Show them the ropes
by Annie Byrne
For an organiser, the show is everything. Build-up starts months, if not a year, in advance to ensure a huge number of cogs turn smoothly before the exhibition’s first day.
However, for an exhibitor it’s not that simple. They have a business to run and may not fully consider what is required before they turn up onsite.
“You need to engage with exhibitors at every level in the process,” MCI Exhibitions MD Finlay McAllan said. “Six weeks before a show starts, we try and make contact with them and help them with promotional material and social networking.”
Tony Crinion, brand director for Interiors UK and Decorex International for UBM tries to get exhibitors involved early in the show’s theme.
“It is our duty to help exhibitors as much as possible with their brand recognition,” he said. “We have suggested things like holding a buyers’ drinks party to get people talking to each other.”Exhibitor training days can help with the integration process in the run-up to the show.
“We hold exhibitor open days/drop-in clinics for exhibitors to meet the team and ask any questions,” said Soraya Gadelrab, event manager at Fresh Montgomery.
“At a recent Hotelympia ‘Innovation Day’ we brought in inspirational experts from the industry who inspired exhibitors with new ideas on how to maximise return on investment from the show.” Scottish Wedding Shows Group show manager Susan Johnstone claimed training gets mixed results.
“We have held exhibitor training days which have been successful, but a lot of it can go in one ear and out the other. Sometimes, we have to tell them basic things like not eating on the stand.”
Gadelrab encourages exhibitors to set objectives such as the number of leads they generate, the number of samples given away, the timeline in which they will follow up their leads, or the amount of feedback collected.
“Sometimes it’s just about the simple things, reminding exhibitors to tell their customers they will be at the show and inviting them to see their new range on their stand and arranging meetings with interested parties onsite,” she said.
Johnstone’s firm provides photography to exhibitors to show them what makes a good and a bad stand. “A lot of our exhibitors are small, doing things like wedding stationery from their bedroom,” she said. “We can give advice on things like fabrics for stands.”
Against the pressures of running their business, the significance of the exhibitors’ online presence can get lost.
“Mentioning the event on email footers and social media sites costs nothing and takes no time to do but could mean the difference from a top buyer knowing they will be there and making a note to visit their stand and no order at all,” said Gadelrab.
Crinion suggests 75 to 80 per cent of people book for a show online, offering exhibitors a perfect first opportunity to showcase their wares.
“The website is usually the first point of contact for a consumer with an exhibitor. But it’s not up to us to tell them how to run their business.”
It may seem incredible that an exhibitor hasn’t got both eyes firmly on the prize but organisers agree its patient scene-setting is often needed.
“It’s fair to say an exhibitor doesn’t have the time to invest in the show. That might sound like the biggest mistake you can possibly make,” said McAllan. “But their time is focused on business, business, business.”
Gadelrab recalls having to explain basic principles to exhibitors.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve heard myself say to a new exhibitor ‘Well that’s the easy bit done, now you have to follow up the leads immediately while they’re still hot’,” she said. “Their faces often drop when reality hits but you can see that they are grateful I’ve pointed out something so obvious, but absolutely essential, which so many fail to do.” Crinion agreed some exhibitors don’t help themselves.
“It’s up to us to help them because business for us is business for them,” he added.
Make exhibitors feel part of the team. Believe it or not, they may be too involved in running their business in the lead-up to the show to fully consider the requirements.
Hold exhibitor training.
Explain basics of stand etiquette and what to wear.
Encourage online link-ups with the show.
Don’t tell exhibitors how to run their business.
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