Author: Ellen Gunning. Ellen is director of Irish Academy Training which provides training courses, nationwide, in communications, business, leadership, marketing and social media.
It never ceases to surprise me that people who book and pay for exhibition space at an event fail to get the maximum benefit from their attendance. Think about it logically – you are going to pay for the stand, the people manning it, the brochures and the promotional material. Why not invest some time as well, and maximise the PR impact of your attendance? And how do I do that, I hear you ask? Well, let me share some tips with you.
Be proactive at the booking stage.
There is usually a long lead-in time to the exhibition. You might make your booking in January for an exhibition in June or September. As part of your ‘welcome pack’ you will often receive a notification that asks for more details about your company. Will you be launching anything at the event? Are you introducing any new products? Will there be anyone famous on your stand?
The exhibition PR people need information from exhibitors to use in the promotion of the exhibition. They want information early, so that they can use it with trade press or consumer magazines. They don’t mind at all who they profile once the story is good. If you can take the time, at this point, to look at how you might create something for your stand, you can get the exhibitions PR people working for you – at no cost!
And remember, if you are sending them information, think with your PR head on you. Information about the product will include how the idea came about and what benefits it will bring to the users. Information about the launch might include the fact that this will be the first of three launches in Ireland, UK and Sweden. If you have a guest visiting the stand, explain what their connection is with your company and when/why they will be attending. You are giving the PR people an opportunity to create a profile for the exhibition around your ‘celebrity’.
Ask for the Guest of Honour to visit your stand.
Get in early. The exhibition organisers will book a guest of honour to perform the official opening ceremony. That person will usually visit 5-6 stands on a ‘walkabout’ afterwards. The stands have been pre-selected by the organisers. See if yours can be one of them – and suggest the visual. If you make hair products for men, say you will have a barbers quartet on the stand to serenade the guest. You are in the IT business offer to have a robot on the stand. If you are an event management company, have 4 movie-star lookalikes to greet the guest. The more appealing you can make it to the PR people, the more likely it is that the guest will visit your stand.
Put some effort into your material.
Every exhibition has a different target audience so your material cannot be the same for all exhibitions. If you are a printer, for example, the materials you will use at a Transition Year exhibition will be different from those you use at a Travel Trade Fair or at a business to business event. In the first case, your samples will target either 16 year olds or their teachers, so your print will need to be young, colourful and vibrant. For the travel trade, the quality of reproduction of photographs in your catalogues will be vital because they are selling a dream (not a destination). For B2B you will need to include flyers, business cards, pull-up banners and catalogues. Target your audience with a bow and arrow. The results will be much better.
Stand out from the crowd
Think about how you might stand out from the other exhibitors. Can you shoot some video footage showing the print process, testimonials from satisfied clients, or a speeded-up walk through your offices with each member of staff waving ’hello’? Video attracts the eye but peoples attention span is short so make it visually attractive.
Create a corporate look
Being small does not mean paying less attention to detail. If you have three or four people on a stand, should they all be dressed in the same way? A simple rule, for example, about black jackets and red ties or scarves can create a uniform look which enhances your professionalism.
Use the press office
There is a press office at most major exhibitions. Use it to the fullest extent. Create a press pack and deliver it into the press office and make sure to check that you always have plenty of copies on hand for the media. Include a press release about your participation in the exhibition. Provide a background briefing about the company (when it was formed, how many employees, what products and markets your serve, your turnover and location). Visuals are always appreciated. Include visuals of your products (a mixture of straight forward product shots and PR photos of people using the product if you can). Do not brand or embed your logo into the photos by the way – that is advertising – and consider including the visuals on a memory stick or thumb-drive.
The benefits of investing in some PR for your exhibition stand will greatly enhance your presence and your clients perception of your business. When it’s all over, evaluate your business leads and your PR gains with equal attention to detail.