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Exhibition News October 2015
October 2015

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Industry veteran John Blaskey looks at how exhibition organisers can help their customers plan a successful event.

A fter 35 years in this business, I have just realised what it is I do. I don’t train – I   plan. Or rather I help companies plan. Training is usually targeted at managing the stand itself and the skills needed by staff in the moment. Planning happens long before the show and I believe it is the duty of organisers to show exhibitors how to do this effectively. The question is: do they know how to?

At the recent Exhibiting Live Masterclass, sponsored by Exhibiting magazine, an audience poll revealed 95 per cent had exhibited before. Sadly, only 10 per cent were satisfied with the results achieved (and only about 10 per cent could actually say what those  were).

More insidiously, when asked who had created a plan for their next exhibition, only a couple of hands went up. Yet it’s imperative exhibitors plan. They cannot achieve a result from this expensive – but limitlessly powerful – medium if they fail to plan. Doesn’t that apply to everything in business?

Most exhibitors seem to think about how their stand should look before they consider why they are exhibiting, what outcomes they need to achieve, and how exhibiting might grow their organisation. This is clearly putting the cart before the horse.

When an organiser, trade association or professional body organises a training day for their exhibitors in advance of a particular show, junior staff attending expect to hear best practice nuts and bolts, and apply these tips “at the coal face”. I fear this is too little too late. More often than not, the stake holders in the show, who have committed to attend in the first place and presumably have some defined objectives in mind, have failed to plan. 

What is it they have failed to plan? They haven’t identified clear and measurable objectives, or worked out a simple but effective, challenging message. They haven’t planned resources for instant data capture to initiate immediate follow up. They haven’t asked themselves ‘What is the journey round the stand experience?’ Or what market intelligence needs to be gathered and how. Nor have they worked out who the right people are for the different tasks to be performed on the stand.

Clearly, where organisers can better ensure their exhibitors will come back next time is by helping them to plan.  The adage: “failing to plan is the same as planning to fail” holds true powerfully in exhibiting. 

An exhibition stand is a shop window experience of an exhibitor’s entire business. It displays their products and services, their philosophy and culture, their priorities and the people involved in that enterprise.

My call is loud and clear to organisers of exhibitions and trade associations: You should help your exhibitors to plan, well before the show, to deliver a considered and effective strategy that will generate serious returns on investment right back to their business plan.

See if your clients can answer these questions:

1. What is their current year’s turnover expected to be?
2. How many customers will make up this turnover? (a customer is an organisation that pays the invoice)
3. What is therefore their average customer value? (yes I know 20 per cent of your customers give you 80 per cent of your business – but we are looking for new customers here and they will average out)
4. What is their anticipated turnover in their next financial or calendar year?
5. How much will come from existing customers who stay and/or grow?
6. How much business do they need from new customers?
7. How many new customers are they looking for?