Can you hear me? 5 communication tips to boost your exhibition ROI

September 3, 2018

Good listener

Exhibitions aren’t just about having a great stand.

It’s an opportunity to engage your audience. Not only at the event itself (showing them your products or services and building a relationship that will lead to sales), but also before and after the exhibition, through email and social media.

Unfortunately, businesses often get this communication wrong and end up distancing audiences rather than drawing them in.

So to ensure your next event gets you the ROI you deserve (and proves the event’s worth to the board), here are five quick and easy tips that will improve your exhibition communications.

1. Personal pre-exhibition communication with your audience

Your exhibition communication needs to start far in advance of the event. Why? Because it’s a chance to let your audience know about the exhibition and give them the time to plan their attendance. Recent research from CEIR notes that 83% of the most successful companies at an exhibition were also the ones that made the effort to contact their audience ahead of time.

These communications will not only help set an early expectation about what they’ll see from you over the weeks (or months) around the event, but will also give you the best chance of ensuring the audience ends up eagerly anticipating a visit to your stand.

How you can talk to your audience in advance

Start by letting your audience know about the event. Perhaps create some digital banners to include on your website and in your company email signatures to raise awareness, or you could be more direct with a personable email or VIP invite. You can then begin drip-feeding engaging and useful content across all your communication channels, including teasers for what your audience can expect, then revealing more the closer you get to the event.

Keep an eye on public discussions about the exhibition, engage (and follow) other attendees, and share useful information with your own followers. It also doesn’t hurt to use gentle (email and social) reminders as a countdown to the opening day. Making use of event hashtags on social can also strengthen your marketing reach and further grow your audience (but don’t hijack the hashtag otherwise you’ll simply be seen as spamming everyone).

Keep an eye on public discussions about the exhibition, engage (and follow) other attendees, and share useful information to your own followers.

2. Use social media to encourage dialogue before your show starts

Following on from the suggested pre-exhibition communications above, you can boost your social media channels immediately before the event. Social media is our real-time connection to the world.

It’s where the majority of the buzz is going to be generated in the days preceding the exhibition—this is where research has shown the momentum of communications around the event to be strongest. So your brand needs to set aside resources to pay special attention to engaging your audience and encouraging dialogue during this time.

How to get social with your audience before your exhibition

Plan to use the short-term pre-event period to build broader awareness and lift your brand profile. This is not only for your own audience but also others planning to attend the event who might be engaging in dialogue already. By monitoring event hashtags, Facebook pages and LinkedIn conversations, you can initiate and encourage conversation to generate as much excitement as possible—all while showcasing your brand as an engaging and exciting participant.

Feel free to talk about and share anything and everything to do with the exhibition, from sponsors and past event photos, to highlighting attractions you’re looking forward to seeing. You can even share behind the scenes photos as you arrive at the venue and set up the stand, to give people a sneak peak of what to expect.

3. Communicate non-stop – from day one to the big finale

The most important communication at the event itself will be talking with attendees face-to-face. In fact, according to a 2017 report by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR): ‘When it comes to people-to-people engagement, the chance to talk with booth staff enjoys the highest attendee use.’

However, digital communication during the event (also known by some as ‘live communication’) is also important: it can be incredibly powerful in generating buzz and driving people to visit you. Social media channels will be essential during this time to interact with potential customers and attendees and enhance awareness of your stand.

How to avoid breaks in your audience communication

Your communication at the exhibition is all about keeping audience interest (that you’ve been building for weeks or months) as high as you possibly can. Daily briefings to identify what’s been working and what needs improvement can help with in-person engagement. As for digital, use real-time social media channels to post and share news, information and people’s experiences of the event. Also, it’s important to link back to any special updates or offers on your website or blog.

You definitely need to take and share photos (which might also be good to use in pre-event communications next time), but if you’re feeling particularly brave you could attempt to do a quick video ‘walk and talk’ of the venue floor. This would show your audience the excited crowds, the best stands, and some real in-the-moment authenticity and personality.

Facebook Live would be especially useful for this kind of communication and you’ll get instant feedback through likes, laughs and shares.

Facebook Live would be especially useful for this kind of communication and you’ll get instant feedback through likes, laughs and shares.

A final area to keep an eye out for is venues taking advantage of new apps for better attendee interaction, such as using ‘beacons’ to bring up key exhibitor information. So make sure you’re signed up and have some useful downloadable brochures or other material available.

4. Time your post-event communication so it doesn’t get lost

Your exhibition has been a success and you’re still riding that wave of excitement. Surely the attendees will be too, which makes it essential you send out follow-up communications immediately after the event, right?

Not quite. We’re seeing exhibitors doing this more and more (with some even getting in touch as soon as visitors have left the stand) but it’s not necessarily the right move for everyone. Some people like getting the information instantly, while others will have switched off from any non-essential communications for the duration of their trip out of the office. So if you send it too soon you could get buried in their inbox by the time they check back in.

 How to tweak your communication timing to keep your audience engaged

Cater to both types of attendee by opting for a two-part follow up. First sending a personable (but professional) email and/or information either during the event or immediately afterwards. Then wait until at least a week afterwards to either send a follow-up (or resend) the communication. This should allow you to catch those who want instant gratification, plus those who need to return to their normal working lives before being able to process follow-up emails from exhibitors they might have seen or met.

5. Keeping your brand in your audience’s mind long after the event

A large-scale research project in the Netherlands has revealed that, for attendees, the exhibition experience doesn’t finish when the event does. In fact, they carry out a variety of actions in the weeks afterwards. This means that exhibitors need to pay more attention to their online offering post-exhibition, to ensure they not only have good findability online, but also they have a long-term plan for follow-up communications.

A large-scale research project in the Netherlands has revealed that, for attendees, the exhibition experience doesn’t finish when the event does.

How to avoid being forgotten by your audience

Contrary to what a lot of businesses believe, the tail-end of an exhibition’s communications doesn’t drop off in the few days after an event. You’ve actually got between one to four weeks to follow-up and strengthen those relationships with your audience.

Again, you don’t want to overwhelm people, so create a plan where you perhaps follow-up no more than once a week with satisfaction surveys, news on attendance numbers, and thoughts on how it went.

Good audience communication = better ROI

As we’ve seen, there is far more to exhibition communication than simply sending invites or updating your Twitter feed.

Each event requires months of carefully considered emails, social chatter and other digital marketing in order to generate interest. By following the tips above and working these into an event communications strategy, you’re guaranteeing yourself the best chance of success with all future exhibitions.

TGP is one of the Middle East’s leading design and production companies, focusing on exhibitions, events, interiors, graphics, and audio-visuals for various industries. For more information or to meet the team, please call +971 50 636 7774, send an email to hello@tgp.ae, or click here.