One of the first questions we always ask new clients is ”How can we best help you?” and quite often we’ll hear the reply ”…save me money on my next trade show.”  And that’s the first reality check for most clients (we’re brutally honest), we will very rarely commit to saving you money – we’ve been around them long enough to know that doing exhibitions well takes time, effort and a reasonable chunk of cash.  If we genuinely think there’s not enough in your budget to maximise the power of exhibitions, we’ll be honest and help find a more effective tactic for the cash you’ve got.

However, we often flip the conversation with clients and talk about value and return, encouraging them to invest a solid budget, show them how not to waste money and most importantly how to drive and measure a strong commercial return. But as with everything in the exhibitions industry there’s not one silver bullet that will deliver a strong return for every client – it all depends on your objectives.  We have though managed to come up with 5 key areas where, in our experience, you can make the biggest impact on your ROI, whatever your specific objective.



Do you attend the biggest show in your industry because it’s the biggest show in the industry? Does that really give you the best possible chance or might a smaller, or broader show open up a new and different audience for you? It’s not always the obvious that delivers the results. Think about synergies in new markets, complimentary sectors where businesses might also be buying your products and seek out the opportunities at those events and trade shows. Taking the time to look outside of your industry and see what else is available often gives you a different perspective and highlights collaborations and connections that you hadn’t previously thought of. It may be that in doing all the research you confirm that your industry show is the right one for you, which is great, but in looking at other events it might just inspire some fresh ideas about what you could do differently or how you can add more value for the show’s organisers.


And by this we don’t mean the most expensive – we mean buy the space that best facilitates meeting your objectives. Yes some exhibition organisers may have different rates for more premium space – it’s the simple law of supply and demand before anyone complains. If you believe that THE best opportunity for you to deliver your objectives is being slap, bang at the front of the show, the first thing people see – then that opportunity is worth paying for!  Just remember, as an exhibitor you need to make first flow stands work REALLY hard as visitors can quite often be distracted and over-awed when they first walk into a show.  You might think you’ve got an amazing deal buying a back row stand but if what you’re after at the show is footfall then it’s probably not a great deal.  However, if you’ve got a really strong pre-show marketing plan in place and are confident you’re going to drive the right visitors specifically to your stand for an in-depth discussion or demonstration, a quieter back row stand might be the right one for you – the fact you should get it at a good price is incidental. And don’t forget whatever you pay for your space, on average it equates to about 30% of your total budget so avoid falling into the trap of buying the biggest plot you can afford then having nothing left to furnish it with!



85% of the success of your stand is down to your staff according to industry research.  85%!  Not your stand design, or your giveaways, or your whizzy bit of tech – your squad. Have you ever dedicated 85% of your planning time to ensuring your squad are aligned to the SMART objectives, comfortable in how the stand works, clear about who you’re wanting to speak to and confident about who they’re dispatching and who they’re engaging? Or do you give them a quick 5 minute brief the morning of the show (mainly how to work the whizzy tech without breaking it!!) and then witness their blank looks as visitors ask them about how you solve their problems or they listen to someone blather on about nonsense. Squad training remains the most crucial element of the trade show success jigsaw with one of our clients stating that qualified leads increased by 50% after their industry show following a squad training session.  Still not convinced squad training is for you – check out this blog post for more details STAFF TRAINING FOR TRADE SHOWS – DOES IT EVEN MATTER?


How much time and thought do you put into contacting your key prospects before the show?  Or do you just wait for them to turn up at the show and randomly pick you out of the other 4,000 stands for a chat? Exhibitors that deliver a strong return from trade shows don’t leave their most important conversations to chance – meeting at the trade show is often the 4th or 5th contact they have had with a prospect and it’s just part of an on-going, evolving relationship. It’s never been easier to connect with prospects before a show through social media, either using the event’s own streams or connecting directly with the people you want to meet. Trade media also have a hugely influential role to play in exposing your story to a much wider audience and piquing the interest of potential customers.  And for those VIP’s you definitely want on your stand, personalised invitations and  incentives go a long way to getting you on their must-visit list.  To really power up your pre-show marketing try to avoid being too generic e.g. ”Visit us on Stand H45” – there’s nothing in there to help a visitor understand why it would be worth their while. Or make the visitors part of your planning by asking them what they want – for example if you could demonstrate 4 or 5 of your products on your stand,  run on-line polls or competitions for visitors to decide which they most want to see.



Businesses that get the most out of trade shows don’t leave it until the show doors close to think about how they are going to follow up with everyone they’ve met.  They have a slickly designed machine operating in the background that quickly, consistently and appropriately moves every conversation along the path to purchase.  This is what it’s all about, this is the sole reason you’ve spent 3 days on your feet, talking incessantly and filtering the valuable contacts from the time-wasters. But, there’s nothing more disheartening than sitting down with a huge pile of business cards after the event with absolutely no plan, so you choose to doing something easier, promising to start on the follow up tomorrow – but tomorrow never comes.  Having a tailored and defined plan for at least 7 follow-up contact points before the show doors open will make the whole process so much easier, and effective. Whether that’s a generic email to you warm leads, with bespoke tailored emails to the hotter ones.  Or an invitation to a webinar where you’ll give more information about your product / service. Or sending our whitepapers / literature that you’d had created before the show.  Whatever is in your plan, simply having to pull the trigger will make it much easier to execute and measure than starting from scratch when you’re back to the day job!  And with only 13% of leads on average being followed up by exhibitors, just doing SOMETHING will mean you’re ahead of your competitors.

So whilst we can’t give you one silver bullet that will miraculously transform your trade show execution, we hope you’ve found some quick inspiration that will help you power up your ROI.  But if you’re reading this and thinking ”Argh I know I need to do all this ‘stuff’ but I don’t know where to start” then we’re here to help.  Why not pick up the phone and ask about how we might be able to help – and for many UK businesses there could even be local grant funding that could help with the costs of contracting our services – email us at proextra@12th-man-solutions.co.uk for more details.


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