When spending money on events nothing hurts your business as much as having no idea what you’re getting back from participating in one. Having been both an event production and attendee I’ve seen that the number one stressor for exhibitors is them leaving an event not knowing if they’ve spent their money wisely. Sometimes brands and exhibitors don’t talk about how they’re preparing to succeed at the shows as much as who’s going and what they’re selling.
Because of this, I wanted to make it easier for companies to determine how to make the most of their events. This is Part 1 of my series on events, and below you’ll find my five best practices on how exhibitors can best prepare for shows and have your presence felt beyond the booth.
DEFINE YOUR PURPOSE
The first question that you need to have a crystal clear answer to is “Why are we here in the first place?” I mean that’s the question that we should ask ourselves about every portion of our lives, but it applies to tradeshows and events as well. You’re trading in your time and money to participate at that specific conference or show and you need to know what you hope to gain because of it. Sometimes brands may think that it’s fine if they participate because they’re just sampling versus paying money to exhibit. Even if you’re not handing over cold hard cash you’re spending your time vs working on your business. That is equivalent to money so you need to know why you’re spending it and what you want in return for that investment.
The questions that you can start to answer to define this are:
- What metric are you going to use to determine your goal? Is it brand awareness (the number of followers) or is it the number of sales made.
- Are there certain metrics that you can attach to each event or each team member?
If you don’t have a clear answer to the above then regardless of the outcome you may not be fully satisfied. That’s why it’s important to have your expectations clearly defined in the first place.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
As with every battle, and yes sometimes a tradeshow or conference can feel like a battle, you need to do your research on who the other players are and who you should connect with. Back when I was an event attendee newbie I would simply show up and hope that I’d run into some interesting people. That philosophy did not work for me then and I’m sure it will not work for anyone who is incorporating it now.
As a brand, you need to be aware of the who will be in attendance, be clear on the schedule to determine your availability, and try to connect with attendees before the event. By doing this beforehand you’re putting in valuable relationship building facetime at the show instead of trying to set up your first hello.
Some things to consider when doing your research:
- What companies are attending and what level of an employee will I be able to meet? Is it mostly C-Suite, middle managers, sales reps, or marketers?
- Do the people I want to connect with have a LinkedIn or social presence so I can learn more about them or connect with before the show? Of course, you don’t want to come across as a stalker but being genuine about your outreach and what value you’re hoping to bring to them is important.
- Are there panels that you need to make sure you attend versus networking with people due to the educational content or the speakers?
- Have you already combed through the list of exhibitors to identify your tier 1 and tier 2 meetings based on your available time at the show?
There’s only one thing I have to say about your materials…you never want to run out of anything.
I’m sure that there will be some people who would argue with me on this, especially anyone who’s in charge of packing things up to bring back to the office, but running out of key materials seems like a rookie move. I can say that because I’ve done it.
The thing to note about collateral is that if you’re PURPOSEFULLY trying to go green and have made sure that all of your electronic lead capture works (don’t forget those Wifi stress tests) then that’s one thing. I like to go the green method and have everything online, BUT if you’re printing key materials be sure that you have enough.
There have been times when I’ve seen brands run out of cards, order sheets, or info packets and then the key people that they wanted to connect with show up at the very end of the day. Those brands were then left with nothing to give them. They’ve then just missed out on a key opportunity to educate their ideal customer by not having anything to give them besides a verbal redirect to their website.
Avoid this by asking the event producers how many people are expected to attend and also connecting with previous exhibitors to see how much product they went through.
Properly preparing your people is vital to any successful organization and preparing for an event should be treated the same way. You want to make sure that your staff is ready to execute on the deliverables of the day. That means that they are all able to speak to who you are, what you’re about, and how attendees can further connect with you.
For shows where your primary focus is to get product orders, make sure that everyone at the booth is trained on scheduling follow-up meetings, beginning the contract process, or at a minimum speaking clearly about the sales process.
I understand the benefit of having a lot of ambassadors at your booth so that you don’t miss out on connecting with people. Unfortunately, if your staff is not educated on your main metric of success than even with a large number of people you could still be missing out on vital interactions. The main thing to remember is that no matter who they are, be sure that your people are prepared to help your business in all the key ways.
Almost all of the large conferences have apps that you can use to research and game plan before the big day, so be sure to take advantage of this. Some of the event apps out there aren’t user-friendly, but regardless you still need to leverage them.
If you’re an exhibitor then understanding what capabilities your conference app is capable of can also help amplify you with the attendees. A few questions you can ask your event contact are:
- Does the app have the capabilities to track metrics that are important to you?
- Is that part of the exhibitor sponsor package?
- Are you able to get a lead list from the app before the event?
While those exhibitor upgrades may cost a bit more, understanding what type of information you’ll be getting could be completely worth the cost.
Okay, so that’s Part 1 of my event prep series. This is a little bit of a novel but I hope that through sharing this information it will help brands make the most of their time and money when participating in events. I know the value of having a good show and making valuable connections, so I hope that my advice can help you reach those goals.
Are there ways that you and your company prepare for an event, conference, or trade show that I didn’t mention? Do you have best practices that you put into place? Let me know!