Exhibitors, like attendees and speakers, need to be prepared for your event. A look at what associations are doing to ensure their exhibitors have a successful tradeshow experience—and other ideas worth considering.
Associations often spend a lot of time preparing and onboarding their conference attendees for their time onsite. These efforts may include preconference webinars to give them a rundown of a meeting’s must-dos; conference buddy programs that pair first-time attendees with seasoned ones; or online guides that tell attendees what to pack, how to network effectively, and where to go to find the best food options.
These efforts pay off for associations because they often lead to happier, engaged, and more loyal attendees. And it’s for these same reasons that associations also need to prepare meeting exhibitors for their time on the tradeshow floor.
A few years back I wrote about how the Association of Equipment Manufacturers— recognizing that it needed to improve its relationship with exhibitors—created an Exhibitor Engagement Services department. The four-person staff team helps exhibitors get the most out of their involvement in AEM’s tradeshows and collects their show-related feedback.
“We really want to be that one-stop shop for exhibitors,” said AEM Director of Exhibitor Engagement Services Mary Bukovic. “Whatever their needs are, our resources are there to help them get the greatest possible ROI in our shows and provide the service levels they expect when they call or email AEM.”
The association also uses an e-newsletter, as well as a webinar training program, to stay in contact with exhibitors and let them know what benefits and services come with exhibiting.
AEM isn’t alone in offering a exhibitor-focused newsletter: The Restoration Industry Association, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and the Society for Human Resource Management all do the same.
SHRM also has a number of other resources for exhibitors. Two I think are worth pointing out is its “Marketing Toolbox,” a series of quick, informative webinars and articles for exhibitors intended to help them increase booth traffic and lead generation, and the “Ask the Tradeshow Experts Q&A.” Exhibitors can email questions and get a response within 48 hours.
The Specialty Food Association, which hosts the Fancy Food Show, relies on previous exhibitors to share tips. In the video above, they give advice on how to prepare for the show, how to talk to people at their booth, how to handle follow-up, and much more.
All of these resources are great, and they got me thinking about what else associations could be doing. One idea: Offer a buddy program, where a first-time exhibitor is paired up with a long-time exhibitor and can ask what they’ve found most successful. Or an association might offer an add-on service, where for an additional fee an exhibitor gets access to a staffer or other industry expert who can speak to the target audience and give advice.