Why is Exhibiting Still SO HARD?

Exhibitions are back! Many countries have opened, some more cautiously than others after the Great Pause, but why has nothing on the show floor changed? asks Stephanie Selesnick

After attending three exhibitions in two weeks, aside from some venues/cities requiring masks or proof of vaccine/negative Covid-19 test, nothing else has changed. Why can’t we do a better job servicing our paying clients?

Here’s but a sample of what may easily be improved - immediately:

Exhibitor service kits/manuals:

These are confusing, dense, and poorly written. I’ve been an exhibitor at shows for decades and still can’t figure out what the heck is going on. It’s an embarrassment. With the Great Reset, we have a lot of people/companies exhibiting for the first time. Figure, one-half of your exhibitors are new to their current positions and have no clue when facing such a needlessly daunting task.

Why can’t we supply a simple road map to our clients? Begin with a ‘Start here first’ document that clearly lays out what should be ordered (with links) for a successful exhibiting experience. Basics include: exhibitor badges, furniture, floor coverings (if required), electrical outlets, special graphics, and what free marketing opportunities are available to promote a presence at the exhibition.

Make the rules and regulations easy to understand. Don’t let the legalese get in the way of communication. Sound rules? State what they are. Display rules? Same. (Or better yet, throw those out!)

Explain move-in and what happens. Make a video or five. Take advantage of the tech that’s out there to improve the education and experience. Same with move-out. Explain marshalling yards, bills of lading and shipping from show site.

Here’s an idea. Ask someone not in our business to read your exhibitor manual. Plan on buying whoever that is dinner post read - they will have earned it! Take their criticisms to heart. If they don’t understand something, neither will your exhibitors. Make the changes.

Package space

Whether you are selling 9sqm (100 sq. ft), or 27m2 (300 sq.ft) stands, offer a complete package – floor covering, furniture, electricity, waste basket/rubbish bin, drayage (getting goods to the stand from the loading dock and back out again- it’s a US thing…) with the cost of the stand. It will make things so much easier for your small exhibitors, many of whom will be first timers. And please don’t offer the lowest cost furniture. It makes the show and organiser look cheap.

If you want to grow your small exhibitors into larger spaces, make the cost of an 18sqm a little less than the cost of two 9sqm stands combined. It works. And stop charging extra for corners. Is the extra revenue stream worth the antipathy of your clients?

Show hours

Why start early unless it’s a medical show? We’ve got into a terrible habit of counting show hours as a way of ‘giving value’. What about compacting the time and making it a better use of everyone’s – exhibitors and visitors’ time? An 8-hour show day is both painful on the feet and painful on everyone alike. Nine or ten hours? Ouch.

Look at the dwell time visitors spend on the floor and make changes according to the peak times. If there are dead times, get rid of them.

If your organisation hosts visitor parties off the show floor during show hours, cut the show hours so there is no conflict. It’s painful watching a show floor with no visitors.

There are so many things that exhibitions do well. What else can your organisation and exhibition do to improve the exhibiting experience?