Planning: the key for success at trade shows and exhibitions

Attending exhibitions and trade show make a lot of sense to many companies – Research shows that high percentage of visitors come with the intention to make contact or find out information about a product or service they need to purchase in the near future. More so when it come to vertical shows.

Still many marketing managers and directors are not happy with results and quite often why they attend at all. Below are a few pointers based on our experience and knowledge at NVP Exhibits – through the years we witnessed many success stories alongside exhibitors not happy with their ROI.


Looking for a quick fix?

As name of article above indicates planning is the key. Unfortunately, many exhibitors only think about the next show asking us for a great design, and that is the first mistake.

Attending trade shows and exhibitions should be considered as an independent operation business within the company hence a detailed marketing plan should be put together. I suggest the following points to be considered (and yes – great design is important but it is last thing on the list and it must be last in order to be great):

A. Why are you attending?

Starting from the most basic and trivial question of all which often is not being asked: why are you attending? You will not believe how many companies simply don’t ask this question and just ask for a ‘great design’ or ‘what can I get for my budget?’

From my experience, if don’t know why you attend, don’t attend at all. Save your money for other, more controlled, avenues of marketing.


B. Setting up clear objectives. If you are willing to have a conversation about why you want to attend, you now need to set up clear objectives about your expectation. What your objectives should be:

  • Realistic: in most cases attending shows is about lead generation, promoting your brand name, launching a new product and more. These are examples of realistic objectives. However if your expectation is to sell many products and cover all your costs during the show this is in most cases not realistic for many reasons.
  • Measurable: Once you have set your realistic objectives you know need to be able to monitor the results after the show and sometimes during the show. The reason for that is almost self explanatory: If you something is working keep doing it. If something is not working stop doing it. This is how a smart exhibitor monitors the effectiveness of your art works and keeps improving.
  • Focused: they more focused you are about what you want to achieve the more likely you are to achieve it. Don’t set up a long list of objectives – this will run your marketing efforts thin and inevitably make your presentation in effective.


C. Road map of shows. Understanding why you’re attending and having the objectives set up amounts to a good 60% of the work and you are on the right track. The next step is to create a road map of the shows you want or need to attend. Taking into consideration the following:

  • The number of shows you attend every year,
  • the configuration and space allocated for each show,
  • the specific target audience for each show,
  • the specific objectives for each show,
  • staff members required for each show – a lot more can be discussed on this subject, and
  • operational logistics for each show.


D. Display platforms. Picking the right display technology is critical. The right display technology should tick all the boxes that you have set so far under objectives and road map. Choose wisely and you can save your company a lot of money as well as creating a very effective marketing platform. Choose poorly and you create your company nothing but a liability. A good display technology should serve you, not the other way around. Here are some of the display technologies available in the Australian market:

  • Shell scheme upgrades. Shell scheme packages are normally offered by the exhibition organisers for the exhibitors. These types of exhibition stands are available on rental basis and are not suitable for ongoing exhibitors. In my opinion they are quite dated looking but that is matter of personal choice. For the most part exhibitors choose shell scheme upgrades simply because exhibition organisers are their first point of contact.
  • Custom stands. Custom stands are based on joinery work. They require a relatively big professional team to assemble and dismantle and in most cases cannot be re-used and are thrown away at the end of the show. This display technology is mostly suitable for exhibitors who attend a specific one off event or exhibitors with very large budgets who are happy to repurchase their stands every single show.
  • Modular exhibition stands. Modular exhibition stands technologies made a very long way in the past five years in terms of look, adaptability, operational and logistics. If you are an ongoing exhibitor looking for adaptability to your various shows, brand consistency, in need to change graphics from show to show as well as low operational cosy it is defiantly worthwhile to look and investigate which modular display technology is the most suitable for you.
  • Hybrid Exhibition stands and trade show displays technology. Hybrid Exhibition stands technology is the latest in exhibition stands technology. It is a cross between modular and portable exhibition stands and custom exhibition stands. It offers the exhibitor all the benefits of modularity, portability, adoptability and low operational cost with the unique look of custom stands.


E. Creating the art work. Last but certainly not least it is time to discuss the art work and just clarify. The art work  are the graphics which are dressing up your exhibition stand technology and exhibition stand design which you have picked already. What a great deign should be:

  • Three seconds roll: exhibitions and trade show is a very busy environment. Making it easy for visitors by allowing them to understand who you are and what you within 3 seconds as they are walking bye.
  • KIS (Keep It Simple): many exhibitors try to load their art work with too many details and information about all their products and services and that is a mistake. The perfect art work would have a clear main message and graphics to support.  All you want your stand to do to get the right people in your space. Once they have stepped in you can provide them further detailed information via staff members, brochures,  iPads and more.
  • Be target audience specific: time is money and you want to speak to the right people. Create your art work target audience in order to filter out the visitors you don’t want to speak to and think about your target audience: what they want, their requirements and the problems they are facing and how you can be that solution they have been looking for.


While the above is a partial list of things to consider it covers most critical points that are not to be missed. It has been a winning formula for our clients and it can be yours as well. Happy exhibiting.


Gill Keinan
BY Gill Keinan ON 27 May 2014
Gill Keinan, director of NVP Exhibits, has over 15 years of industry experience, specialising in the trade show environment. As a marketing solutions educator, he works with clients to provide total long term exhibition and trade show strategies. His approach is a marketing and education experience establishing a strategic profile, not a quick fix for one event. He has worked with international brands such as Kimberly-Clark, Valvoline, Snap-On Tools and Avant Insurance as well as oil and gas and pharmaceutical companies.