Exhibitions and how to stand out
Excite don’t just exhibit
I attended IBTM in Barcelona last year (as I always do as it’s my local show) and it looked very much like it always does. That’s not a bad thing as IBTM is a good looking show and a bit of familiarity helps when you are trying to find your way around a big show. Knowing where things are is helpful too. I always head straight for the Scotland stand to see who is exhibiting and to have a Scottish fizzy juice and a Scottish chocolate bar. It reassuring to know that it’s always in the same place, as were most of the regular stands. But this year, something at IBTM was different. And I loved it! This post is about exhibitions and how to stand out using a practical example.
In the heart of the show was a big open space that allowed people to recharge. It was sponsored by HOTELMAP a cool website that helps organisers find hotel rooms for their delegates. This was easily the busiest place in the whole exhibition.
Make an impact AND THEN make the sales
I had a chat with one of the HotelMap team and I asked them why they didn’t have a traditional stand? They said their boss would keen to do things differently and wanted to actually “help the attendees at the show”. She said HotelMap had this as their core belief: they wanted to help organisers. So instead of a stand where they would sell the service, they thought they would have a space that sold the “company ethos”. This seems to obvious doesn’t it? Prove to potential buyers that you want to help them.
But why is this type of presence so rare? Why do so many organisations try to sell before they make an impact?
The space was designed so that attendees would enjoy their time there. It had been designed to have some great interaction too. They had tables covered with outlines of a whole range of shapes. Over the three days delegates would pick up a pen and colour almost all of them in! This is best practice exhibition stuff here and you can see how this idea fits perfectly with their brand “We LOVEHEART HotelMap”
Speak to people and be remembered
I am sure this sounds counter intuitive to a lot of people in events but I believe exhibitions should not be about selling. The selling part should take part after you have spoken to someone and made a good enough impression that they remember you and your involvement at the show. HotelMap had friendly staff, handing out business cards and scanning attendees for follow up, but they were not “directly” selling like almost all the other exhibitors. They took a different approach.
HotelMap wanted to demonstrate to visitors at the show that their job was to think about and help the organiser, and they did this though the use of their stand. The contextual marketing approach was brilliant. As you sat there having a rest and recharging your phone, while colouring in the flag of your home country, you were soaking up HotelMap’s messages: we are all about helping organisers. No one was selling to you (well not that you noticed it anyway).
This is brilliant best practice exhibition stuff and I’ve been talking about this for over five years. There are simple things we can do to fix exhibitions.
Exhibitions and how to stand out
Creating more of these “sponsored spaces” is the future for exhibitions. It is not only how a company stands out but it is also how organisers can make their whole exhibition stand out. Exhibition organisers have to make their exhibitions pull attendees to them, rather than push them there. We have to create spaces, or encourage our exhibitors to create spaces where attendees can relax, recharge and enjoy themselves. Organisers have to find the savvy businesses (there’s an equivalent to a HotelMap in every industry) that understands that exhibitions are not about the hard sell anymore. Visitors are people too. And people want to spend time in more relaxed environments. Exhibitions have to keep up and really try to stand out.