Special Report on Conferences and Exhibitions: Making a stand is all a matter of organisation: You've booked the space, but will the visitors come? Ideas by Peter Cotterell

TAKING an exhibition stand is one thing but unless potential buyers come and see it, all the effort, not to mention money, is wasted.

Of course there is the argument, a perfectly logical one, that getting visitors to an exhibition is the job of the exhibition organisers, who after all are selling an audience, and at a not inconsiderable price. It is, it is said, the exhibitors' job to make sure that visitors come to their stands.

There is truth in this, and with a well-attended exhibition the exhibitor can concentrate on picking a good site, designing an attractive and compelling stand which communicates the benefits of the product or service loudly and clearly, and making sure that staff are properly trained to capitalise on all the advantages that a well- thought-out participation in a well-promoted show can bring.

Sadly, visitors are not flocking through the doors. This may be due to the recession but is almost certainly another manifestation of a dwindling response to trade press advertising, direct mail shots and PR-based advertorial that seemed to work so well during the boom years.

Some exhibition organisers, aware of the increased difficulty of getting anyone to turn up for anything (and this includes conferences as well as exhibitions), are relying more heavily on invitations distributed to potential customers by their exhibitors. For trade events, more than half the visitors attend because of an invitation from an exhibitor, rather than an organiser. Indeed, there are those organisers who will argue that any exhibitors not spending more of their own money in this way, having booked and paid for a stand, have only themselves to blame if they don't see any suitable visitors.

For those exhibitors happy to subsidise their organisers' visitor promotion there are some useful ways this can be done, with benefits to both parties.

Once the space is booked obtain tickets and get the sales force to distribute them to customers, or mail them out with bills.

Draw up a 'hit list' of the best potential customers and telephone them all to invite them to the show, preferably specifying dates and times.

Run a special event at the show to attract potential customers - a seminar, or a hosted breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Announce the launch of a new product or service at the show.

Offer a special exhibition discount.

Run a prize draw for all customers coming to the stand.

Concentrate on sensible and serious, rather than fatuous, PR. A serious demonstration of an important new product will ultimately pull in more business than silly gimmicks which commonly attract crowds of 'tyre-kickers'. Having said this, don't ignore the possible advantages of a visual and dramatised presentation that will attract press coverage.

Consider using a famous person in the industry to endorse something on the stand. Or a famous author to sign copies of a book, given away or sold.

Consider a relevant on-stand competition that highlights a feature of the product. Polaroid once invited visitors to try to 'freeze' objects printed on a rapidly spinning wheel, with a Polaroid camera of course.

Dare to be different. One exhibitor with all-male clients sent out solid silver monogrammed cuff-links to 50 top potential customers. The trick was that only one cuff-link was sent - customers had to call at the stand to collect the other one.

Another exhibitor sent customers an incomplete pack of 48 high-quality advertising playing cards and told them: 'We've got all the aces - come to our stand and collect.' Most did.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'