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Managing the presence, the follow up and the measures of success of an exhibition

  • Jenna Potter
  • Picture of Jenna Potter
  • 1st November 2018

In our series of blogs about Exhibiting Success, Paul Kennedy MBE, Director and Owner of Kennedy Integrated Solutions, shares his top tips.


Paul Kennedy MBE


In the follow up to select and prep your expo participation, I’m going to speak about managing the presence, managing the follow up and measuring the success of any live marketing event.

Again, live event marketing, if successful, must be approached with the same discipline as any other work and a core part of your business development. If not, you won’t get the optimum ROI.

Managing the presence

It’s a cardinal sin is to be setting up your stand as the buyers or visitors arrive, but this is very common and avoidable. Always arrive before the buyers arrive. Remember, if it is a hosted buyer event, then part of the protocol is that the buyers are often there 30 minutes before the show starts, as that is how organisers can guarantee appointments start immediately. So be there 30 minutes before the opening and be ready, willing and able, standing and not sitting!

If it is a hosted buyer event, you should have read into your appointments way before the opening. Nothing is more obvious to a buyer than if you are not ready and done your research. Hosted buyers are generally mid to senior management and seasoned pros, so be stood and alert and ready to receive them at your stand.

Smile – it’s a very powerful piece of body language. If you look bored, it really shows and is very unwelcoming.

Have fresh breath throughout the day. A garlic rich dinner the night before or three cigarettes before an important conversation with a buyer is not a great intro to them.

What’s the key, once you are in situ? Listening and understanding the language of the buyer rather than you, the suppliers.

Your job is to listen and to listen some more, then ask relevant questions.

Your key role is to listen to what they buyer has to say - not to launch into a sales pitch about your totally unique venue and the best meeting room in the world.

Your business cards are not part of your body. Don’t thrust it into the face of the buyer if they’re not interested in having a meaningful conversation or just because one of your ROIs is to collect as many business cards you can.

Eat during the day so that you don’t end up with bad breath and body odour. It’s a physiological reality that if you don’t eat, your body starts producing acid. But whatever you do, don’t eat on your stand. Managers beware, you can’t send just one person to an event as you need to have breaks, as it is a long day and nature will call.

During the event, I’ll assume that you have done all of your research and that you have a full list of hosted buyers conducting appointments. And we all know what that means:

  • You know who they are via LinkedIn
  • You know their organisation and company values including their financial year and decision-making cycle
  • Instead of launching into your sales pitch, your job is to ask lots of questions and your first question should be ‘tell us about your events?’
  • Are they large or small scale, remember this is about their event and not you or your company?
  • Ask questions about their work, ideal venues, specialist services, for instance if they use external AV providers?

The reason for this is if they say they want a non-residential event with a maximum of 100 pax, if you don’t ask the right questions you may not be equipped with the right answer and then try to waffle your way through as your venue can only comfortably accommodate 80 for example.

Ask how they measure the success of their events - it’s a powerful question. It could be based on delegate feedback or it could be as simple as the responsiveness of the venue, or about the quality of the food or something else - but the key is to understand their criteria. This is so that when you do go into your elevator pitch, you know what to say, and how to adapt.

Always ask how they would prefer the follow up? Ask about their decision-making cycle, for example how long will it take before they can make a decision? This might influence how quickly they would like you to follow up with them.

Nothing is better than tailoring a follow up that fits them, not you, or a one size fits all style which will always come across as a cut and paste follow up which is hardly compelling.

Ask for their permission to hand over your card. Permission marketing is powerful. Without their consent you can only guess if the buyer is glad to receive it.

Ask permission and offer to mail your brochure rather than getting them to take it with the other 47 they’re already lugging around with them. It gives you permission for post event contact with them, it’s both obvious and subtle.

Only promise what you can deliver. If you know your venue has capacity that makes their event a very tight fit, say so as your honesty will pay dividends. Give the information that best fits their brief because if you’ve asked the right questions and understand their criteria for decision making you increase your chances of clinching a sale at some point later in the process.

If you don’t have authority to make decisions there and then, then say you will have to consult with your boss and get back by a specified and achievable date. Most buyers will appreciate that you don’t know, and don’t waffle!

The buyers at trade shows have seen thousands of people like you. In IMEX at Germany there are 7000 exhibiting personnel, and how do you stand out from that crowd?

Be culturally aware of correct protocol. Remember, that culturally our world has changed for the better, gone are some of the familiar styles of selling. Be aware of personal space and respect it. In some Asian cultures they present, and you should receive, business cards with two hands and you must then be seen to actually read it.

Avoid banality . Thank them for arriving at your stand and thank them for taking the time to come to see you and talk about their needs. That should be your emphasis.

Remember that the buyer is often more senior than you are so address them how you would speak to your boss, with the correct level of reverence.

In terms of the appointment, there are three things I would ask.

  1. Ask about the objectives of their event
  2. How do they measure success?
  3. What’s their selection criteria for placing an event, or choosing an AV company, or catering? If you know what they need to make that decision, you simply MUST be in a better position.

If you do that for every meeting and follow that discipline, I will guarantee you will have better sales and improve performance.

What happens after the event?

What you do after the event can be as damaging or as enhancing as you make it. In my previous company, we were not truly great at attending, managing and following up and if I knew what I knew then my venue would have been an even greater success! It was successful with a very good reputation, but it could have been better.

  • Be measured and accept being precise is better than any form of bulk mailing
  • Follow up writing within two working weeks in a personalised way
  • Send the buyer what they want, not reams of what you think they should have

Needless menu samples when not requested simply reflects a lack of attention to their brief or the content of your meeting with them. When you follow up, thank them again.

Most trade shows and live events are about creating relationships, if you accept this you use different professional language.

Know their title and utilise this on every single occasion - Do they want Mr Mrs, Ms, Dr? In some cultures, the word engineer comes before the first name, in some cultures, the first name is not used at all and ‘Hi’ is regarded as too informal.

Your success should be measured over an 18 – 36-month period so every time you exhibit, think about that time lapse. You can measure the visitor numbers, you can measure how many you have met and talked to, and you can measure proposals and business enquiries. And if it is repeat business then your ROI is very healthy. You can measure lots of information, as events are data and marketing rich communities.

Write a full report for your business including information about industry trends because they are full of marketing intelligence. If the event has a daily paper, blogs, twitter feeds, they all have industry trends and might influence or impact your future communication to the market.

They key thing is getting the client, regional, national or international to your venue and then using the follow up tips.

There’s not a one size fits all, but if you don’t use best practice for managing and following up with the same discipline your accounts people have to balancing the books every month, then you won’t meet your sales targets, so, good luck.

Do you have a story to share?

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We encourage all our exhibitors to launch something new at our events and to send us the news as soon as possible so that we can help promote you through our previews and social media channels. The sooner you send us your news, the more we can do to promote it for you!

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