’s the point of spending money on unrelated chocolate fountains, bouquets of flowers, funky gadgets, massages, or even keyrings, pens and other seen-it-all-before gimmicks?

If you’ve ever filled a trade show shopping bag with promo swag before (gift-gathering), can you even remember who gave the best gifts?

Some surveys suggest respondents think promo swag works. They might say they remember who gave them the giveaway. But did they really act on the giveaway?

Instead, make your giveaway relevant to your call-to-action. Free, useful information like white papers and research, for example. Or access to a seminar or ebook.

Whatever you choose to give away, try to give it away by hand. Making eye-contact, and physically connecting with visitors gives you a chance to talk.

And, more importantly, get visitors’ details! That’s your prize for giving away something valuable. (So make your giveaway valuable enough to earn their details.)

7. Shake hands

The biggest (but all-too-common) facepalm is seeing exhibitors hiding in their booths, cowering behind desks, oblivious to passers-by, and even hunkered down over laptops with their backs to the walkway.

This is your chance to shake hands, generate leads, and collect data. That means standing right on the edge of your booth, giveaway in hand, making eye contact with everyone who comes close.

Be brave. Say “hello” to everyone.

Beaming smiles and welcoming gestures might feel cheesy, but you’ll find visitors can’t resist returning the gesture. They can be even more welcoming than the more elaborate stands. It’s also irresistible to many people to accept a handshake, or small giveaway. Use those human connections to introduce your offer and call-to-action.

It’s easy to find out in advance which big names will be there. Check out the list of speakers, or well-known personalities who’ll be taking part. Ask conference organisers which journalists will be covering the event for press. Then, when you’re there, ask the organisers (who often walk around making sure exhibitors are happy) to help introduce you to them. Tell them all about your offer. And make sure the organisers know what your trade show goals are.

With everyone you meet, try to capture their name and contact details. (Remember your trade-show goals.) Even better, make a quick note of what you talked about. That will make it easy for you to get back in touch afterwards. Forget writing detailed notes.

8. Go to break-out sessions and presentations

Taking part in break-out sessions, presentations, master classes, and other surrounding events is worthwhile. You get to learn. More than that, you’ll see how competitors present themselves, think of interesting conversation topics, and refresh yourself for when you’re back manning your stand.

They’re also one of the best places to raise your own exposure. Ask presenters and panellists questions. (Remember to say who you are and the organisation you represent before posing your question!) Speak to other delegates. And get to know the organisers.

Even better, find out how you can become a speaker next time. Sponsorship packages often include opportunities to give a talk. And conference organisers also look out for experts who can share useful know-how at their future events.

9. Be selective about supporting kit

Apart from promotional material, exhibitors often feel obliged to take demonstration kit.

That can be cool if it’s relevant to your call-to-action, and if it showcases how exactly your organisation can help. Your enthusiasm about your offerings rubs off on visitors. Yes, buyers like geeks! Videos of your services and products in action help visitors imagine how you’d help them with their own issues.

Think twice about live laptop demonstrations, though. If your offering is a computer-based tool, they might be the best way to show how it works in action.

But, all-too-often, exhibitors end up bogged-down in long-winded tutorials. Or, worse, they look like they’re trying to beat the highest score on Angry Birds.

Plan what you’ll showcase in advance so it won’t take too long. And, if the person you’re demoing with wants to go into more depth, offer an on-site demo or meeting instead. Either way, don’t let a one-to-one demonstration force you to miss lots of other passers-by.

Before you show off any piece of kit, introduce a live demo, or give visitors a toy to play with, ask for their details. “Can I just make a note of your name and number?” is a quick question to ask. And it gives you a chance to get back in touch afterwards.

10. Follow up with your new leads

Hopefully you’ll come home with a big box of business cards, and new names for your database.

Try to write to them all within 2 days of the exhibition. Just a short email with a strong subject line reminding them of your offer and call-to-action. It’s easy to personalise the email with their name and just a one-line reminder of the conversation you had. Include a link back to your exhibition-specific landing page if you have one. Or include the whitepaper or whatever else your offer promised. Maybe even share feedback on the most common questions and issues your visitors raised.

You’ll stand out from the crowd if you show how diligently you keep in touch. And you’ll enjoy the return on your investment in being an exhibitor because you’ll have earned worthwhile leads.

Article and photo reproduced from Info4Security.

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