By Marta Gorka

Trade shows require a large investment of both time and money. If you’re attending an exhibition this year, you have to fully maximise the potential of your stand and the event in order to bring positive results.

Preparing to attend an exhibition can be a big and frustrating task, but it will help you accomplish your goals and ensue you have an efficient and productive show.

Here are 5 things to keep in mind when planning your next event:

1. Register early

Once you’ve chosen a trade show to attend, it’s time to register for it! Registering in advance not only can save you money, many shows offer early-bid discounts, but it will also give you an opportunity to pick the spot that you really want and that suits your budget. Most exhibitions sell their spaces on a first come first served bases, so if you want to be in a prime, high-traffic location, you must register early. Once you confirm your stand number, you can start planning your trade show marketing schedule, begin building pre-show buzz through social medial and other marketing channels.

Do remember that shows have different policies, so check what is required to book a space and what you will need to complete the booking. Send everything on time to avoid additional fees.

Tip: It’s important to identify shows that are right for you business and that will bring a good return on investment. Many exhibitors make a mistake of attending the biggest and most popular events that may not necessary be right for them.

2. Find the right supplier

Planning your stand in advance is the key to success. If you’re creating a new exhibition stand, make sure you contact a supplier for initial quotes and design concepts as soon as possible, ideally 3 to 6 months in advance. Choose a supplier that can design, manage and build your exhibition stand. They will work closely with you on all phases of the project and ensure that your stand meets the venue’s rules and regulations. Having a dedicated and experienced supplier will reduce the stress of organising your important event and ensure that you enjoy a perfect exhibition experience.

If you already own a display, determine if it needs refreshing and which components will be reused. Don’t wait until the last minute to realise that your graphics are outdated or that you will need more tables and a product demonstration counter. Contact your supplier early to avoid rush shipping or printing charges. You will also have more time to discuss the best possible solution for your new objectives.

3. Get creative with at-show activities

Using the latest technology on your stand not only shows that your brand is innovative, but also introduces a new level of interaction with your stand visitors. If you want to form lasting relationships, your stand needs to engage and stimulate memorable experiences. You can equip your stands with a wide range of technological gadgets; branded games, augmented reality graphics, oculus rift or google cardboard goggles, interactive surveys, immersive 4k video walls etc. Before you attend your next exhibition, find out which interactive technology your target audience will enjoy. Your exhibition stand supplier should be able to advise you on the most suitable digital elements for your campaign and integrate them into your display design.

Tip: Digital handouts are a good eco-friendly alternative to expensive printed brochures or leaflets. Branded USB flash drives pre-loaded with product slideshows are a great giveaway that can be kept and reused by the visitor. If you want to cut the cost even further, you can include a QR code in your exhibition stand graphics. It can offer a link to a dedicated webpage or a document download.

4. Announce your #tradeshow presence for extra engagement

Let everyone know know that you’re attending an exhibition. You can do it in a number of ways; social media, press releases, blogs, your website, email marketing. If you’re going to have interesting product demonstrations or exciting games on your stand, share it on Twitter. Utilise the event hashtag and join the conversation surrounding the show. Your tweets will appear when the hashtag is searched by attendees, increasing your exposure and chance to connect with prospects.

Tip: Many trade show organisers offer free and paid marketing opportunities to exhibiting companies. Check your options. You may be able to get a free listing on the event’s page or a mention on their official Twitter or Facebook page.

5. Plan your follow-up

Retrieving and managing leads collected at a trade show is crucial. Prior to the show, ask yourself what makes a prospect hot, warm or cold and what will qualify a lead as sales-ready. Make sure you have a lead capture system that will allow you to categorise your prospects. Check if the system can be integrated into your CRM tool and if the lead form can be customised to suit your needs. Following up will really maximise your event ROI. Plan how you’re going to follow up, create a schedule and aim to contact all leads within 48 hours.

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