Last week I found myself navigating through a conference exhibition hall, comparing stands and displays of others and wondering whether we’d done enough to make our visual display effective in drawing people to us; or whether we’d fade into the background or worse still encourage people to look at the ground as they scurried passed.
In truth, this was only one of the considerations that I had for the success of the conference, whilst the stand is crucial you can do so much more in terms of being a ‘voice’ at a conference. Within this there are methods to draw people to your message. I guess its very much a matter of marrying it all up against the audience.
Know your audience.
On telling my brother where I would be for the few days, I had the following rather surprising and vivid statement.
‘It’ll be full of men dressed across the spectrum of grey with the personality of deep beige!’
Needless to say, this didn’t form the basis of our customer persona mapping and it’s not an opinion I agree with but it did make me chuckle, conjures up quite an image. Anyway, first point reiterated, ‘know your audience!
In this case an audience of buyers, who have strong opinions of what they want. Refreshingly some strong and purposeful views were shown at the panel debates and there was the impression that the conference was attended by those keen to exchange views and best practice as opposed to those conferences where people appeared to have been sent against ‘their will’ by line management (we’ve all attended those) … You can usually spot the tactical individuals that are only too happy to request literature as a proof of attendance but they also love a free pen!
Following social media timelines in the run up and during exhibition viewings can give you just a little bit of a headache . The endless calls to ‘Come & Visit us at Stand blah blah and we’ll show you blah blah blah. Perhaps a necessary evil? But engaging with the conference on social media can be INCREDIBLY effective, so how can you stand out from the crowd without being too ‘gimmicky’ or ‘needy’, my message …
‘Be Bold, Balanced in Message, Unique in Approach’
Armed with a 6 foot teddy bear and a ‘hashtag’, we went about ‘breaking the internet’, or in this case encouraging delegates, speakers and other exhibitors to #meetpoco. Perhaps all that was missing was dressing our furry chum in an outfit that some thought blue and other gold.
In truth its a balancing act; on one hand you are trying to showcase case management software that is central to tackling ASB and domestic abuse on the other you’re encouraging delegates to give your teddy bear a Big ‘Ol hug. Never has the phrase ‘Know your audience’ seemed more appropriate.
But, we had tremendous uptake and we made sure that we turned that ‘opening’ into some purposeful and ‘human’ conversation about our product and the conference.
Unfortunately, This interest led us to an inevitable one upmanship of Bear puns, which culminated in the rather embarrassing exclamation that I didn’t have the Koalafications. Well this was one step too far, and lets be honest not wholly accurate, for Poco is clearly not a Koala. Sometimes caution is best practised and wisely those ‘puns’ stayed on the cutting room floor.
Buy into the conference.
So in our case the friendly folk at NHF were only too pleased to issue Poco with his official delegate badge.
We also took time to talk about the conference with delegates, attend panels debates and contribute to sessions through social media. In order to be credible suppliers you need to have passion and knowledge of the sectors you’re working in, why wouldn’t you contribute!
Make friends with your neighbours.
They are going to be as busy as you are — but they may be your very best accomplices. This is not entirely a selfless act of friendship. You may well have a spare power cable to lend or a spare bit of adhesive tape, and so may they!
But let them know also about what you do and find out what their business is. You will want other non-competing exhibitors to refer visitors to your stand when appropriate, just as you will want to refer others to theirs.
Some visitors will know exactly what they are looking for, and if you don’t frighten them away, they will tell you in their own good time. Many more may not know what they were looking for, at least, not until you have told them what you have to offer! But even so, please don’t pounce on them?
Engage in eye-contact with all you can and smile; be human.
Stand display, again.
You will have your own ideas about what works best for you and what doesn’t. You can also learn much from other exhibitors, good and bad.
But here are some initial thoughts that apply universally:
- Avoid clutter! (That includes half-drunk cups of coffee!)
- Know your product — be an expert on what you specialise in and what you offer.
- Avoid having too much on display, it can serve to confuse;
- Well lit displays are really important — don’t forget, you are after your visitors’ ‘eye-share’ first!;
- ‘Make it Clear what you do!’ don’t let visitors guess what your business is all about;
- Avoid a mish-mash of odd assortments thrown together, think it through thoroughly.
Be human, we’re all unique.
Please let us know if you have any other tried and tested methods or ideas that you haven’t dared yet to try,
failing that why not send us some bear puns