Making the most of exhibitions

The exhibition season is now well and truly underway – but are you making the most of the opportunities they offer?

February 28, 2024
Jennifer John
Abstract blurred event exhibition with people background, business convention show concept
February 28, 2024
Jennifer John

Many of us will have already either visited a show or exhibited in 2024, including myself and Kathryn, who recently visited Fruit Logistica.

Exhibiting as we all know is an expensive business – from the time needed to prepare and attend, to the actual stand itself and any associated costs like travel and accommodation. Walking round Fruit Logistica got me thinking about what makes a stand at an exhibition work well – for both the visitor and ultimately for the businesses who have invested time and money in attending.

Despite the potentially heavy costs of attending a show, from a visitor perspective I am often surprised at the lack of planning some brands seemingly put into their stand, and once there the lack of engagement from the team with visitors.

Our team are currently working with clients who will be exhibiting at shows, ranging from IFE to the Coffee Festival, so we understand how to make investment in attending shows work hard.

So, some food for thought if you are thinking of investing in a show in 2024, be it trade or consumer facing. Or, if you have already committed to exhibiting, some suggestions of how to do all you can to get a return on your investment.

First question is: why attend? What do you need to get from exhibiting? Is it sales? Brand awareness? New customers? And ask yourself is that budget best spent on a show or elsewhere to meet those objectives?

If you decide that exhibiting will deliver what you need, then prioritise your goals and plan your stand and approach from there.

Be clear and realistic about what good looks like, set targets, and agree how you are going to measure success. 

Decide on your message. So often I see stands and it’s just not clear what the brand is, what its USP is, what’s the offer? Visitors, especially to large, busy shows like BBC Good Food for consumers or the super large Fruit Logistica for trade, are bombarded visually and can quickly get show fatigue!

So, make sure the team are well briefed and are suited to working shows – because it isn’t for everyone. It is hard mentally and physically, but nothing puts a visitor off more than a stand team that look bored, disengaged and / or frankly don’t know the brand or care.

Stands, especially where you are sampling can quickly get messy. Make sure your sampling is slick, well organised and the food looks appealing! And keep the stand tidy and obviously meet the necessary hygiene regs (those inspectors will come and check!).

In this age of sustainability, paper leaflets are not always appropriate (how many of us pick up info only for it to languish on our desks for weeks?!) but do make sure visitors can easily access take away information for reading later.

Don’t forget to promote your attendance on social before the show and during. Be targeted and clear about the message, so potential visitors know why they should seek your stand out and what they can expect to get from it.

Once the show is over – allow yourself a few days to recover! Then review the results against your targets and see how you could improve your ROI for the next time!

Good luck!