Other than stand positioning and stand design, there are some further measures that you can take to ensure you get the most out of your exhibition.
The behaviour of staff on stands is important. First, where possible, choose the most senior staff so that discussions with visitors are held with people who have the knowledge to answer questions and the authority to make decisions.
Staff should be welcoming but should allow the visitor space to come onto the stand without a feeling of being watched. The line 'can I help you' must be avoided because it invites the conversation stopping 'no' as an answer.
Video Arts' 'How Not to Exhibit Yourself' featuring John Cleese and Bernard Cribbins is an excellent guide to the use of staff on a stand. It is important that staff realise that attending an exhibition isn't a time for recreation.
The exhibition environment with bright lights, noise, air conditioning and spending all day standing is very demanding and late boozy nights in the hotel can take their toll – have the celebration on the final night when it is deserved!
Offering gifts and food to entice visitors onto a stand is a risk. Both can appeal to time wasters, which costs money and staff time. Food and drink can also create mess and its preparation takes space and staff time.
It is far better to spend the budget taking key leads to the on-site restaurant. Branded gifts can be given out to potential customers but are best not displayed.
A method of recording details of contacts is imperative. Many exhibitions now offer a barcode 'swipe' system in which visitor badges are read electronically by a pen to capture data.
Collecting business cards is an alternative method but there must be a system in place that allows the recording of any specific interests or questions and this is done most easily through having a book on the stand in which details can be entered.
Although the idea of exhibiting is to meet key industry players who will attend a show, this can be enhanced by a pre-event marketing campaign. Existing and potential clients can be mailed and invited to visit the stand with, perhaps, a gift offer attached as an incentive.
Exhibition organisers might be able to help offset the costs of such an initiative with piggy back mailings. It is also possible to use the show press office by supplying press releases and brochures, which will be displayed.
Publications that are likely to preview the exhibition are also worth approaching around six weeks before the event. A brief company profile, product pictures and details of what will appear on the stand, including quotes from key personnel, stand a good chance of being published.
It is important to realise that the true benefit of most exhibitions is realised only after the event has ended. In the majority of cases, the event is a chance to meet existing and potential clients but rarely to close deals. Leads, therefore, have to be followed up and a plan to develop those relationships formed is as important as any aspect of running the stand.
The Association of Exhibition Organisers has set up a website specifically to provide advice and assistance on exhibitions.