Meeting Mentor Magazine

April 2024

9 Ways to Attract More Exhibitors to Your Show

Tradeshows are coming back, but enticing exhibitors to come to the show is as challenging as ever. Here are some ideas that can help.

More isn’t always better — unless you’re talking about exhibitors at your show. While most show organizers have some dependable regulars they can count on, today’s turbulent economy and increasing competition can make it harder than ever to attract new exhibitors and even sometimes to retain those old reliables.

The International Association of Exhibitions and Events, a trade association for the global events industry, recently held a webinar to showcase some ideas that can help. Sponsored by Map Your Show, the participants included moderator Jerry Gildea, chief sales officer, Map Your Show, and panelists Jessica Hayman, exhibit sales and services manager, National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS); Laura Miller, CEM, NACS exhibit sales and services manager; Rachel Neimeier, CEM, regional vice president, Map Your Show; and Shari Sally, vice president, sales and business development, the Consumer Technology Association, which produces the CES tech event.

Among their suggestions:

• Tell exhibitors how you’ll help them showcase their new products. Will you offer a physical display, a virtual display, or both? How do they submit products for the showcase? How do you plan to promote the showcase pre, during, and post-event? For CES’s innovation awards program, organizers announce the winners ahead of time, and during the show they have an on-site activation where attendees can learn more about the products being showcased. Include a QR code on the physical showcase so potential buyers can easily learn more, panelists suggested. If you have a lot of startups, consider setting up a separate showcase for those who are just launching their first products or services.

• Communicate relevant information to them frequently. Include tips on booth setup and how to engage with buyers pre-show, as well as essential operational information.

• Provide accurate and timely data on exactly who is coming to the show. That will help them fine-tune their offerings and staffing levels.

• Use technology to streamline the process. Make your website accessible and easy to drill down to the specific information they need, including step-by-step guides for new prospective exhibitors. Include a resource center tailored for your confirmed exhibitors as well. There also are tech tools that can integrate with the show app to help buyers schedule appointments with exhibitors. Also,  consider a reverse-lead retrieval tool buyers can use to find out more about exhibitors.

• Detail how you plan to engage buyers pre, during and post-show.

• Help exhibitors understand how to prove their return on investment from participating. If your show has multiple verticals, break down your data to the vertical level so exhibitors can easily see the trends and attendees within their specific vertical. You also can use a heat map generated by your lead retrieval provider to show that the exhibitor complaining they were in a dead zone actually did have plenty of foot traffic. Then help them figure out why the booth next to them got 200 leads while they just got 20 — it could be related to booth size, staffing levels/staff training, participation in networking sessions, or a myriad of reasons unrelated to foot traffic. Some show organizers engage “secret shoppers” who can score the experience at the booth and provide tips on how to better engage with potential buyers.

• Help them set realistic expectations. A small exhibitor with a niche product just isn’t going to get the same leads as an established giant in the industry. Help them understand what would be a realistic number of people they should expect to be able to hold meaningful conversations with during exhibit hours.

• Consider developing an exhibitor advisory council. It should include representatives of companies of different sizes, product offerings, repeat exhibitors and newcomers to your show, panelists said. Meet a few times a year, at the show and in between, to collect feedback and ideas on how to improve the exhibitor experience.

• Consider holding a pre-show exhibitor preparation meeting. While not essential, an ideal would be to hold it at the actual venue of your show. Some show organizers also visit exhibitors throughout the year to collect ideas and feedback as well.

While the panelists shared many more tactics, one overarching takeaway was to ensure you are approaching potential exhibitors with a service mentality. Instead of approaching them with a sales pitch, show them how you can help them achieve their goals. And if they buy something in the process, great. If not, they’re still better prepared than they were before that conversation took place.

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About MeetingMentor
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