By Claire West

As an exhibitor, it is important to promote your presence at an exhibition in advance as well as provide visitors with a reason to visit your stand while the show is open. A good way of highlighting your presence is to hold some type of function or event on your stand like a drinks reception, raffle or competition where people can meet, network and find out further information on your products and services.

It is also important that you choose the correct stand personnel and brief them fully on what is expected.

Stand personnel should always look interested and approachable.
Ensure you follow up all leads post-show otherwise all the effort you put in will be wasted.

Remember: The most satisfied exhibitors are those who put in the work pre-show, onsite and during follow up to get the best return on investment.

Planning is essential to protect your investment in exhibitions, it is key to getting the best possible return, to ensure smooth and stress-free exhibiting, project a cohesive, positive and memorable message and improve your participation the next time around.

Planning for an exhibition should be thorough enough that no surprises crop up during the actual exhibition, the time when all your efforts should be directed towards sales work.

Important decisions must be made about a number of aspects.

It is important that you appoint an exhibition coordinator who has complete responsibility for the exhibition well ahead of time.
Pre-show coordination and stand preparation should be the coordinator’s responsibility. He or she should also deal with all progress payments and be responsible for budgetary control.
Make sure, therefore, that a person with sufficient authority is appointed to this important role, that they are appointed early enough and that his/her function is clearly communicated to everyone concerned.
It is the job of the coordinator to take a complete overview of the exhibition, to ensure that the effort stems from clearly defined objectives and that everyone is working towards common goals.
The coordinator, therefore, should be briefed and thoroughly understand your organisation’s objectives as an exhibitor.
It is the coordinator’s job to ensure that things are done on time and within
budget.

With so much to oversee, it is important that the exhibition coordinator takes a systematic approach to planning. The following guidelines should ensure that he/she carries out the essential tasks effectively and with the specified deadlines:

l Read the manual. The manual is your exhibition Bible. It contains all the information you need to ensure a successful event.

l Consult widely and early those that may affect or be affected by your participation, before it is too late to change things without considerable effort or cost.

l Draw up an exhibition timetable highlighting key tasks and deadline dates, indicating who is responsible for each individual task, the date by which action is required and the actual date by which the task should be completed.

l Establish responsibilities and clear lines of communication.

l Chase up everyone relentlessly to ensure everything is completed on time.

The Budget

With the decision made to exhibit and the choice of the event narrowed down, the next step is to establish a budget.
You need to reassess the value of the market covered by the event and your forecast of the sales and marketing benefits you can reasonably expect to achieve.

Draw up a target-orientated budget and create it based upon the activities you plan to get engaged in. The key to cost-effective exhibiting is to spend as much as is required to achieve your objectives and no more.
Unfortunately there is no magic formula for determining exactly how much money is required to ensure that optimum return on investment at an exhibition. It is possible, however, to offer some guidelines by which realistic budgets can be drawn and expenditure controlled.

The budget must be as detailed as possible, leaving no doubt as to disbursement of funds. This will simplify the task of checking the items after the exhibition is over.

Exhibition costs break down into six main groupings:

1. Space Rental

There are two basic stand choices at most exhibitions, the shell-scheme stand which is provided by the organiser or the space-only stand, for which you rent floor space and arrange your own stand design and construction. Space with shell generally costs 10-15% more than space-only.

One trap which many exhibitors taking the space-only or free-build option fall into is to book a stand site without any real appreciation of how much it will cost them to fill it.
For space-only stands, the cost of the space represents, on average, only 20-25% of the total stand cost. The stand design and construction can account for a hefty 40-50% of the exhibition budget and sometimes more.

2. Stand Design, Construction, Fitting and Display.

This will be the biggest item in your budget and the most difficult to calculate in advance. Basically what you have to allow for here are fees of a stand designer. To give some practical guidance, you should plan, at the very least, to double your space costs for design and construction. Also remember to add in costs for hiring furniture and other items necessary for display purposes, such as brochure racks, shelving, flowers/plants etc.

3. Electrical and other Stand Services

Take into account here stand lighting and power points for displays, computers, office machines and catering equipment.

4. Transport, Storage and Handling of Exhibits.

Although you may not necessarily have actual products on your stand, you do need to allow for the cost of packing, delivering, insuring and returning any promotional material or equipment you may be using, such as computers or video machines.

5. Staffing Costs, Accommodation and Entertaining.

Whether you take the costs of manning your exhibition stand into
your exhibition budget or not may be a matter of company custom
and practice. For a truly realistic evaluation they should, however, be calculated.

The costs of travel, hotel accommodation, meals and entertaining customers by your own staff must be allowed for. If you need hired hostesses, receptionists, interpreters and the like, you should also budget for them.
Give some thought, too, to whether or not you want to provide catering, refreshments and drinks on your stand and whether you will have to buy these from the official caterers appointed by the venue or whether you can take them with you.

Take into account, also, any entrance tickets, passes and car parking
costs for staff and any customers you may want to invite and add the cost of office equipment, telephones, computer lines, stationery and other incidentals.

Finally, if there are going to be related conferences or seminars in
which you may want to participate, allow for those extra costs as well.

6. Exhibition-related Promotional Activity

You may want to consider poster sites, advertising in official catalogues or trade press and other advertising within the venue to attract attention to your stand.
This could include give-aways and promotional gifts.

These six groupings are the building blocks from which you will be able to construct your exhibition budget. Working from them on a given size of space, at a level of style and presentation appropriate to your organisation and its products or services, you are going to come up with a very realistic estimate of what your costs are going to be.

Statistics from AUMA, The Association of The German Trade Fair Industry, gives the following breakdown of costs, against which it may be useful to check your own figures:

Stand design, construction/dismantling, decoration 39%
Stand rental, power supply, car parking 20%
Personnel costs, travel costs, hospitality outside stand 21%
Stand service and communications, i.e. hostesses, hospitality for visitors, gifts, free entry, press folders 12%
Other costs, i.e. preparation and follow up, training, research 5%
Additional costs, i.e. transport and waste disposal 3%

If you need any help in planning or executing your next exhibition or trade show call us on 0845 5000 328 or email nick@freshbusinessthinking.com

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