Whether there’s a handful at a conference or hundreds in a trade show, exhibit booths add value to any event. They provide revenue for the host organization, as well as networking and learning opportunities for attendees.
These booths are an investment for everyone, and exhibitors frequently spare no expense to make their booths competitive and memorable. That’s why it’s important for exhibitors to feel like they got their money’s worth.
Here are some strategies from experts to ensure they’re delivering the most value to their exhibitors at any conference, expo or trade show.
Coordinate with the Exhibitors
Upfront, clear communication is critical to every part of an event’s planning and execution. When dealing with exhibitors, it’s often overlooked but no less important.
Organizers should begin by having a conversation with their exhibitors to establish expectations for the event on both sides.
“One of the biggest ways planners can maximize the value they offer to their exhibitors is by listening,” said Robyn Davis, trade show trainer/consultant and owner of Exhibitors WINH, which specializes in providing training to exhibitors for trade shows. “Knowing why exhibitors participate in their show can help planners identify the right opportunities and resources for them.”
Strong communication between exhibitors and organizers can also help organizers decide what to include in exhibition deals to best meet the needs and goals of both parties rather than just tacking on items offered by other shows.
Standard packages may include the space itself, registration and opportunities for increasing visibility or marketing exposure, but the exhibitor may have other needs the organizer can meet if the conversation is started. These can include logistical items, such as necessary equipment, as well as strategic contributions, such as providing training to the exhibitors.
Whether it’s facilitated by a trainer/consultant like Davis or by the event organizer, Davis said, “It’s really in the organizer’s best interest to help exhibitors be more successful, and training is just one of the easiest ways for them to do that.”
Effective training is a byproduct of communication and collaboration between organizers and exhibitors. It can help exhibitors maximize their time, deliver their messages effectively, manage their expectations and meet their goals, and that’s one of the best ways to make sure they feel their investment in an event was worthwhile.
Invite the Appropriate Attendees
Exhibitors often have different goals at different events. At trade shows and expos, the main focus of the booths may be related to commerce and promoting one’s products and services. At a conference, the goal of the exhibitors may be to educate, network or gain exposure for their business.
Regardless of the goal, the best way for organizers to ensure it’s met is to provide exhibitors with the right audience.
“If you want to make sure an exhibitor is going to get the best possible return on investment from your event, you need to make sure they are at the right event, that the buyers you’re going to bring are the ones they’re going to want to meet,” said David Audrain, CEO of ExpoDevCo and the Society of Independent Show Organizers. “It’s basic matchmaking at the end of the day.”
In other words, organizers should invite the appropriate people to attend. For example, a trade show featuring construction equipment will be relevant to those in that industry, so it would be helpful to invite developers, contractors, architects and engineers to the show.
“You have to attract people who are going to be interested in your exhibitor’s products and services,” said Warwick Davies, principal at the Event Mechanic, a company specializing in event assistance, management and production.
The presence of exhibitors should be one of the main factors organizers consider when designing a marketing strategy for their event. They should target attendees that will be a good fit for the exhibitors to ensure exhibitor satisfaction.
Structure an Event Around Exhibitors
When it comes to event design, there are some strategies organizers can use to make sure exhibitors are getting a good return on investment; often, this means encouraging attendee traffic to the exhibit hall. This is especially important in conferences or other events where the exhibit booths may not be the event’s main attraction, as opposed to a trade show or an expo, where people attend specifically to interact with exhibitors.
“Increasing traffic to the exhibit hall should be a team effort,” said Davis.
The first way is to work the exhibits into your event’s schedule, rather than just allowing attendees to interact with exhibitors on their own time.
“If you have sessions going on, you should have what I call dedicated hours,” said Davies. This means time slots where attendees have nothing to do except check out the exhibit hall. This ensures they have adequate time to view the booths and that exhibitors aren’t competing with other programing to make an impression.
Another factor is the exhibit hall itself. Organizers should make sure it’s in a convenient, attractive location that attendees will encounter and want to spend time in. Other ways to draw in attendees include food, alcohol and compelling activities, such as demos or videos, according to Davies.
It’s also a good idea for organizers to consider where an exhibit hall is located compared with their other programing; if it’s too far removed from the main sessions, it may be overlooked by attendees.
“You should make sure the exhibits are part of the program and not just something that happens somewhere else,” said Davies.
If there’s a prominent session that’s expected to attract a lot of attendees, such as a keynote speaker, having the exhibit hall located nearby increases the chances of attendees interacting with exhibitors. Another option is to place the exhibit hall near a space where attendees spend downtime.
“They’ve got to eat; they’ve got to drink; they’ve got to take a break; and we structure all those around the exhibit floor so they get quality time with our sponsors,” said Audrain.
Provide Reliable Data
Planners and suppliers record plenty of data before, during and after an event for research and marketing purposes. This may include everything from attendee demographics to the number of leads scanned during the event.
Some of the most important data to provide exhibitors with up front is the information they need to familiarize themselves with their audience, such as the attendee ages or their professions. This allows each exhibitor to best tailor their message to the audience and, therefore, increases their chances of success.
“If organizers would share their attendee statistics with exhibitors like they do for sponsors and media, exhibitors could set better expectations and prepare better too,” said Davis.
In addition to providing attendee specifics before the show, organizers have plenty of opportunities to share their data with exhibitors in helpful ways throughout the process.
“Organizers can support their exhibitors and show them the opportunities and then help them maximize them,” said Davis. To do this, Davis recommends organizers work with supplier partners to share data such as web traffic or leads available to the exhibitors sooner. This allows for them to make corrections to their strategy in real time during the event.
Receiving feedback following an event is also important to exhibitors, who can use it for improving their presence at future events. Facts and statistics about the event’s overall performance and attendance are helpful for benchmarking purposes.
Giving quality feedback is equally important to organizers because it helps exhibitors determine if their efforts were worthwhile, and whether they will return to contribute to the event in the future.