Laura Sutherland: Expert PR advice for a successful exhibition

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Exhibitions can be big drivers for sales and leads and it’s essential if you’re participating, you make the most of the investment.

Often businesses tell me they have exhibited somewhere and they won’t be going back. When I look into where they exhibited, what they did and the plan they had around it, there wasn’t much strategic thinking other than the physical space.

Engaging people when they are researching to attend the exhibition, visitors to your stand and following up are all key components.

Here’s my top PR success tips for a great exhibition:

Know your visitors

Understand who your visitors are. You should know this before anything else! The more knowledge you have about the audience (the people who attend the exhibition), the more relevant and informed strategic decisions you’ll make.

Prepare your strategic goals and KPIs

Your strategic goals will match your overall business objectives and comms/PR plan. Don’t just turn up to be seen. Exhibit to gain something for your business. Key Performance Indicators

(KPIs) will assist you in figuring out how to measure your goals.

Briefing designers

Successful stands communicate with audiences quickly and effectively. The key to attracting people onto the stand is to have interactive things for people to do – screens with video, ipads with apps etc.

Keep text to a minimum. Make sure your concept is in-line with your wider PR and comms strategy which will of course be supporting the business strategy.

Brand and product positioning is important but keep your stand free-flowing and open. It makes people feel like there is room for them!

Other things to consider: audio, QR code, URL, marketing materials, place to hide staff personal belongings!

Choose your team wisely

Well groomed, approachable, good listening skills, knowledgeable about the brand and product/service…

Make sure your team are ‘social’ and proactively using the platforms that your customers use to engage them whilst they are at the exhibition and from afar. Photos, video and live blogging is all great!

Make sure you use the official hashtag of the exhibition as well – this ensures you are visible to all attendees following the hashtag, not just your immediate audience.

Ensure you capture data

Data capture is the golden nugget since addresses were used for direct mail. Now, email marketing can be particularly effective for both current and prospective clients. It’s a way of keeping your brand front of mind and presenting an opportunity that’s only a click away.

Make sure you prioritise the leads as you capture the data.

Tell everyone you’ll be there

If you don’t tell them, they might not know!

Make sure you’ve submitted images, video, press releases and social links to the exhibition organisers for the website and exhibition programme. This is free promotion and marketing, part of your exhibitor rate.

If you’re including your own advertising in the lead up, ensure you tell people your stand number on all your adverts so they can find you.

Send an email to clients and ensure your social activity follows the stand build, the exhibition build-up etc keeping everyone up-to- speed with the exciting developments.

Choose relevant and branded merchandise to giveaway

Don’t just buy a product for the sake of it. Really think about it relates to your stand concept and how it will make the person receiving it feel and use it.

Things we’ve developed in the past:

  • Music CDs of the music from the client’s stand – everyone loved it and we’re sure they put them straight into their cars!
  • Branded bamboo USBs – laser etched. Sustainable and attractive.
  • Branded iPad covers
  • Branded tote bags (especially useful due to the plastic bag charge!)

On-site press office

Press Offices are great for leaving press packs for press that pick up a bundle of press packs, but make sure yours stands out! Journalists can be picking up 50-100 press packs so yours needs to stand out and it should also be really easy to manage!

It’s a good idea to make all your press appointments in advance and if possible, on the stand.

Make sure you have actual news for them and it’s not just the company background you’re handing over. The press also love samples and invitations to one-to- one appointments in showrooms.

Be sure to invite them to any events you have organised around the exhibition. For example a launch or wrap drinks party.

Social media

Social media activity is a key part of engaging people before, during and after the exhibition.

Whether you’re using Instagram to tell the story of the exhibition, using Twitter to tap into the hashtag for the event or creating an advert for LinkedIn to ensure you’re targeting the right people, it’s all part of the bigger plan.

Developing ideas around the audience, the platform and what content you can create will be important. It means you can stick to the plan and you can measure the impact against each activity.

You’ll find that some platforms work better than others for you, so monitoring and adapting is important.

Don’t forget to try and get video footage when you are there. Perhaps some feedback from people who visit the stand, a quick interview with the MD who’ll be on the stand speaking to people, and some footage which captures the feel of the exhibition. It’ll make a nice round-up piece of content for your website and blog and you can even use as a pre-event content for the next time.

Follow up

This is critical and should be personal. It might be in a traditional letter or a personalised email campaign.

Make sure there is a call to action for the reader too. You can track opens and clicks and shares with a platform like MailChimp or your CRM may be capable of this.

I think this gives you a flavour of the level of detail and attention you need to pay to have a stand out exhibition stand. Our expert PR and marketing advice for a successful exhibition will stand you in good stead. However, there are many other activities we could go on to discuss, such as integrating digital in exhibitions. We’ll leave that for our next post!

As always, thanks for reading. If you found this useful, others might too, so feel free to share. If you need support in an upcoming exhibition, let me know. I’d love to work with you to develop a sound plan to maximise the opportunity.

Laura Sutherland is runs Aura PR and is the founder of #PRFest

She is an independent, Chartered PR practitioner and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).

She has 15 years’ experience in public relations, events and communications working across a variety of sectors. From luxury automotive brands and global manufacturing to high street fashion, design and culture, Laura’s exciting career has taken her across different sectors and indeed countries.

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