March 7, 2016 | Laura Baines
We’ve created a new downloadable guide to help you ask the right questions to really nail your next exhibition brief.
It’s a common misconception that exhibition planning needs to be time-consuming with an outcome that’s expensive and hard to measure. It doesn’t need to be that way if you know the right questions to ask. Planning will help you set out a clear vision of what you want to achieve and how you will achieve it.
By producing a brilliant exhibition brief, your vision – the objectives, integrated exhibition activities and the targeted message – can easily be shared with your team and important company stakeholders.
A brief will help present how you will achieve your objectives for exhibiting to senior management and the core message you are communicating to the sales or stand team.
By getting these stakeholders on board at brief stage, you capture their attention and support early. This is especially useful when you come to prep your stand staff on the day of the exhibition, as everyone already understands their role in achieving your objectives. Any agencies or design and build contractors you work with will also be able to bring your exhibiting campaign to life by producing a stand design and collateral consistent with your vision right from the start.
Knowing your objectives and what you want to achieve is the cornerstone in the creation of a great brief. After all, if you don’t know what you want to achieve, how is an agency or design and build contractor supposed to help get you there?
Whether you want to launch a new product or service, host clients, advance prospects down the sales pipeline through the exhibition experience or gain more sales, there are many reasons why you may want to exhibit. Your objective should become the basis of everything you do – when planning your exhibition, while attending it and even post-show. This is where a well-thought-through brief comes into play.
An exhibition brief is a way to plan and prioritise all elements and activities involved in your campaign. It enables you to integrate activities such as hospitality, competitions, demonstrations and digital engagement with great stand design and the advertising and PR campaign surrounding your attendance at the show – all to meet your core objective. It also gives a well-rounded picture to those who are designing your stand for what they need to achieve.
It’s easy for exhibitors to stumble into ‘the default approach’ – creating a stand that tries to say everything and lacks focus on a core theme. While a great brief co-ordinates all the working parts of your exhibiting programme, it also helps you to focus on core elements and clarify which message you want to tell to who. A few simple messages are far more powerful than a hundred.
Understanding the exhibition’s audience and comparing this to your own customer profile should help you establish who you will target to meet your objectives. Are they new prospects you want to draw and engage? Are they existing customers that you want to host and cross-sell to? You can then choose the right message to explain to this targeted audience how you intend to solve their problems with your brand, product or service.
You may think this is counter intuitive, but a great brief is not too prescriptive. It shouldn’t have all the answers but it should detail your desired outcome and challenge you face when exhibiting. A good brief won’t list that you want 4 chairs, a table and 3 products on show, it’ll say that you need an area for meetings with existing customers to build relationships and that you want to raise awareness (and gain sales) of your new products. Try putting yourself in the shoes of your stand team to understand how they would want to go about facilitating your objectives. What tools would they need to facilitate discussions, to add depth and to engage with prospects?
A great plan is also built on great research. If you’ve exhibited before, what worked and what didn’t? Did your competitors have a bigger stand than you last year? Be honest – it will make what you do next even better. Knowing your past – warts and all – will help agencies and contractors to evolve your exhibiting programme rather than starting from scratch.
Consider what good looks like to you. You’ve thought about what you’d like to do, but what’s the desired outcome of your exhibiting activities? You should also explain how you will know what success looks like. Measuring whether or not you have achieved your exhibiting objective is really important but often overlooked.
With your objective and desired outcome outlined in black and white, you’ll need to explain your exhibiting campaign/theme and how it relates to what you are hoping to achieve. What’s your key message? Who are you telling it to? Outlining any coinciding or integrated marketing or advertising campaigns running at the time of the show is also insightful. For example, do you have a direct mail campaign running or advertising space in a particular magazine that you want to draw attention to?
Alongside the campaign you should cover what the desired visitor experience on stand looks like. Once you have caught your audience’s attention, what would you like them to do and how might you persuade them to do this? This might look like hospitality on stand to encourage conversation or a demonstration to educate a visitor about your latest product.
While these areas of your brief specifically concentrate on one show, don’t neglect to mention any other shows you participate in as part of your programme. This can help you think about the longevity of your exhibiting campaign and its elements. Will you take the same message and content to each show?
To make the process easier, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of the questions to ask yourself when putting together an exhibition brief. By thinking about these questions, you will be able to provide an in-depth view of what you want to achieve from your exhibition. The questions cover: