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Hospitality on an exhibition stand

James Rook, Managing Director at Nimlok, takes a look at what we can learn from Pret A Manger’s in-house trial engaging with an evening audience.

Hospitality on an exhibition stand is often considered a nice to have but not completely necessary activity. All too often, hospitality has be seen as just another cost with no actual return on investment. However, if done correctly and with enough thought and planning, a beautifully orchestrated and timely event on an exhibition stand can help engage visitors and generate quality leads.

What we can learn

Not another cup of coffee!

What so often appears to be “the norm ” is coffee on stands throughout the day which is fine if it’s planned as a major lure or concealed if just for those serious prospects or existing client meetings. However, we all too often don’t think hospitality receives as much careful consideration as it should.

Do you need hospitality?

Firstly do you need to provide hospitality at all? Generally we think it’s a must for those in mature markets and known audiences where the exhibiting objectives are about retention, and up/cross sell.  If you are simply lead taking then it can tie up your staff and be inappropriate for your planned engagement of perhaps just a few minutes to quickly qualify, convey your message, capture a lead and agree a next step.

The ideal time for engagement

There’re huge variables in the length of time different exhibitors will need to conduct this process but the ideal time for an engagement should be considered in the hospitality mix. Most exhibitors don’t cleanly fall in to either of these two camps.  They will blend retention/up/cross sell with new prospect lead capture.  

So here’s perhaps where we can learn from Pret A Manger and the more common behaviour of European exhibitors who do something a little different towards the end of the day.

Pret A Manager Interior
New interior for hosting a whole new audience – Pret A Manger

Host outside peak selling window

In Europe and particularly at multi-day events with a high proportion of international visitors (important factors to note as they result in an audience likely to be staying overnight not rushing off home), we often see the stand transformed to a networking bar for the final hours of the show, encouraging clients and prospects to return. 

This strategy is clever as it keeps the stand sales focused during the prime-time of visitor arrival and touring the show, whilst satisfying the need to “host” outside of the peak sales/lead taking window. Hopefully some food for thought – excuse the intended pun!

Beyond, if and when, hospitality poses lots of other questions around what to provide, themes and staffing all of which will be covered in future blogs.

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