What more can we do to make exhibitions better?

Here’s an innovative way of looking at your exhibition. But first you have to ask: Exactly what’s gone wrong with exhibitions? The basic format hasn’t changed for perhaps a hundred years or so (perhaps even stretching further back) Now is the time to look at events and think what can we (as the organisers do) to add more value to our exhibitors.

So here’s a list of them things that you can consider adding to the service you offer your exhibitors.

How much value can you add for your exhibitors:

1. What are you – the organising – doing to make the exhibition hall more interesting? Your exhibition is a large part of the event experience so you can’t rely on the exhibitors alone to make it work for your attendees. What type of zone can you add to turn your event into more of an experience?

2. What incentives do you offer exhibitors to make their stands more interesting? Seriously! Why not offer a reduced stand fee if they do something that truly adds to the attendee experience.

3. How has the physical aspect of your exhibition changed in the last few years? A lot of cutting edge events are moving away from shell scheme and rows, and rows of stands. There is a focus on lounges to create a more open environment where there is less of a barrier or that horrible ‘them and us’ mentality.

4. Do you use Social Media as a way to allow both delegates and exhibitors the opportunity to ‘meet’ before your show? Shortening the sales pipeline for your exhibitors should be one of the key benefits of taking a stand at an exhibition. Supporting your exhibitors to use social media – as well as more directly highlighting exhibitors involvement – will allow conversations to happen before your show starts. The initial meeting on the stand becomes a ‘nice to finally meet you’ and not a cold ‘Hello’ after squinting at a badge.

5. Do you allow your exhibitors the opportunity to take part in your educational programme? I don’t mean you offer them a sales slot, but can you use them to add value to your programme? This isn’t as scary as you think. Here’s something I wrote about embracing sponsored slots.

6. Do you encourage exhibitors to provide you with quotes, links etc that you can use in promotional collateral like blog posts? Contextual marketing is very important in the sales process and your blogging around your event offers a great opportunity to add a bit of value to your exhibitors.

7. What do you actively do to help exhibitors find the ‘hottest leads’ from your attendees? You are likely to be very close to your attendees and you may be able to sit in between them and your exhibitors. Can you add any value perhaps helping each of the parties spot a beneficial relationship?

8. Do you encourage or even arrange 1-2-1 meetings? This is something that a lot of events have really started to offer in the last few years. Attendees can choose who to meet and exhibitors can ask for appointments. A great way to make sure that the exhibition adds value.

9. Do you use or are you considering a hosted buyer programme? This takes the above one step further. Some of the largest shows in the events industry have adopted this model. It’s certainly worth considering if you have a decent sized show.

10. Do you offer free training on how to get the most out of taking a stand at your show? You know your audience, and you know your show, so you can impart that knowledge to the people whose financial support is vital. Your exhibitors.

I believe that if we organisers really start to look at offering at least half of these options for our exhibitors we can demonstrate more real value. We can then start to create the types of exhibition experiences that the attendees will literally pay to attend.

Published On: May 15th, 2012 / Categories: Exhibitions, Innovation / Tags: , , , , /

At the Event Innovation Summit in Barcelona in October a charming Spanish Gentleman and I got speaking about hashtags. As you do! He said he had seen the Event Innovation Summit hashtag being used and advertised but wasn’t sure exactly why the organisers and everyone else would use it. I very briefly said they are great and I have been going on about hashtags for a while!

We then started talking about EIBTM. He said “how can I get the most from the #eibtm? I said that would depend form what perspective he looked from. Was he talking as:

  • an attendee
  • an exhibitors
  • a speakers or
  • the organiser

Using EIBTM as an example he wanted to understand exactly how a hashtag if used properly could add value to his next event. I said I would drop him a note. And here it is in Blog format. I’ve looked at how each stakeholder could use the event hashtag to best effect.

How to get the most out of the #eibtm (or any event) hashtag

Now I am using the #eibtm hashtag as a live example but the outline really could be relevant for ANY event hashtag.

And I will look at how each stakeholder can use the hashtag to get more value from the event. With one week to go to EIBTM I would love to see an increased awareness of how useful the tag could and should be. So please feel free to forward on the Blog.

So first up and most importantly: how attendees should make the most of an event #tag

1.Use it to keep up to date. As we build up to the event the hashtag is a great way to find out more about the event in an easy, hassle free way. At a large event there is a lot going on. If you want to stay on top of what’s happening simply FOLLOW THE HASHTAG. Following the #tag is easy. Just type it into the search function in Twitter and save the search.

2. Use it to help you network. Most of the people and organisations using the hashtag in the run up to the event will be attending. You can use the #tag to help make the most of your time at the conference.

 – Is there anyone who is ‘talking your language?’

– Is someone they tweeting about the areas that you want to know about?

If so why not contact them and ask to meet up? The hashtag is a great way to open up communication with people outside of your network who have similar interests.

3. Use it to help you decide what to do at the show. You have a whole host of choices at a show the size of EIBTM. It is impossible to go to every stand or to see every speaker. So use the hashtag to help you make those decisions. If you aren’t sure about a session why not see if that speaker has tweeted using the hashtag? (in the speaker section below I will cover what they should be tweeting about) If they have tweeted I would say he/she is more likely to have put more effort into their engagement and involvement with the show. The same goes for exhibitors. As an attendee I will be using the hashtag as a pointer to the sessions I should attend and the stands I should visit.

How speakers should make the most of an event #tag

1. Use it to provide more learning. It is unlikely that any speaker is really able to get everything over to those gathered to listen to her during their short session. So use the hashtag as a way to point to extra content. It’s a great way to get people to do a bit of prep before they attend your session – perhaps a blog on the issue you are covering or other content related to the session.

2. Use the hashtag to engage with your audience. Jump on the hashtag and use it to check and tailor the content you are covering. Ask your potential audience. After your session use it to see if you missed anything out of your session as well as highlighting more content related to your session.

3. Use it to promote your session. You want the right people at your session so use the hashtag to tell people who that is and why they should attend your session.

How exhibitors should make the most of an event #tag

1. Generate leads. Follow people who use the hashtag. Retweet their great content. Start engaging with attendees before the event. Try to make sure that the people who arrive on your stand already know who you are and more importantly that you have taken the time to know who they are.

2. Shorten your sales pipeline. Use the hashtag to see who is attending the event. You won’t have a complete list from the organisers so use the hashtag to find out. Find out a bit more about their business via their Twitter profile. Contact them if they are relevant, if you think you can really help them. With this proactive approach you could have them arrive on your stand to discuss the proposal you’ve already worked on.

3. Don’t just highlight that you are taking a stand but highlight why people should seek you out. Upload links to content using the hashtag. Demonstrate that you understand your clients business by commenting and retweeting.

Use it to prove that you are committed to your customers and serious about doing business at the show.

How organisers should make the most of an event #tag

This is the simple part. As organisers we can add so much value to our events if we lead on use of the hashtag. This link explains how organisers can best use the hashtag in detail.

But in general all we have to do is promote the benefits (like I’ve listed above) to our stakeholders. When people use our hashtag there is so much in it for us so we have to put that bit more into it. We have to educate and inform. And most importantly we have to lead and demonstrate that we really know what not only we are talking about but what our attendees, exhibitors and speakers want to talk about.