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Exhibiting at trade fairs

Exhibiting your business at a trade fair or industry show is one of the best ways of getting in front of your target audience. However, they certainly aren't cheap to do and need a lot of planning, managing and most importantly sufficient budget to do it.

What are the costs of exhibiting?

There are a number of costs to take into account when budgeting for an exhibition including:

  • Floor space hire (costs are usually based per square metre). Entrance and corner pitches are normally the most expensive.
  • Stand design and construction.
  • Stand accessories - display racks, flowers and plants.
  • Furniture such as chairs and a table can either be hired or be bought and used again. Lockable cabinets, shelving and lighting can be hired from the event organisers.
  • Insurance. This is required to cover the stand being destroyed, staff belongings going missing or valuable equipment such as computers being stolen.
  • Staff accommodation if necessary.
  • Couriers may be needed to transport any equipment to the exhibition.
  • Transport (if necessary) - car hire or train tickets.
  • Promotional material. This may include product and company leaflets and brochures, catalogues, business cards, and giveaways such as pens, stress toys, mouse mats and so on.
  • Clothing. You may decide to order company clothing so that all members of staff working on the stand are dressed similarly, incorporating the business's colours and logo.

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Is it worth doing?

Exhibitions can be an excellent way of promoting your products and business and making direct contact with customers. There are two types:

  • Consumer - lifestyle orientated and predominately attended by the general public.
  • Trade - bringing businesses together from one area of interest such as IT or accountancy.

Contact the exhibition organisers to get a breakdown of the type and number of visitors expected at the exhibition to make sure they are your target market. You also need to have clear objectives prior to exhibiting to enable you to choose the most appropriate event for your needs and provide a focus for your stand design. Objectives can include:

Finding new customers (a key aim is usually to identify sales leads that can be followed up after the exhibition).

  • Making industry contacts and leads.
  • Obtaining press coverage.
  • Launching a new product or service.
  • Launching a new business image.

Exhibitions can be expensive so it is important to weigh up the potential benefits against the cost and time involved in preparing and attending an exhibition.

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Checklist for exhibitions?

  • Set clear objectives for exhibiting.
  • Decide which exhibition opportunity will be the best to help achieve your objectives.
  • Produce a draft stand design.
  • Provide the stand designer with a brief.
  • Approve the final stand design.
  • Book hotel accommodation and make travel arrangements for staff and equipment well in advance.
  • Erect and check the stand before the exhibition opens.
  • Plan publicity for your stand.
  • Prepare press release and event guide entries.
  • Prepare company and product brochures, business cards and flyers.
  • Select and order company clothing.
  • Book insurance cover.
  • Order or buy stand furniture and accessories.
  • Organise staff passes and badges.
  • Arrange telephones, fax and plug-in points for any audiovisual equipment.
  • Know the route. Plan the travel route to the exhibition for both drivers and staff using public transport. Provide maps and directions to help them get there safely.
  • And when it's all over:
  • Party hard! Organising and attending an exhibition is stressful, so relax and enjoy yourself afterwards.

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Hints and tips for exhibitions

  • Keep the stand design simple, but still get yourself noticed.
  • Make the stand inviting to visitors. Don't create barriers such as raised platforms as this can intimidate people.
  • Promote, Promote, Promote. Make the most of the PR opportunities that the exhibition will bring. Get your business name into the show catalogue. Write a press release. Send complimentary show tickets to existing customers to let them know you will be exhibiting
  • The Exhibitors Manual is your Bible. You should receive this from the show organisers once you have booked your stand. It will provide you with all the information you need, from contractors information to recommended suppliers, build up and breakdown times, floorplans, and job lists.
  • Arrive early. This will enable you to set up your stand and check everything is in good working order.
  • Communicate with your staff. Keep all staff fully briefed and motivated from day one, so they know exactly what the objectives are and what their role will be.
  • Communicate with visitors. Don't forget to think about how you will respond to different enquiries. You may encounter competitors, students, journalists or VIPs on your stand.
  • Always over-budget. Budget 10% more than you think you need to cover the expense of exhibiting.
  • Be in the right frame of mind. Get a good night's sleep beforehand. Leave socialising until the end of the exhibition.
  • Get in touch. Always follow up potential customer leads made at the show.
  • Evaluate the exhibition. Your first exhibition may not be amazingly successful in terms of sales leads, but the experience should be worthwhile. Learn from it.

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