In the last post I wrote about the pre-planning that was needed before you even think about booking space on the show floor – if you missed it you can get a refresher here. The main advice from that one was:

  1. SET SOME SMART OBJECTIVES – know exactly what you need to deliver to get a return
  2. GET RESOURCE READY – exhibitions need money, time and people so make sure you have plenty of all 3 to make the most of your investment

So once you’ve worked through that and you’re confident that an exhibition could be the right marketing tactic to swell your sales pipeline…how do you choose from the 31,000 ‘registered’ global events every year. Well, there’s a one word answer for that – RESEARCH!! And believe me, spending an afternoon on some solid research is a much better use of time than spending 3 days at the wrong show! So what exactly do you research?

MARKET: and by that I don’t mean the industry sector, but the country or region. If your SMART objective is to meet prospects based in your domestic market then you can skip this step! But if you’re thinking of entering an international market there are a few things to consider such as:

a. How will you service the market – via an agent, a sales office, a distributor?

b. Is the market ready for your product – what’s the competition, does it meet the buyer’s current need(s)?

c. Is your product ready for the market – are there any legislative requirements or barriers to launching in a new market?

d. What’s the value of your product or service in the market – is it worth less / more than in your domestic market?

TRADE SHOW AUDIENCE: the next step is looking at the type of show you might attend and the obvious option might be your industry one, but depending on what sector you work in that might mean lots of competition, or a very broad range of exhibitors that dilutes the audience. So it’s worth taking a look at smaller, regional or ancillary events that might give a more focused audience. We’ve not yet found one source that lists every single event in the world in one place but these aren’t a bad place to start:

Expodatabase – click here

Trade Fair Dates – click here

CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS: it’s likely that if your customers are attending a show, their competitors will be too and they could be prospects for you! It’s worth talking to your customers about which shows they attend, which they value (and why) and which they would expect to see you at. If all your customers suggest they’re going to be at a specific event then the efficiency of being able to meet them all in one place over a couple of days may be reason enough for you to exhibit.

QUIZ THE ORGANISERS: speaking with exhibitors, we often they get the impression they think the exhibitor:organiser relationship is purely transactional and simply around the cost of the stand. Truth is, organisers want you to have a fantastic show and get as much value as you possibly can from it … successful businesses have more money to invest in future events! So get in the ribs of the organisers, ask them the tricky questions about registrations vs visitors, give them job titles and organisations you’re interested in to see if they visited and talk about the ideas you’ve got for adding value to the event. If they’re cagey about giving you the details, or seem inflexible in the package they can offer then you might be suspicious. Most really great organisers will want you to be at the right show, meeting the right prospects so will be happy to talk through how they help you meet your SMART objectives.

Don’t forget when speaking to organisers to ask about space costs, additional services and what’s included in a shell scheme package – these vary widely across different organisers so it’s worth having them all to hand to compare to the budget you have available. It’s also worth asking if there is any national representation at their show from an official government association that is hosting a pavilion – for example in the UK the Department for International Trade have a Trade Access Programme to support businesses – you can find more details here.

SPY ON THE COMPETITION: check out their websites and see what events they have listed on there, or look through the exhibitor lists of previous events and see if some of your competition are listed. This can equally work with collaborators if you work in an industry where you could have a joint stand or representation – check out who might be exhibiting and open to a discussion about splitting the costs.

CHECK OUT OTHER EXHIBITORS: have a look at who exhibited previously and reach out to them through LinkedIn to see what their experience was – did they get many leads, what was the quality like, how easy / difficult was the process of exhibiting? Organisers may or may not be able to give you the named contacts of previous exhibitors (depending on their GDPR policy) or make an introduction. The events industry is a pretty friendly one and as a rule we humans love talking about what we’ve done so I’ve never experienced any issues with asking for a bit of feedback from previous investors in an event.

FOLLOW THE LEADER: most industries have their expert, leader or celebrity and they will want to be seen at the most well-attended and value-adding events in the sphere. Check-out the social media feeds of the leaders within your industry and see where they’re going – no doubt if they’re going, they will attract an audience who might also be useful for you. In this instance, the leader could be be both a person or a business. Have a look through previous seminar timetables also and see who is on the speaking programmes as that should give you an indication about the quality of the event.

Having spent an afternoon looking into all of the above sources you should have some good evidence on a range of different options. The results might surprise you and where you thought you might be exhibiting may be totally the wrong audience and location – but good job you found out now hey! And if you’ve a senior management team to convince, putting the hard work in now and presenting the evidence should help to build trust in your decision making for the rest of the project. And if it’s your own business and you’ve only yourself to convince, hopefully you can look forward to the rest of the planning with optimism and confidence as opposed to crossed fingers.

If you’re still not sure about when and where to exhibit why not get in touch for more details about our Trade Show Research Service that will do all the hard work for you and produce a list of recommended events with the supporting evidence – email us today on

If you would like to read this week’s Newsletter click here

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