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How to make the most of exhibitions in an economic downturn

How to make the most of exhibitions in an economic downturn

In the current economic climate, Scott Hider, Managing Director at Nationwide Media Group believes that it is more important than ever that businesses are networking in person with prospects and customers. Scott explains why conferences and exhibitions can provide a wealth of opportunities to network in person and get the most out of marketing spend.   

Be seen at the right event

Exhibiting at trade shows is an excellent way to create business opportunities and network with prospective clients face to face. Research shows that 80 per cent of trade exhibition visitors are personally involved in the buying of products or services following an event . This highlights the fact that if a company is visible in the market place, then doors will potentially open for future business adventures.

With the current downturn in the economy, organisations may be reluctant to spend on marketing activity; however cutting back on this may have a detrimental effect on business. Exhibitions can take significant investment by a company, but by investing in the short term, businesses can reap the benefits in the long term, turning leads into customers.

For businesses to get the most out of their investment, it’s important for them to pick the right conference carefully. By researching the conference thoroughly, companies will establish if the event will match their marketing objectives and reach their target audience.

The conference programme needs to have a strong enough seminar and speaker line-up to draw visitors to the event. It’s pointless for an organisation to spend money on exhibiting if they will not reach key decision makers.

Build relationships through networking

When it comes to building relationships, there is no substitute for meeting people in person and networking face to face. Conferences, exhibitions and trade shows are the perfect platform for meeting key people in the industry sector. Talk to as many people as possible and remember to take plenty of business cards!


Preparation is vital for success and will maximise opportunities, giving businesses better value for money. The more thought and planning put in beforehand will boost success on the day. Follow the show guide carefully when you receive it and ensure you organise everything you will need on your stand (e.g. lighting, electricity).

Set objectives for what you want to get out of the event and put a plan in place for all actions that need completing before the event. This should include all deadlines for getting the stand designed and all information across to the organisers.

On message

Make sure that all messages are prepared in advance of the event. Your messaging should be consistent across your stand, company literature and press material. This will ensure you are communicating clearly to your customers and prospects about exactly who you are and what your business is about.

Maximise your presence

Maximise your attendance at an event by combining it with other marketing techniques. Use direct mail, e-newsletters and PR to raise your profile ahead of the event. Check the event website to find out who the media partners are. These publications will normally run features and articles about the event.

Contact them to let the journalists know what you can offer attendees to the show. And don’t forget press packs! Most exhibitions will have a press office for journalists attending. Putting your background information, latest news and customer case studies in a press pack is an effective way of getting in front of journalists.

Create press packs to go in the press office as this is an excellent opportunity for free publicity. Make sure all material inside is current, well presented and as informative as possible.

Don’t forget the follow-ups

Remember that the event doesn’t end when you’ve left the venue. Make sure that you follow up with all the leads you’ve generated and the people you spoke to. Most events now offer data scanners are available so that you can monitor who has visited your stand.

This makes the follow up process much quicker and more efficient, and ensures that you can contact everyone you met, even if you didn’t get their business card or details.

This will ensure that you remain visible with prospects and increases chance of converting your leads into a deal. Send personal emails to people, rather than a group note to everyone that you met.

Invite them to respond or get in touch with you. This will help get the ball rolling to help build up a relationship, increasing your network of contacts and chances of a sale.

Done correctly and with the right preparation, exhibitions can provide an excellent platform for building brand awareness and generating sales leads. In the current economic climate, businesses can’t rely on existing customers, a pipeline of new business opportunities is needed.

With preparation and networking at the event, exhibitions can provide a great return on investment.

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