Public shows are one of the most effective methods to get your organisation together with a wide range of customers, purchasing teams and decision makers. They build your brand in a hugely efficient way by promoting it in a location with the optimum concentration of correctly targeted customers and industry media. They do however represent a substantial financial commitment for any company so it’s essential to get them right

Based upon a decade of exhibiting at the world’s largest motor shows, I’m going to lay out my top pieces of advice to help you maximise the benefit of any sized show whilst simultaneously surviving the ordeal.

This is part one in a series of three posts.

1) Have a clear vision of why you are attending and set simple goals

There are many reasons to exhibit. Perhaps you need to build brand awareness in a new market or want to grow credibility with existing customers. Whichever it is, keep it at the forefront of your mind throughout the preparation and running of the event and set measurable criteria by which you could judge it a success.

A goal for the numbers of people spoken to is easy to calculate but a little soft as a target. Editorial press mentions or numbers of follow-up meetings booked are far superior. If you’re taking orders on the day there’s no better measure than sales.

2) Decide upon your key message and align with it throughout

At shows, everybody is busy so time is of the essence. You can’t explain everything about your company so decide upon just one or two key messages that you need to get across and base your stand design, exhibits, collateral and conversations around them. This is one of the fundamental principal of branding and it’s important to get it right if you’re going to maximise your marketing efforts.

Don’t worry about missing things out – if you get a person interested they will ask for more information and that’s where you can broaden your story. Bore them from the off and you’ll never get the chance either way.

3) Design a stand with a five second hook

Last time I was at the IAA Show, I timed people walking past our stand. It took less than 10 seconds to pass and for half of that time the main content was behind them. As a guide, that gives us a maximum window of just five seconds to break somebody’s stride before they round the corner and move on. To achieve this we must make two things extraordinarily clear.
Firstly, “this is who we are”. Don’t be subtle with your company name and make your logotype the most prominent graphic element of the stand. It’s easier for existing customers to find you and might makes visitors who’ve heard the name before pause through recognition.

Secondly, “this is what we do”. The five-second window doesn’t give you the luxury to list your competencies therefore anybody should be able to look at your stand and immediately grasp the core element of your business. For example, a stand featuring multiple show-finished, cut-away heavy truck axle exhibits beneath a world map covered in illuminated dots is almost certainly a commercial vehicle component supplier with a technology focus and global footprint. You’ll note that there is an opportunity to get an element of “how we do it” (e.g. technology, global) into this if you think creatively and stick to your key messaging.

Another way to strengthen this hook is to feature moving exhibits or activities. We have all seen crowds gathered around street vendors doing product demonstrations and been driven by curiosity and pack mentality to stop and find out more. The same psychology applies on a larger scale here.

In the next instalment we’ll talk about competitors and shoes!