HOW TO PLAN A SUCCESSFUL EXHIBITION

Exhibiting offers your business unique benefits that no other form of marketing can match. But once you have decided to exhibit, what next? And more importantly, at what point should you begin each stage in the organisation of your exhibition?

We are one of the leading exhibition stand organisers in the UK.  Here we have put together this easy-to-follow 12-month timeline to help you organise your exhibition planning.

9 TO 12 MONTHS BEFORE YOUR EXHIBITION

  • Start Early

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”. Running a successful exhibition takes a certain amount of planning. So when should you start?

It’s a good idea to start thinking about which events you plan to exhibit at 9 to 12 months before they happen, this way you can make sure everything is in place with plenty of time to spare.

  • Set Your Exhibiting Objectives

Before you begin looking at potential exhibitions or suppliers you’ll need to have a clear idea of your objectives for your event. It might be tempting to simply choose the biggest show in your industry, but this might not always be the best option if it doesn’t match your exhibiting goals.

If your aim is to generate as many leads and sales as possible then a larger exhibition will be the right choice. But if your objective is to raise brand awareness and engage in B2B marketing and networking, a smaller show where you can connect and interact with the attendees might be more appropriate.

Once you know the purpose of your exhibition and what you hope to achieve, this will help you plan a realistic budget that includes a projected ROI.

  • Set your budget

The amount you allocate for your exhibition organisation budget will depend on your priorities and the size of your business.

The biggest venues in the UK will generally charge £300 to £350 per square metre for an exhibition space, but smaller events will charge much less.

When you set your budget, plan for how much business you hope to generate. Even if your goals are focused on brand awareness, lay out your targets – such as amount of stand visitors you need to get, and the amount of promotional material you intend to distribute.

Keep in mind that, wherever you decide to exhibit, your ROI will be largely dependent on your investment in your stand.

  • Choose the right exhibition

Now you have set your exhibition organisation objectives and budget, compile a list of all the potential exhibition events that will meet your aims and budget.

Once you have your list, you should make a shortlist of the events that are best suited to your brand and customers. Find out which exhibitions the consumer demographics you want to target and how many of those people typically attend. All exhibition organisers will be happy to provide potential exhibitors with attendee numbers and audience profiles.

If possible, visit the event before exhibiting – this will also give you the opportunity to speak to other exhibitors to find out how successful their experience has been.

6 TO 9 MONTHS BEFORE YOUR EXHIBITION

  • Book your space

Once you have chosen the exhibition for you, the next step is to book your space.

Although you don’t need to have a perfect exhibition design at this stage, you should have some idea about the features you will need for your exhibition stand, such as a reception counter, TV screens, meeting area, interactive showcases etc. Once you know your stand requirements, you’ll be in a better position to choose your exhibition space.

You’ll want to get in early to secure the best possible space for your stand.

The early bird deadlines are important for anyone looking to save money on their exhibition preparation. These dates offer deadlines for reduced rates on on-site services and other things that you book through the venue.

Occasionally, the early bird deadlines will be printed in the exhibitor’s handbook alongside all the contact information. This is handy and can save you some time so always check the handbook when you receive it. If it’s not there you’ll have to reach out to the event organiser and ask them to provide you with deadlines so you can continue your trade show preparation and venue arrangements.

  • Organise your Marketing strategy

This is the time to plan your exhibition organisation and marketing strategy. To plan a successful exhibition you need to market your attendance.

Think about how you’re going to let people know you’re exhibiting at this event and how you can create a buzz around your exhibition? Try to come up with an integrated sales message – THE HOOK – which you can use for both the pre-marketing and at the exhibition itself.

Once you have this, create a press pack to send out to journalists and promote your event on your website and social media.  Link up with the pages used by the exhibition organiser and use the same hashtag.

Just remember to make your marketing all about your customers and why they should spend time visiting your stand.

  • Work Out Your Stand Requirements

Before you contact potential exhibition stand companies, you should take time to consider the type of stand you want based on the space you have booked. Start to plan your exhibition stand and what you want it to look like.

How are you going to attract attendees and how are they going to interact with your stand? What are your graphics going to look like? Think about the design features you want as this will help you choose an exhibition company that meets these requirements.

  • Choose your Exhibition Stand Contractor

Have a look at their websites, and see if they have client reviews, case studies or a gallery showing the previous exhibition stands they have built. It’s also worth checking out their Google reviews and Trustpilot rating.

