How to Plan a Successful Exhibition


Exhibitions and events can require a big investment. Yet, when planned and executed correctly, a successful exhibition can deliver strong ROI. This can include generating direct sales; boosting new business leads; building new contacts and strengthening relationships with existing customers; conducting first-hand market research; reaffirming your company’s brand and market image; as well as being an excellent platform to launch new products to market.

Measuring A Successful Exhibition

To experience a successful exhibition you must be able to measure your results. When planning an exhibition we always recommend that our clients start with a clear set of objectives. As a result, we are able to deliver a successful exhibition that meets these objectives. Some of the objectives that could be considered for an exhibition or event are:

  • Increase Sales
  • Build Customer Relationships
  • Market Research
  • Lead Generation
  • Media Relations/PR
  • Brand Building
  • Channel Building and Support

What the final list of objectives are will shape the whole exhibition, the message, visual content, architecture and even the vibe.

Planning A Successful Exhibition

It’s easy to underestimate the time it takes to properly plan a successful exhibition or event. To avoid the stress and headaches that short deadlines create we recommend that you start planning at least 6 months prior to the show and ideally 12 months before.

This time frame will make life for you and your colleagues much easier, and help to avoid last minute panics and extra expenses.

A written exhibition plan should provide:

  • Research (visit the show you are thinking of attending)
  • Objectives
  • Timescales
  • Budgets
  • Space requirements
  • Stand and graphic design parameters
  • On-site services
  • Transportation and logistics
  • Staffing levels and training
  • Pre- and post-show promotions
  • Show evaluation criteria
  • On-stand data capture
  • Follow-up procedure for leads

When working with a specialist agency such as Envisage, we would guide you on these points and in some areas take complete control if you require. This can be very useful when you have another full time job to carry out!

Attracting People

Every square meter of your exhibition stand needs to work hard to communicate your brand. However, this doesn’t mean cramming every inch of your stand with copy-heavy graphics or display cases. Use of brand colours, interesting materials and innovative lighting can be just as effective. High-level branding and strong graphics that communicate a central theme. This can help to grab people’s attention, and deliver the ‘wow-factor’.

However, it’s not just about creating a big impact. Being too ‘in your face’ can be off-putting for visitors. Providing a welcoming, open and bright environment is key to a successful exhibition. In addition, a stand that guides visitors on a buying journey is crucial to delivering a great visitor experience, and to sales. A hospitality area with comfortable seating and a selection of drinks on offer is always a draw. It provides an ideal place for informal business meetings and networking.

Stand attractors are a great tool for capturing visitors’ attention. Live social media walls are fantastic at generating buzz and encouraging visitor interaction. As well as communicating your messages beyond the walls of the exhibition hall. Competitions for high-value prizes; promo staff and entertainers; interactive games and displays; free giveaways; and clever use of technology can all encourage interactions with your visitors and can help gather crowds. Whatever tactics you choose, it’s important to ensure that any activity is well thought through.  Most of all, that it is relevant to your business messages or the products/services you provide.

 successful exhibition

Engaging with People

Once you’ve attracted visitors to your stand, it’s vital to engage with them in a memorable way. People don’t attend exhibitions to interact with social media walls, enter competitions or receive free giveaways. Although these do help drive footfall – these draws are not enough to keep them on your stand for long. Visitors take time out from their busy schedules to search for the latest solutions. New ideas that will help solve their business problems and make their working lives easier. Once they have got past the initial draw, there needs to be substance behind the stand.

Having a clear understanding of what your prospects and potential customers’ needs in advance of the exhibition allows you to adapt your on-stand messaging to answer their problems and anticipate any questions they may have. Demonstrate your products/services in context for the visitor. In addition, provide more detailed information for the visitor to take away and access after the exhibition. This could be via branded, pre-loaded USBs, an online link, or printed collateral.

Having the right balance of staff manning your stand is important. No one likes being pounced on by a pushy sales person, but equally, your staff need to appear confident when approaching visitors. Additionally, they must have excellent knowledge of the products/services your company is offering and how they are of use to your visitors. A thorough staff briefing going through messaging, targets and dos and don’ts before the exhibition doors are flung open is a must.

successful exhibition

Connecting with People

So much hard work, and often budget, goes into organising a successful exhibition. It can all be in vain if the follow-up isn’t well planned and executed. Through exhibitor manuals you can hire data capture devices that allow you to record your visitors’ contact details along with information relating to their specific inquiry. This intelligence is invaluable and should be used to connect with your visitors shortly after the event with a tailored and highly relevant follow-up. Making the effort to personalise your communication is really worth it, as it demonstrates to your new contacts that you’ve really taken the time to understand their business pain. Most of all it shows that you are committed to helping them find the best solutions for them.

 successful exhibition

Evaluating Successful Exhibitions

The final and, arguably one of the most important aspects of organizing an exhibition, is what can often get overlooked at the beginning of the whole planning process – evaluation. To determine the success of an event and learn from areas that could be improved next time. This links right back to the objectives set at the start of the planning phase. These success metrics could include feedback from visitors; the number of new business leads generated; the amount of direct sales taken; the level of interaction from visitors via social media, etc. Without these in place, how can you measure the effectiveness of your exhibition or event activities. As a result, how can you truly understand the return on investment that this kind of face-to-face customer engagement can generate?

To ask for advice or set up a meeting, to review your event strategies and tactics, or to understand how we can ensure your exhibition’s success, please call 

Author: Alastair Wilkins – Commercial Director


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