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An event to remember

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The UK exhibitions sector generated £11 billion in spending and contributed £5.6 billion in value added to the UK economy in 2010, equivalent to 0.4% of UK GDP. Exhibitions are big business and with many organisations currently amid ‘event season’ again this year, it is important to ensure that you are maximising your exposure and getting the best ROI possible.

  • Are you confident that you’ll get the most from your attendance?
  • Have you told enough prospects that you are exhibiting?
  • Are you giving them compelling reasons to visit you?
  • Will you shout louder than – and so stand out from – the rest of the crowd?

Here’s a checklist that will help make your exhibition a PR and Social Media success…

1. Press release

The first priority on your event checklist should be to issue a press release previewing your attendance. You’ll need something that provides journalists and their readers with an overview of what they can expect to see on your stand. Issue a well-written and newsworthy story to your core media to meet any preview deadlines.

2. Press pack

This press release will also form the basis of an overview for your press pack, but you might want to include additional product press releases that provide in-depth information about any products being launched at the show. Also include a company profile if you have one, together with relevant product images. Don’t overload the pack with brochures or sales collateral. Submit your pack to organisers in good time and it will be made available for attending media.

3. Media interviews

Ask journalists to visit your stand for interviews and product showcases. Hundreds of exhibitors will vie for attention, so offer them a tempting story.  Prepare your staff and anticipate the questions that journalists might pose – especially on contentious issues.

4. Advertising and direct marketing

Direct marketing messages, whether to leads on your own database or to data gathered for the show, can highlight your attendance at the exhibition.  Advertising, meanwhile, generates brand awareness. Well placed advertising in online media also drives traffic to your website, especially when it carries a tantalising offer or incentive to visit your stand. Do ensure that any website you advertise on can provide accurate and meaningful metrics so you can judge the success of any campaign. And don’t forget affordable alternatives such as Google AdWords, sponsored tweets and LinkedIn ads.

5. Social media

Promote your attendance through posts on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.  YouTube is also a popular platform for uploading footage from the event and opens up a further audience that may have not attended the event but can still view the highlights. Provide teasers on what visitors can expect to see, promote incentives and post daily reports throughout the show using images and videos. A decent smartphone is perfectly adequate for capturing these if handled well. Ensure you know the hashtags and handles being used by the event organisers.  This will allow you to jump into other conversations around the exhibitions and exposes your posts to a wider audience.  Finally, exhibiting provides a great opportunity to increase your social media following, so promote your social media channels on printed materials and exhibition stand visuals.

6. Incentives

An incentive scheme can lure prospective customers to your stand. Often something like an iPad is offered, but this is an opportunity to be imaginative, to identify a hook that will resonate with your audience. For example, footfall can be driven by decent, readily accessible refreshments, workshops and brief technical presentations, giveaways, or by using promotional staff to tour the halls and send visitors to your stand.

7. Data capture

Exhibitions present a golden opportunity to capture sales leads. A pre-prepared email that thanks people for visiting your stand can be sent at the end of each day. It may seem obvious, but capture a visitor’s interests and grade them according to the business they might provide. After the event, supplement your data with any databases exhibition organisers or other sources are willing to share.

8. Speaking opportunities

Speaking opportunities at events allow you to share your technical expertise, demonstrate your understanding of the marketplace and build the profile of your executives. Keep any presentations brief and educational. Avoid overtly ‘sales speak’. And don’t forget to repurpose presentations as blogs, white papers or social media content after the show.

9. Video

Consider producing a video that captures your exhibition stand and products. The cost of hiring a professional crew has plummeted in recent years. Ask valued customers to answer a few questions on camera to produce short but powerful video testimonials for your website or YouTube channel. If a dedicated crew is beyond your budget, the exhibition organisers sometimes send a camera crew around the halls. It might be possible to get them to stop by your stand.

10. Establishing ROI

We’ve all heard the question – usually from the FD: “What will we gain by exhibiting?” Without metrics in place it is indeed difficult to establish the value of attending a show. However, marketing activity immediately after the exhibition should turn stand visitors into warm sales leads. The successful conversion of leads then allows you to accurately measure your return on investment. Overlaying this data with any media coverage generated, new social media followers and traffic to your website over the exhibition period will, in turn, capture any boost to brand awareness. Finally, don’t skip the all-important post-exhibition debrief. What worked? What didn’t?  What did you see that excited you from other exhibitors? After all, there’s always next year…