The events and exhibitions industry has certainly been one of the hardest hit by COVID regulations, both here in the UK and around the world. Even the limited numbers now allowed at such gatherings seem a monumental success in comparison to the complete lockdown ban on trade shows and marketing events. But, as the UK begins to reopen again, with all restrictions predicted to disappear later this month (July 2021), it’s time to ask: are trade shows coming back?
The simple answer is: Yes. Like other industries that have been impacted by Coronavirus and its associated social distancing measures, the events and exhibitions space has had to rebuild and adapt to the new conditions. But as we move into a world where the majority in the UK are vaccinated and where we now must learn to coexist with the virus; it’s time to welcome customers, visitors and exhibitors alike back to conferences and trade shows across the country.
1. Why Are Trade Shows Important?
Trade shows can play a vital role in marketing your business, whether you’re a grass-roots company or a million-pound corporation.
- Visitors - whether you’re exhibiting at a large convention or a smaller show, visitor attendance gives you a pool of potential leads from which you can draw consumer feedback and information as well as push sales
- Research - what better way to conduct not only consumer but also competitor research than under the same roof at an industry-specific exhibition?
- Education & Training - Trade shows give companies the chance to train their staff but also to educate potential new customers about their business. The learning opportunities are endless.
- ROI - Exhibiting at trade shows offers much less uncertainty compared to other or online marketing, as you are selling to a captive audience with already declared interest in your market.
- Networking - What better place than an industry event to make key connections for your business?
- Sales/Lead Generation - At trade shows, the funnel from first look to eventual purchase is much shorter, giving you the chance to sell directly to visitors to your stand as well as capture data for future marketing leads.
- Brand Visibility - Exhibiting at a trade show gives you an opportunity to widen your brand engagement
2. Trade Shows and COVID 19
While as a nation we are moving back towards ‘normal’ conditions, with the rise in cases from the Delta variant and the ever-present risk of new, vaccine-resistant variants developing, it’s important to stay abreast of the government guidelines for organised events.
At present (July 2021) regulations for indoor events require all participants to follow the current social distancing guidelines, which involve remaining 2m apart wherever possible and wearing a face mask over the mouth and nose. In addition, events and trade shows are encouraging exhibitors to set up display stands which are ‘Covid-friendly’ ie. which have accessories such as sanitising stations and socially distanced queue lines as well as Perspex® sneeze screens between any seating or meeting areas.
In addition, businesses should be considering whether their display stands themselves are made of materials that can be easily wiped or washed between exhibitions to help remove any traces of virus and bacteria. In fabric display stands, for example, the graphic printed sleeves are machine washable, making them easy to clean. If you need any advice on choosing the right exhibition display stand for your business’ next trade show, our team has more than 20 years’ experience in the industry and will be happy to help - just give us a call on 01733 511030.
More information on the government measures for events can be obtained directly from this gov.uk page which is kept updated according to current guidelines.
3. How Do I Promote My Business at a Trade Show?
Getting the best out of your time at a trade show means seeing a return on investment for your stand and materials. There are a number of things to remember when planning your exhibit which can help you maximise your promotional reach:
- Do Your Research - First, you need to determine which shows will be the best fit for your business. You should evaluate details such as the number of businesses who exhibit, the average number of attendees (potential customers), attendee demographics by job function etc. Speaking to past exhibitors for their feedback is also a great way to discover if the event will be a good investment for your business - or you can attend as a customer to scope everything out before you sign up. In addition, researching what your competitors are doing, looking at pictures of their stands from previous shows, can help you design something that looks different and will help you to stand out.
- Think Ahead - Once you have made your list of events you want to attend, registering early not only gives you a shot at the best exhibit spaces but also potential discounts for early registration. Plus, you have the dates fixed in your calendar in plenty of time to order any materials you need. In terms of planning, you should also be contacting your customer mailing lists to let them know which shows you will be exhibiting at. It’s also worth getting in touch with bloggers and influencers in your sphere to invite them to your event.
- Set Goals - What do you want to achieve from exhibiting? Is it attracting new customers, making direct sales or increasing your marketing data lists? Before you attend any event, having clear goals in mind will help you to tailor the experience for your stand visitors to show off your business to its best advantage.
- Prepare - Making sure you are ready for the trade show is crucial if you want to make an impact. Ensure you have enough materials such as literature, brochures, business cards, and giveaways (you don’t want to run out of anything on the day). Advertising in advance of the show can also help to attract more visitors to your stand and let them know where to find you. Finally, making sure all your staff are up-to-date and well-trained with all the information they’ll need to inform and educate customers is essential for a streamlined and cohesive brand message.
4. How Do You Attract Customers To Your Booth?
Once you’re at a trade show and you have your display stand set up, there are a number of tricks you can employ to attract visitors to engage with your booth.
- Quizzes & Competitions - Quizzes and games require visitors to interact with your sales team, giving your business a chance to inform and educate potential new customers in a playful and engaging way. In addition, running a competition for a prize giveaway or raffle means visitors need to leave their contact details for data capture.
- Free Wifi - It’s a given at exhibitions and events that a lot of visitors will gravitate towards where they can get connected to the internet for free. Offering a free wifi service in the location of your stand will mean more visitors hanging around, giving your display a bustling and busy feel, in turn attracting more customers. It’s also helpful for journalists from trade publications who are trying to cover the event, which might cast your business in a favourable light for a review!
- Networking Areas - You’ll know from experience that trade shows can be a busy and exhausting day out, whether you’re working or visiting. If your stand is large enough, providing an area where people can come and refresh themselves, sit down to rest and even network over tea and coffee is a great way to ensure that people not only visit your display but stay a while.
- Giveaways - Offering free promotional items to visitors can be a double-edged sword. You don’t want to blow a large proportion of your marketing budget on gimmicky products which will go straight in the nearest bin; you want to think carefully about your target market and if there are items that will appeal and be reused, keeping your branding in people’s minds for longer. This is always a good time to think outside the box and choose unusual products that will get people talking, but be useful enough for people to want to hang on to.
As trade shows and conferences reopen around the world, we might all be dealing with the continuing effects of the pandemic but that doesn’t mean these events can’t return to being an effective marketing tool. Make sure your business is ready for the brand new world of events and exhibitions with up-to-date, modern display stands to entertain and engage.
At XL Displays, we have a wide range of display stands, accessories and other trade show essentials to help you make an impact at your next event. For more information or to start planning your display, our team of experts are on hand for advice.
Reach out to us via our Contact Us page, or call us on 01733 511030.