- Align content with attendee and exhibitor interests
- Make your exhibit hall the “hub”
The Value of Your Audience
Your team’s work begins with defining, collecting and highlighting the demographics and purchasing habits of your audience. This data should be gathered and shared on an annual basis as it changes from year to year. Share your marketing strategy to attract these highly desirable attendees and demonstrate the investment being made by your organization. Having the right fit of attendees and exhibitors is also crucial in your event strategy. Make sure you align the session content and the products being displayed with the interests of your attendees and exhibitors.
Building Pre-Show Momentum
Prior to the event, enlist your exhibitors’ assistance in promoting the event by supplying a marketing toolkit that includes logos, web banners, an email signature, presentation slides and sample promotional content to invite their customers to the event.
Another great way to engage exhibitors before the show is by offering exhibitor training webinars. Webinar content can include educational topics, such as how to be successful in a booth, how to save money at the event and how to follow up with attendees after the event. The tips are tailored to the ultimate goal of creating ROI.
Additionally, providing exhibitors with an appointment scheduling tool or other attendee matchmaking service helps to connect exhibitors with attendees and generate early leads, creating more excitement around the event. This approach will help to maximize their time in the booth.
Pre-show outreach and training will allow for more meaningful and fulfilling interaction between exhibitors and attendees at the show.
One goal for show organizers is to make the exhibit hall an event “can’t miss.” It’s the hub that people come back to multiple times a day. Schedule events in the hall giving exhibitors dedicated time outside of the education sessions.
Other ideas for making your event memorable include:
- Plan appealing activities in the exhibit hall (i.e. food and beverage, games, drawings and other fun activities).
- Create plenty of networking opportunities throughout the event, including offsite events and receptions away from the exhibit hall.
- Encourage exhibitors to participate by reminding them of the number of attendees they will have access to and the value of informal networking.
- Appeal to exhibitors as speakers by creating a dedicated vendor track or the opportunity to host theater presentations on the show floor.
- Show exhibitors some love by introducing them to the board members and key audience members during the event.
Engagement doesn’t stop at the event’s conclusion. Post-show, ensure exhibitors have the opportunity to provide feedback, such as meeting at the close of the show, providing focus groups throughout the year and conducting a survey. Feedback is valuable, as it lets organizers know where they hit the mark and, more importantly, where they can improve. Forming an Exhibitor Advisory Council is a great way to engage exhibitors throughout the year, allowing them a voice at the table. It’s also a great way to gain buy-in on new initiatives while showcasing the value the organization brings to them both at the conference and potentially year-round.
Post-show reports are another way to highlight value. Provide key event metrics, such as statistics on sponsorships, marketing and advertising impressions. Also send pictures of sponsorships in action. Include personal quotes and impressions by attendees.
Do not underestimate the power of a thank you. Thank and recognize exhibitors and sponsors for their contributions following each event, reminding them of the value they bring to the organization.
Throughout the year, continue to develop meaningful relationships with exhibitors and facilitate conversations between exhibitors and attendees. Make an effort to connect with exhibitors and sponsors without asking them for money or communicating a deadline. Some ongoing engagement ideas include:
- Learn about exhibitors’ and sponsors’ companies, their customers and keep informed about company changes.
- Communicate changes happening within the association and any updates related to the event or attendees.
- Share industry trends and challenges.
- Provide opportunities for exhibitors to connect with the audience throughout the year based on their goals.
Sales and event professionals must work together as an extension of exhibitor teams and as representatives of the audience and go beyond selling and fulfilling contracts to deliver an experience that will be valuable for everyone.
Jennifer Shupe, senior manager, SmithBucklin, is responsible for sponsorship development and sales for various healthcare associations. She develops and manages relationships between organizations and corporate partners though sponsorships, grants, and marketing and advertising. She can be reached at email@example.com
Alexa Newman, senior event manager, SmithBucklin, provides strategy on all aspects of client organizations’ conferences, meetings and events (pre-planning, onsite execution and post-event), including developing and maintaining strong relationships with exhibitors and sponsors. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org