There is a light at the end of the tunnel for the exhibitions industry. In the UK we have a date that events can return again – June 21st. Other countries are laying down plans for tradeshows over the coming months. Spain in particular is very bullish about exhibitions such as Fitur (Madrid, 19th – 23rd May 2021) and Mobile World Congress (Barcelona, 28th June – 1st July). So it seems – and we’re keeping our fingers very crossed here – that we may soon be meeting again in that most cosmopolitan of places, an exhibition hall.
However, it has been over a year since most exhibitors have planned for or attended a tradeshow. Those looking to exhibit again this year will understandably be filled with some uncertainty and doubt about how to plan, and how to maximise their ROI. For those that are weighing up how and when to get going again, here are some top tips:
1. Plan early
Many exhibitions that are normally held in the spring time have now been bumped to the autumn. That means the global tradeshow calendar is incredibly busy through this period, particularly in September and October. On top of this, the sad fact is that many companies involved in the exhibition industry have closed over the past 12 months, and those that remain may have a reduced capacity for some time. The crux here is – plan early to ensure you don’t miss out. A good supplier will not ask you to commit this far in advance, but will gladly engage with you to get the ball rolling on concepts and ideas.
2. Be flexible
Plan now, but be prepared to change. Anyone who says they know now what the regulations will be for a show in the autumn is simply not being truthful. We do not know what requirements a show may have for PPE, social distancing, flow of traffic etc. However the events industry as a whole has done a tremendous amount of work to prepare for all possibilities. A good supplier will give you a proposal now with plenty of room for adaptation as the situation changes.
3. Explore financial options
The days of simple 50%-50% payment terms may be over. It’s not reasonable to expect an exhibitor to fork out half the cost of a stand or service if they’re uncertain that an event will go ahead. Instead, consider talking to your supplier about a more structured payment plan that covers their costs to date but limits your liability in the event of an early cancellation or withdrawal. I am hopeful that exhibition organisers will take a similar approach to stand space – deadlines for payment more than 3 months before the show is scheduled are just not 4realistic.
4. Seek quality, not quantity
Let’s face it, we’re not going to see the same levels of footfall at exhibitions for some time. But that doesn’t mean that you need to settle for a lower ROI. The solution is to improve the quality – and hence the value – of each individual lead at a show. By far the best way to achieve this is to really focus on a pre-show marketing campaign. Get meetings pre-booked, understand the potential needs of your visitors and tailor your presence accordingly. Make sure that you are engaging with the buyers and the decision makers, and prepare your team accordingly.
5. Embrace virtual
Whether you like it or not, there will be a place for virtual in the long term future of events and exhibitions. Rather than replacing physical events, there is a clear future for hybrid events. As per point 4 above, these hybrid events can help with “match-making” and enable you to target quality leads and really get the most out of your time at the physical show. But a word of warning: virtual events are not a magic bullet – you will need to put the effort in to marketing the event to get the most out of it. In 2020 we ran the AltonaExpo virtual event, the first edition of which produced over 200 meetings and a significant uptick in Atlona’s website traffic. The virtual environment played a big part in this, but the results would have been far less impressive without Atlona’s own pre-event marketing efforts. Read more about AtlonaExpo here.
Iguana Group has over 28 years of experience helping our clients live and breathe their brand through engaging exhibition experiences. We are more than happy to provide free consultation to anyone who has questions about the future of exhibitions. Find out more on our website or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org