How to Make an Exhibition Successful

Exhibiting at a trade show or exhibition is a significant investment for many small to medium-sized businesses.  So, you want to make sure it generates a good ROI (Return on Investment).  Just booking a space and hooping people visit isn’t going to do this. So how can you make an exhibition successful?  Here we have a few tips to help you organise an exhibition.

Choose the Right Exhibition

There are many industry-specific trade shows throughout the year, choosing the best one for your business can make the difference between success and failure.  Research the audience a show attracts to make sure they are the people you want to target.  What are your goals for the exhibition?  If lead generation is your main aim, a larger show might be the most suitable.  However, if you want to increase brand awareness within your industry and network, a smaller, more niche show might be better.

Set Defined Goals

In order to measure the success of an exhibition, you will need to set out what you are hoping to achieve.  Exhibitions offer many benefits to businesses, from lead generation to sales, brand recognition and the opportunity to network.  You may also be looking for new suppliers or resellers for your products.  Whatever it is, have it set out clearly as measurable targets and plan how you will achieve them.

Plan Early

To make your exhibition successful, the earlier you start planning the better.  In order to secure the best space at the show you need to be booking at least 6 months in advance.  It will also take time to design your stand, you need to allow enough time to plan it carefully in order to achieve the best result.  Getting it in the diary early will also enable you to select the most appropriate members of staff to take.

Book a Good Space

One of the key factors affecting the success of an exhibition is where your stand is located in the hall.  You don’t want to be on a back wall at the end of an aisle.  Choosing a space with high footfall is important so busy intersections are good, or close to restaurants or toilets.  Being close to, but not actually by the entrance can be successful, people will want to move away quite quickly from a busy entrance but will then be primed to look around.  Locating near a big competitor who will draw crowds can be beneficial, but you don’t want to appear inferior by comparison.  It’s a good idea to visit the venue before you book to establish the best positions.

Design an Eye-Catching Stand

Your exhibition stand is probably the most important factor in determining the success of an exhibition.  You want a stand that will really attract attention and stand out from your competitors.  Look to create something unique with large graphics.  Being taller than other stands can be helpful, as can clever use of lighting.  Don’t have too much text on your stand, it will look cluttered and no-one will read it.  Make sure that all logos and text are large enough to be read across the hall and try to come up with a memorable slogan.

Make Your Stand Interactive

Consider having TV screens or IPads to promote your products or services.  These really draw attention to your stand.  Giving visitors something to interact with other than just sales staff can be an effective way to entice people to your stand.  If appropriate, give demonstrations of your product, these will hopefully draw a crowd.  If your product is too bulky to demonstrate consider using virtual reality to showcase it.  Research shows that the more people can interact with a product, the more likely they are to buy it.

Interactive Stand with screens

Be Welcoming

Ban staff from using mobile phones or eating on the stand, ensure they are not standing with their backs to visitors or sitting behind a desk.  Make eye contact with people and smile.  Start conversations with visitors using open questions – not just ‘can I help you?’ try to be more engaging.  Train your staff prior to the show on what they should be saying about the products and company, ensure they are all knowledgeable enough to talk with confidence.

Engage in Pre-Show Marketing

When you are organising an exhibition, make sure you email customers and prospects to let them know about your plans. Invite them to meet up with you there, either on the stand or in the evening.  An exhibition provides an ideal environment to talk to clients.  Use social media to advertise your attendance, link up with the hashtags used by the show organiser to promote the exhibition to reach more people. Pre-show marketing is vital to make an exhibition successful.  Don’t forget to look for opportunities to advertise at the exhibition, whether in the show catalogue or on signage.

Lead generation at an exhibition

Qualify Leads

To save time and automate the lead taking process, use lead generation software to take visitors details. Choose a package that enables you to store extra details about the lead, you think you’ll remember them but you won’t. Gather as much information as you can such as; whether they are actually interested in your product/ service or did they just oblige for the chance to win an iPad? You will then be able to schedule follow ups accordingly. Your team should know the questions to ask and the more time you spend with a hot lead, the more information you will gather, eliminating the time wasters.

Follow Up

One of the biggest mistakes made by exhibitors is not following up the leads they get at a show.  Research shows that 62% of exhibition leads are not followed up by companies.  Make sure you store them all in a CRM system and contact them within 2 weeks of the exhibition to ensure it is still fresh in their minds.

Ways to measure how successful a trade show is:

  • Cost per lead– the overall cost of attending a trade show divided by the number of leads gained.
  • Return on Objective (ROO):  You need to have a list of specific goals for the trade show.  They can be “soft” less measurable goals such as brand awareness, or something more quantifiable such as gaining qualified leads or the ability to showcase specific items/ services to a more select audience.
  • Exhibit budget vs. actual cost– make sure you take into account any surprise costs that cropped up.
  • Post-show orders and sales– What’s the life cycle of your selling process after a trade show?  How long does it take to turn a qualified lead into a future order or call to action?
  • Website and Social Media traffic– have you gained visitors virtually who saw you at the trade show?
  • Work out the Return on Investment– Total sales value minus the cost of sales to give net return then divide this by the cost of exhibiting, then times that figure by 100.

Exhibitions and Trade Shows present companies with the ideal opportunity to gain qualified leads, network, gain brand awareness and seek new partners.  However, they do involve a significant financial commitment for small and medium-sized companies.  Follow these tips to ensure your next exhibition is a success.  For help with your exhibition stand call us on 01202 723 500 or email And if all else fails, fill out our form here.