Last weekend, I attended an exhibition. For two reasons, one I like to keep up-to-date with the current trends and features that exhibitors may want to implement, and secondly, I was interested in what the exhibitors were selling. Most people attend exhibitions because they have an interest in the products that are on display. There were some observations that have stayed with me since I left the exhibition building. I walked out empty handed. I went with two friends, who also walked out empty handed.
It wasn’t a rushed decision to attend the exhibition, not a last minute decision because we didn’t have anything else to do that day. In fact, my friends travelled a considerable distance to attend an exhibition where we only looked for 40 minutes. Why? Because while some of the stands looked great, and the products were outstanding, there was a big difference between the exhibitors who had taken the time to consider and implement what would increase sales and achieve a great return from exhibiting and those who may not have exhibited often and didn’t know how to exhibit properly. I have identified the categories that I believe exhibitors fall into when their exhibition success isn’t as great as they had wished for.
The “First-Time” Exhibitors
These exhibitors are enjoying exhibiting their products, which is often related to a product that handmade, or they have a smaller production and operation than the other exhibitors. This doesn’t mean that you need to exhibit small. Some of the exhibitors were set up almost in a market style. They had fold up tables for their products, and a simple timber board with their name behind them. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to have this style when exhibiting, so long as all the other exhibitors around you are displaying the same style. This was not the case at this exhibition. The exhibitors on either side of this particular exhibition space had walls, and this blocked off the tables and products of the first exhibitor.
You see, having an exhibition floor plan where everyone has fold up tables and displays their products this way is fine. It works like a market, people form an orderly line and work their way from exhibitor to exhibitor and they’re able to see what everyone is selling. But when you have different exhibition stand layouts right next to each other, attendees don’t know how to navigate the space and how to easily get from one exhibition stand to the next, and this causes them to look from afar and avoid the whole space, like I did. I could see the product, and knew I had a need for the product but I couldn’t get to the product. There were crowds of people trying to navigate a confusing space and I wasn’t about to add to the confusion.
First time exhibitors or small businesses don’t have a large amount of money they can dedicate to exhibiting, but always remember there are great options in every price range. Exhibiting is like everything we do in life, there are cost effective ways to get a great result. You just need to be willing to put in the time and effort to find the better option that will maximise your return on investment.
“Seasoned” Exhibitors Who Need to Re-Think the Floor Plan
Among the small businesses and first-time exhibitors were some well-known brands, people who have exhibited at much bigger shows, and who I expected to have much better exhibition space. I expected these companies to have a well-thought out space to account for the large number of attendees who would visit their stand. I also expected that in the design phase they would have considered how they would display their product, because their product is one that is quite expensive, and one that prospective customers want to “test drive”.
The type of product that they sell is a big investment, and people want to ensure that they are buying a product that is compatible with their abilities and is suitable to their lifestyle. The same is true for any large purchase. Like in my previous blog, no one makes a large purchase without regarding all of the factors. People work hard for their money, they don’t want to waste it. If you’re exhibiting at a show and you want people to spend their hard-earned money on your stand, please do your hard work and allow proper consideration into how you’re going to display your product. This particular stand was a well-known company who sells a high-end product. Their exhibition space was packed, but we walked past the stand 3 times and each time attempted to view the products but with no success.
We ended up settling for grabbing a brochure from the stand right on the boundary of the exhibition space. The problem? There were 3 entrances to the exhibition space which were gaps in the walls. This exhibition stand was in the middle of the building, with no adjoining exhibition stands, so in this instance, walls probably weren’t the best option because all they did was close the space off and make it seem uninviting to any potential customer (like myself and my friends). We couldn’t get close enough to see the product in action, and there weren’t enough exhibition staff to handle the demand of customers on the stand. So we did what a lot of other customers did, we left. Which brings me to my last point.
Where are the exhibition staff?
Some of the exhibition stands were staffed by the people who make the product or are the business owner. You know this because you can see the pride on their face and hear it in their words. And they should be proud, they were putting forward some fantastic products. They could tell you all the features and benefits and weren’t afraid to mention any limitations or cautions on the product or similar products. They are the best people to have working in an exhibition space where you need to be able to speak to a large amount of people in a very short amount of time. They know they’re stuff and they want to share their knowledge to help customers make an informed choice about their purchase.
They do this because unlike the business models of yester-year where people wanted quick sales without any hassles, business today is about fostering relationships. With the introduction of wide-spread social media, a business’ reputation becomes public knowledge very quickly. Some exhibition spaces had fantastic exhibition staff, some had staff that seemed to non-existent, and some had staff that wanted that quick sale. They weren’t about fostering long-term relationships, they wanted a quick sale from a product that had a large price-tag (see above for why products with large price-tags are not quick purchases). It is crucial that your exhibition staff know the type of product that they’re going to be selling, and what kind of relationship that they will need to form with customers. It is important that the targets expected of exhibition staff are realistic with the product that they are selling.
At the end of the day, while the exhibition had a great range of products, there were fundamental flaws in how these products were displayed and how the exhibition staff approached selling these products. On their long drive home my friends actually stopped at large department store and tested out the products that they had seen at the exhibition, as the layout and floor plan of the store was easy to navigate in order to access the products. It is a shame that they had to miss out on any specials and discounts offered from the businesses at the exhibition because the exhibition spaces were not well thought out. How many customers have you missed with your recent exhibiting due to negligent planning? When you’re ready to correct this and increase your exhibition sales get in touch with our friendly team.