What On Earth Are Trade Exhibitions For?
As a Sydney-based exhibition designer, Ove Prado often conducts his own survey of trade shows. He tries to work out, from what he sees, the purpose that each stand is playing in that company’s marketing strategy. “All too often”, he says, “the message is confusing and some designs actually drive customers to walk straight past”
Renting space at a trade exhibition, designing a stand, having it built and staffing it for the duration of the exhibition shares some of the essence of running other types of event but differs in some significant features.
To begin with, your audience is only partially captive. They may choose to attend the exhibition but, in the vastness of an exhibition hall, unless you have marketed your presence effectively, they could pass you by in favor of more visible, glamorous, noisy, exciting stands.
If and when they descend on your stand, their time is precious. There may be 20 or 30 providers they have decided to test out in their day. This means you may have 15 to 20 minutes of their time if you have the staff to deal with them and other visitors simultaneously.
Your potential clients may also come to you with either a very specific problem to solve or no problem at all, just general curiosity. You have to be ready to handle almost anything. You can’t prepare a single script as you can with a series of presentations, so your people have got to be gifted ad-libbers.
Working out the purpose of a trade stand
As with any event, deciding to exhibit at a trade show starts with the germ of an idea somewhere. It may be that your organization has always taken a stand at this particular show or this may be the first time you have cut your teeth on this audience. What you expect to achieve through your stand and your presence at the show depends on your answers to several important questions.
• Is this an opportunity to launch an exciting new product or service?
• Is this a showcase for your existing range of products or services?
• Will you be expecting to meet mostly new potential customers?
• Will you be expecting to meet predominantly existing customers?
• Do you expect to take orders on the stand?
• Will the stand be an information only exhibit?
• Are you planning to position your organization against the competition?
• Will your stand be about image or substance?
If your answer to all of the above is “Yes!”, then be very careful. By attempting to achieve too much with your presence at an exhibition, you may run into the problem of confusion and complexity. Like any marketing activity you must be clear about what it is you are offering.
Ove’s advice to trade show exhibitors is “Remember that over a quarter of people who attend trade shows will actually formalize an order while they are there. Does your stand say “We’re friendly – talk to us!””