Recipe for Exhibitions Success

Date: 05/03/2015

Have you been to or exhibited at an exhibition recently? What was it like? Chances are you might have walked through areas where:

·      Many of the stands (and exhibitors!) could have benefitted from a little oomph!

·      There was an ever-looming possibility of being collared in a hard sell

·      You’d love to have had a more fun, interactive experience

Ring any bells? You wouldn’t be alone – research from a leading exhibitions provider notes that many delegates feel the same way.

However, this is far from the experiences that we know can be the case – we’ve delivered many high performing exhibitions. We often speak on the subject, to prep exhibitors for success and have captured below a few top tips  of what makes a successful exhibition presence.

Have a single-minded message

Success at exhibitions is much like success in any of channel of marketing, pulling out a USP/ differentiating message that really matters to the audience is the most important part. If this is wrong, it takes a lot to create success.

Exhibitions naturally help us to do this because they often have a particular audience demographic and attract a certain crowd in the main. So we can then think about what single message is most likely to motivate our target audience, it probably revolves around one of the greatest benefits, what’s keeping them awake at night, what will make their life’s easier or provide the best return.

For an example, have a look at our an Ecobuild stand we designed under the campaign called ‘Water for Thought. We knew a message around construction water saving would resonate with the specifier audience, we brought it to life in a fun way and the opportunities and PR developed successfully as a result.

Every exhibition can therefore have a have it’s own ‘theme’, something that keeps it fresh, relevant and timely for the audience – helping keep you in mind.

Make it fun

In the research of delegates, surprisingly, the factor that many exhibition visitors said they’d love to have a little more of is fun. That’s not to say delegates are there for an easy day, the networking and learning opportunities exhibitions present can be phenomenal – what it does emphasise is that whether B2B, B2C, Junior Executives or Directors, people are people as well as professionals, something that lightens the mood and brightens up there day a little is worth a lot to them and often they’ll give a little time and engagement to those that can provide this on their stand.

At this point many people considering how to make their stands fun will say “but I make ball barings….  Supply software…. Build learning solutions…. Consult on…. - <insert any regular seemingly non-glamorous product or service> how can this be fun?”. Good question but one we take a hard line on, any proposition can be made engaging – that’s the creative challenge we relish.

An example was that we’ve helped take messages around energy efficiency to life for a large utility brand to school children. Energy efficiency can be quite a ‘dry’ subject, it’s intangible and today’s children with low attention spans wont accept boring – especially in theme parks and visitors centres where there are lots of competing choices for there attention.  

We came up with a theme, character and games that delighted them and held their attention for a while. Watch the video in our interactive interiors section and see for yourself.

Think return on investment:

Ok, so some of the most impressive stands come from the more expensive space only builds by the larger organisations, but that doesn’t have to be the case – great ideas don’t have to cost a fortune.  Agencies like ourselves can come up with great ideas but equally these can be generated a number of ways through creative sessions, facilitated meetings and more.  The execution of this again doesn’t have to be extortionate, as long as it captures many of the points in this article.

Our client Barbour (online safety information) took to the stage at one of the exhibitions talks we were involved with and clearly outlined to the audience how when we first met them, they had already invested in a stand, it only cost a little extra to bring the idea to life that made all the difference to their stands performance and return on investment.

Add ‘Theatre’

In both the examples above, we’ve brought the exhibition spaces to life through having a little theatre, a main draw to bring in the delegates. This could be through an almost endless range of mechanisms:



-Games, sport & competitions

-Demonstration & trial

-Arts & creative experiences

-Human performance

-Exclusive access to premium content

-Dramatic stand layout

-Sound, lighting & AV schemes


Get Interactive

It’s great to have as many interactive elements to the stands as possible without it necessarily being the main ‘draw’ on the stand. These can be tools such as:

Touchscreens: explore different elements of the proposition, the associated case studies, live demonstrations of software and get immersed in video summaries.

Product demonstration: allowing people to try the product or sample the service at the exhibition is a great way for them to know whether it will meet their needs or not.

The constant campaign

Some exhibitors make the mistake initially of believing that all the marketing happens actually at the event itself. We’ve learned a very different approach and recommend dividing your efforts into pre, during and post event activity.

Pre-event: Invite people to see you, create some activity around the stand and this will invoke curiosity in others. Consider a full campaign whether it be email, social, mail or calls. We’ve had stands where we’ve fully booked appointments targets before the events have even started.

During the event: Apply all the wider principles we’ve outlined to your stand. Design a stand that has height where possible to be seen across the room, is easily identifiable as your brand, seems open and approachable and is orientated to present its best side to the direction that most of the delegates will be approaching from.

Don’t forget the green elements in the build of the stand itself. In this article we outline some actions to creating a more sustainable exhibition stand.

Bring a team that is friendly, hospitable and combines both sales and technical expertise. It is often reported by visitor research that there is frustration when delegates visit exhibition stands and are unable to access answers to detailed expertise of the product or service that will answer their questions. As a last resort, even if it’s on the other end of the phone, ensure this expertise is available.

Remember, first impressions count, so ensuring the stand and your team look uniform, clean, approachable and presentable is very important.

Make sure you’ve got a solid system, whether paper based or electronic to capture, add to, securely store and act upon the data you capture. For most organisations this is the primary objective, the better the data, often the higher the ROI opportunity.

Post event:

You’ve done all the hard work now, so it’s just a case of sitting back and watching the sales roll in now, right? Wrong. We heard a statistic recently from N200 that 80% of data captured at events are not followed up. It brings shivers to our spines at Clarity just to think of it – even after prioritisation of the best opportunities it is effectively taking a significant portion of your investment and putting it in the bin. FOLLOW UP the opportunities, don’t leave them stuck in a spread sheet, fancy CRM system or anything else. Give people the information they request you send them, distribute leads to the sales teams, take a very personal approach where possible and rigorously follow these through to completion.

We'll leave you with how some of this has come together for our clients...

We hope that you’ve found this useful. We hope your exhibiting efforts are successful. If you want help applying these principles to your organisation, please don’t hesitate to get in touch, call us anytime on 0844 880 3535 and speak to Leigh.

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