Are Exhibitions and Trade Shows worthwhile?

Business Insights

Despite all the whizzy digital computer-to-computer global interconnectivity, nobody can deny that people still buy from people.

That face-to-face contact is the magic ingredient that can’t be replicated by the fastest internet connection or the highest video conferencing picture quality. That’s why we still have exhibitions and trade shows, and that’s why they’re big business.

Whether multi-million pound turnovers, or simply in a local town hall featuring the finest the community has to offer, all exhibitions bring golden opportunities of meeting, connecting and building rapport with existing and new customers.

They don’t just boost a business; as part of the nation’s event industry, exhibitions have a vital role to play in the UK’s economy. Conference, meetings, incentive travel and exhibitions contribute over £21 billion to government tax revenues when taking into account the overall value of these sectors to GDP, while exhibitions attract more than 13 million visitors annually, generating £11 billion in spend, boosting trade and exports through over £100 billion of goods sold at exhibitions and trade shows.

Meanwhile vital support to these and other events is provided by around 25,000 businesses, mainly small and medium-sized enterprises, including hotels, attractions, transport companies, florists, caterers, retailers and local traders.

Of course, playing a vital role in the nation’s economy may not be the uppermost thought when considering whether to take part in an exhibition, that tends to focus on the value of such participation - and the immediate cost.

It’s worth weighing up carefully whether each and every exhibition opportunity is the right one. Just because it’s a high-profile event, attracting high profile exhibitors and, most probably, high costs to exhibit, doesn’t necessarily mean a high return in terms of leads being converted into new clients.

Therefore, research prior to filling out your entry form can pay dividends. For example, it’s worth checking whether your target market will be eager to attend or whether any guest speakers or attendant seminars are likely attract good visitor numbers. It’s also worth questioning the organisers how they are looking to bump up those visitor numbers - in effect how they are promoting the exhibition to the wider world.

Once you’ve decided that an event is the exhibition for you, turn up your thoughts and planning to ensure you achieve everything you want from it. Don’t overlook the basic practicalities - for example, don’t assume you’ll have electricity and lighting on your stand, make sure you have it and anything else it might need.

Not least the stand itself. If you’re getting one made, highlight the appropriate deadlines in your diary and ensure you keep the designers supplied with everything they need.

Get your literature together. Not just in terms of having plenty to hand out to interested stand visitors but in the way you put your brand message across: customers old and new will want to know what your company is all about. You can also extend the marketing message to ensure everybody knows about your presence at an event - newsletters, direct mail and PR are all key tools you can use to your advantage.

And then the exhibition’s on and you’re there hoping to meet as many people as possible. Don’t forget to focus just upon the new customers you can source, exhibitions represent major networking opportunities. Find out about other attendees and exhibitors and make sure you amass a big collection of business cards: you never know, such contacts can convert to new business further down the line.

You can also use the occasion to conduct vital research into your own organisation by seeking feedback from those who visit your stand who already know you. Be brave! Ask a direct question, check out their opinions of your brand, sales or marketing material - the answers could be ground-changing.

It isn’t over once it’s over. Post exhibition is really the time to get the key tasks under way: following up any generated leads or stand visitor discussions is critical.

Stay in touch. It may take months for new business to come through, but keeping in touch with new contacts means that potential customers will remember you a long time after the exhibition’s been and gone.