Five top tips for hosting a tradeshow stand – Virtual or In Person

What better way to raise the profile of your business and your products or services than a tradeshow!

Maybe you have participated in a tradeshow(s) previously or maybe you have attempted to host your own in the past and have been underwhelmed by the experience and the results, or maybe you’re completely new to tradeshows and/or you feel your budget is not sufficient to participate in such events – this does not have to be the case!

We thought that as we head out of lockdown in the UK, hopefully for the last time, we would share with you our 5 top tips to help you plan and increase the impact of participating in or holding your tradeshow(s) based on our experience.

  1. Identify who your audience is – this should include crucially your customers, key journalists and early adopters/influencers. Research various tradeshows and check their audience against your audience requirements.
  2. Know your budget and negotiate firmly with the organisers, trade cost against potential stand positioning, stand size, profile in tradeshow guide, speaking slots, VIP meeting access, logo on website etc. Less is usually more – what we mean by this is – doing fewer tradeshows but really planning and putting the budget to the best use will maximise the impact of your investment.
  3. Plan the format of your stand:
  • Critically, ensure you have the most relevant team members present to host the stand (they need to represent your organisation powerfully). For example, we participated in a show aimed at VAs and PAs – as many of these are women. We made sure that we had both women and men on the stand as this provided a good opportunity to show how diverse we are as an organisation and that we understand our customer base.
  • You need to clearly brief your tradeshow stand team beforehand and match them with customers, journalists and influencers attending the tradeshow and then make time for a thorough debrief and clear action plan for follow up post event. We see so much money wasted here – with insufficient/ineffective follow through.
  • Plan your speakers and their messages carefully if relevant. If you are going to include any celebrities on your stand to help with product or service endorsements, make sure they align with your brand and resonate with your customers. Reflect carefully on the messages you want to communicate – think benefits and outcomes and not just features.
  • If you are planning a large tradeshow stand, you may want to consider hiring a professional host. We have hosted stands like this for many of our clients to help showcase through live Q&As and fire-side chats their products, services and work. The professional host can ensure you get the key messages to land and that your show stand runs smoothly.
  • You will also need to think about the stand theming, collateral and take-aways. Use of technology such as VR/AR, gaming etc can act as a strong attractor and help with collecting visitors details BUT make sure the connectivity (wifi etc) works!
  • Where most organisations fail is not by engaging potential customers effectively in conversation whilst visiting the stand but on the personalised follow through with them after the event. It may sound basic but asking them for their contact details and noting their areas of interest in order to personalise the follow up is crucial as this really helps have a powerful follow up (preferably by phone – do not hide behind group emails). There are now lots of apps and/or event packages which can help with the stand visitor tracking process (eg scanning participants QR codes on badges) which many event organisers provide but tradeshow hosts rarely use effectively.

4. Be sure to give your key audience sufficient advance notice that you will be exhibiting at the tradeshow and where possible try to set up meetings in advance.

5. Consider how best to amplify your key messages at and after the tradeshow – optimising your use and impact of social media (including hashtags and links) is crucial. Film and other                      technology can help convey key messages too.

Critically, due to the effects of the global pandemic, we are seeing an increase in virtual and hybrid tradeshows, and we are also seeing the rise of the virtual tradeshow stands or “spaces”. The points above remain relevant in the virtual space. However, one key step you will need to consider is your familiarity and comfort with the chosen virtual event technology (it is there to serve you and not the other way round) and how you use it to best profile your business and connect effectively with your target audience. You may need to review the way you promote your products or services depending on the platform provided.

A further development we are seeing is due to the barrier of entry, especially cost, being so much lower in the virtual tradeshow space, many companies are now organising their own virtual tradeshows. We recently supported UK bicycle manufacturer, Frog Bikes, with a series of virtual tradeshows across Europe and North America in three different languages. Each event allowed them to showcase their products and was timed to suit their target audience in each region. They used a mixture of videos, live talks, and interactive discussions aimed at their existing and potential suppliers. These tradeshows were such a success for Frog Bikes due to their extended reach and flexibility, they are already considering repeat virtual events for the future.

Tradeshows can be very exciting and a huge opportunity for growth, but only if you target your investment wisely, are well prepared and really maximise the opportunity by following through effectively!

James Hasler and Rebecca Hill are both principal consultants at HaslerHill Consulting, an organisation specialising in moderationfacilitation and curation of events, as well as presentation skills and public speaking skills training. If you would like to learn more about the services they offer and how they can be of benefit to your business, please get in touch via the HaslerHill Consulting contact page or call +44(0) 7773 229909 jameshaslervoice TMITRC and Wise Sherpa



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