Exactly what’s gone wrong with exhibitions and exhibitors?

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.