Reach out to a handful of contractors and let them know what type of exhibition stand you want to build and what size and orientation your floor space is. Then just sit back and wait for design proposals.

You won’t be able to get a definitive quote until you’ve finalised the design, but they should provide you with a realistic estimate at the very early stages – all with no obligation.
Obviously, you will take into consideration your budget and what you intend to achieve, but you should also think about the other exhibition services you will require, such as storage, transportation and installation.

Make sure your exhibition stand designer pre-builds your stand so that you know exactly what it will look like and can plan what will go where.

  • Create your Exhibition Stand

Once you have chosen your exhibition stand contractor you can tweak and adapt their design proposal to your specific needs. Your contractor will work with you to make your 3D design exactly what you want – make sure to include some of these design ideas to help you attract more visitors!

Once you’re happy with the 3D design, the design features and the artwork you just need to sign it off. You’ve got nothing left to worry about in terms of your exhibition stand so you’re free to get on with the other planning stages.  Make sure your contractor shows you how to set up an exhibition stand so you can see it is fully built.

  • Book hotels for staff

By now you know when your event will be taking place and should have some idea of the number of staff you need to attend your exhibition – even if you still don’t exactly know who those people will be. You can book your rooms earlier, but don’t leave it later than this. You’ll want to ensure you get the best hotel that is easily accessible to the venue – before all the rooms are sold out.

Even if you’re not 100% certain what you need, book your rooms now anyway. Most chain hotels give you the option to book in advance and make cancellations without any cost – so if you choose this option and have to change plans, you won’t have lost out.

3 TO 6 MONTHS BEFORE YOUR EXHIBITION

  • Organise your exhibition stand staff

Decide which members of your staff will be attending the event and what their role will be. Remember the people you choose for your stand will be representing your business.

You’ll need to pick friendly, reliable, and trustworthy team members, but also make sure they are highly knowledgeable about the product or service you are promoting. This is also a good time to rehearse your stand demonstrations or presentations.

  • Organise travel arrangements

As soon as you know the team of people who are going to the event, you can book your flights or trains, or work out your journey if you are going by car.  If travelling by you will need to organise parking at the exhibition hall.

Every venue has a different offering for exhibitors. For example, the NEC in Birmingham has a free bus service from the car park however it is also serviced by public transport. Check the venue’s website to see the best (and most cost-effective) ways to travel there.

If your staff intend to drive you need to arrange parking permits for the venue and supply them with a map of where they should go.

1 TO 3 MONTHS BEFORE YOUR EXHIBITION

  • Organise services to your stand

You will need to arrange services to your stand such as electrics, lighting, internet and water if required.

Most of this information should be in your exhibitor manual provided by the exhibition organisers.  If your stand suppliers haven’t provided you with a project manager, then, to ensure a successful exhibition you will need to book these services yourself.

  • Organise meetings with clients at the exhibition

As exhibitions or trade shows bring together people in your industry from far and wide to one location all at the same time, they are a great opportunity for you to arrange meetings with potential clients or business partners who will be attending the event.

If you know that important clients or business partners will be at the event, arrange and finalise details for any meetings or networking events and make the necessary bookings.

  • Plan how to take and follow-up leads

As generating leads is one of the main benefits of exhibiting, don’t leave your lead follow-up process until after the event. If you leave it too late to follow up on your leads after your exhibition, the chances are you will lose most of them.

How you take leads will depend on whether you want to automate the process to allow for ease of follow-up.  There are several lead gathering apps on the market that can do this for you and synch with your CRM system.  Just collecting business cards in a bowl won’t give your staff much to go on when following up so get as much information from prospects as you can.

Take the time to plan in advance how you are going to make contact with your leads after the event. Decide what you are going to say to them and how you are going to reach out to them. Also, allocate people who will responsible for following up leads – this way you can start the process soon after the exhibition has finished.

QUADRANT2DESIGN ARE HERE TO HELP YOU

At Quadrant2Design, we can help you find the right design for your stand and take care of all aspects of the process, from initial design and production to final installation at the show.

As leading exhibition designers and suppliers for 20 years, we have created over 10,000 business-enhancing stands for exhibitors at venues in the UK and across the globe.

Our dedicated team of experts know exactly what it takes to organise for a successful and amazing exhibition. We have had the honour of helping our many valued clients with all their exhibiting needs.

For help organising your next exhibition call us on 01202 723 500 or email design@quadrant2design.com.