The benefit of creating a great exhibitor experience
One of the most commonly talked about topics in the exhibition and trade show industry over the last few years has been the optimization of the exhibitor experience. The idea being that the exhibitor experience is connected to all of the other business outcomes that your trade show, convention, conference or exhibition seeks to achieve. The exhibitor experience defines how people feel about your event, if they want to spend money on booth space, if they identify it as a place where thought leaders and decision-makers gather, and if it is a good investment for their organization.
The elements that define the exhibitor experience are important to understand. If your organization can properly diagnose the items that are most important to your audience, organizers can effectively work backward to define exactly what steps can be put into place to improve and market a great exhibitor experience to potential customers.
So, what defines a great exhibitor experience?
1.) "Am I getting access to the decision-makers in my industry?"
Every exhibitor that comes to your show wants to feel confident when answering this question. It's why many of the exhibitors come in the first place. They want to feel like this event is the place where all of the people that can influence their KPI's go to gather. Creating an event that executes on this principle and markets it properly to exhibitors is often easier said than done. This is where exhibition organizers earn their stripes.
We talked recently about how several exhibitions and trade shows went about the process of creating the ideal environment for their target attendees. Creating the ideal exhibitor experience in this instance is really about creating the ideal event for your industry. Who do you want to attract, why do they want to come, what speakers, influencers and pivotal information will they be exposed to at the event? Matching this with the right theme and target location can become a winning formula for attracting the people that exhibitors will line up to network with.
2.) "What is my return on opportunity (ROO)?"
Exhibitors want to know if your event will produce opportunities that are valuable and can help grow their pipeline. This new ROO term has been coined inside of the exhibition and trade show space. Some like it — and some don't — but the truth is that many exhibitors are thinking along these lines regardless of how they define it.
The exhibitors that you want to attend your show are going to look at this in two very different ways. First, before they ever attend they are going to ask the question, "does this seem like an event where decision-makers will gather in a way that is meaningful to my business"? This is where exhibitions and trade shows must both create the ideal exhibitor experience and do a proper job of marketing it to their audience. One without the other could sink exhibitor sales. Is your organization properly communicating to prospects what the ROO is for your event? Weaving this into your sales process in a measurable fashion can work wonders.
Second, even if your sales team does a great job, exhibitors will ask this question after your event, "what did I get out of this?" Even if they don't ask that question, you can be rest assured that the person in charge of their organizations budget will. Ensuring that your event provides exhibitors with definable opportunities comes back down to the first point. Are you creating an event that decision-makers and thought leaders are attending? What's more, are these decision-makers and thought leaders rubbing elbows with your exhibitors? There are a lot of different ways to ensure this happens; from floor planning to scheduling. It all starts with proper planning and decision-making based on your expert knowledge and information.
3.) "What's the experience of doing business with this event like?"
At the end of the day, doing business with your event should be simple, easy and enjoyable. Exhibitors want a logistics process that is short and simple. Buying booth space, evaluating ROI and managing operations are not fun parts of the job. In most cases, they are investing in these events to produce a return. Every second they spend on trying to figure out how to manage their business within your event is time that they are wasting. By making every experience with your event a positive engagement, exhibitors will continually construct a stronger and stronger opinion about your event.
Trust me, you want to be the event that is easy to work with; because ultimately what you want people to say about your event is...
4.) "This event gets it!"
What is "it?" The overall perception of everything your event has put together; from the moment they visit your website, to when they purchase booth space, all the way until they pack up their booth and head back to their office to report on the success of their investment. Is your entire exhibitor experience reflective of how well you understand the industry and the target audience of your exhibition or trade show?
This starts on the web; which the large majority of your potential exhibitors will examine prior to doing business with you. Does it reflect who your are, what their experience will be, and who will be there? We've discussed this recently. Beyond their experience on your website, exhibitors need to encounter an easy, streamlined process that is reflective of the kind of experience they will receive when they're actually at your show (are things crisp and precise or disorganized and disjointed?). Finally, they want to have a world-class experience that connects them with their target audience.
When all these things are done correctly, exhibitors should walk out of your event knowing that they made the right decision to invest in your exhibition, conference, trade show or convention. This means that there are strong opportunities to renew, upsell and build off of those experiences to grow sales and improve other upcoming events.
The exhibitor experience is everything. It's what makes your customers say, "these people get it!" Every show will have different factors as to what this looks like; however every show should apply the principles above to ensure a great exhibitor experience. When all these things come to together, it creates a win-win across the board from everyone involved with your event; which is ultimately the gold-standard for every exhibition or trade show.
Questions or comments? Leave your thoughts below and I'd be happy to respond or chime in.