Make and Exhibition of yourself

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The purpose of every business is to make money. The responsibility of every commercial manager is to produce a sustainable flow of profitable income for the long term future of the business, by getting and retaining the custom which produces the necessary income. Finding, winning and retaining customers is a primary requirement. Exhibitions are a wonderful way for commercial managers to present their businesses and organisations, their products and services to an audience of potential and existing clients.

Potential exhibitors are often contacted directly by exhibition organisers or their agents with invitations to participate The potential benefits of taking part in any exhibition can be very attractive and beneficial. However, they can often mismanaged by exhibitors through bad planning and a lack of awareness that the can become excessively expensive and even counterproductive.

Exhibitions can be large or small, local or international, but before committing to participate, the reasons for doing so should be clearly understood. There can be many reasons for exhibiting which may include the opportunity to meet new customers, the launch of new products, to make a profit, and promote the company. Other reasons may be to gain direct feedback from customers, to test exhibitions as a medium against other promotional options, to gain new prospects, to let customers come to see you, and to see the product.

While considering the reasons for exhibiting, it is also important to be aware of the potential reasons for the failure of an exhibition project, of which there are a number. The principle reasons are generally a failure to have clear objectives for the exhibition, or a clear definition of the target audience, and the need for an adequate budget. All exhibitions cost money and while expenditure needs to be cost effective, successful exhibitions cannot be done on the cheap.

Before committing to participating in an exhibition, commercial managers need answers to a number of questions:

• What is the objective of participation?
• What market is covered by the exhibition?
• What is the audience profile?
• How many potential decision makers expected to attend?
• Are there facilities to demonstrate products?
• Is there sufficient time to prepare?
• What is the budget?

Exhibitions are an expensive investment which can provide immense benefits if properly prepared and managed, for which a detailed budget is required.

When preparing an exhibition budget, there are many considerations to be taken into account, regarding cost of:

• Having the sales force off the road for the duration of the show?
• Entertaining customer and visitors to the stand
• Floor space for the stand
• Stand Design
• Stand Construction
• Hotel accommodation for stand staff.

Having produced a projected budget, the commercial manager must decide if it is sufficient to meet the task, that it can be afforded and can it be justified as an investment. Assuming that the commercial manager is satisfied on these points, and having agreed the budget and set the objectives, then planning for the exhibition should follow with regard to the following principles:

• Plan carefully
• Check the budget and resist all alterations
• Do not exhibit on the cheap
• Use professional advice and experienced stand designers
• Be aware of Health and Safety aspects

The Planning Actions are as follows:-

• Establish command and control for exhibition projects
• Establish responsibilities – time plans etc.
• Plan dates backwards from the opening day
• Ensure each manager has a plan of operation
• Fix control co-ordination planning meeting at the start
• Circulate information
• Check progress of planning regularly
• Check budget frequently
• Ensure that all stand personnel are fully briefed and trained as required.

Exhibition stands should be designed by experienced specialists who understand what is required to make an effective combination of aesthetic appeal and practical operation. In practice an effective stand must be easily identified, have ease of access, protection for personnel and exhibits, together with a private office to conduct business. For outdoor displays, weather protection or a caravan will need to be provided. Operating the stand requires a designated stand manager, a dedicated staff member to welcome and log visitors, and a sufficient supply of literature with defined selling points around the stand. When dealing with the public, Health and Safety cannot be over-stressed.

The results of every exhibition should be measured by the number of visitors and decision makers recorded, and the volume and value of sales made. Ultimately, the success of the exhibition will depend on the overall planning and how well stand is managed.

© N.C.Watkis, Contract Marketing Service 25 May 2023

Nicholas Watkis, AE MA DipM CMC FCIM
Nicholas Watkis set up Contract Marketing Service in 1981, providing professional interim marketing management for a wide variety of businesses. Over 30 years practical experience in organizations, large and small, national and international, led to the development of Business Performance Maximized specialist in marketing performance measurement.

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