Drastic measures: How to evaluate exhibition success

By Lee Ali, MD Expo Stars
Expo Stars is a global exhibition engagement company based in the UK. Since 2007, it has managed over 3,000 projects in over 100 cities across 53 countr...

Expo Stars is a global exhibition engagement company based in the UK. Since 2007, it has managed over 3,000 projects in over 100 cities across 53 countries. Expo Stars has experience at all the major exhibitions including CES, Mobile World Congress, Drupa, FESPA, IBC, NAB, Gulfood, Arab Health, Pharmapack, Big 5, ICE Totally Gaming and many more. The founder and MD, Lee Ali, shares with Business Chief how exhibitors across Europe should approach evaluating their performance.

“Can I scan your badge?”

It’s a common question heard at trade shows and exhibitions around the world.

On the face of it, it seems like a quick and easy way for exhibitors to build a database of attendees without taking too much of their time. And for those who approach events as a numbers game, seeing the long list of badges scanned at the end of a show looks like a great way to measure success.

But this is the wrong way to approach. Here, I’ll explain why badge scanning is a false economy and what you should do instead to measure your exhibition performance.

The problem with badge scanning  

The appeal of badge scanning is also it’s downfall. You can easily collate the attendees’ details without actually engaging with them very much.

Because of this, you could well find you get hundreds or thousands of new contacts on your database. But that’s not to say these are quality leads. 

You don’t know who these people are, or what they need or want. Are they decision makers? What problems are they experiencing which you could help them with? Have you been able to share any useful information with them? Are they interested in your product or service? 

Eager badge scanning defeats the point of exhibitions. Your primary aim should be to get in front of your target audience so you can engage, educate, inform and inspire them. This is all part of building relationships, which if managed in the right way, can result in sales, deals or partnerships in the long-term.

If you’re investing time and money in exhibitions, you should focus on quality leads, not purely quantity. And the way to drive this is through meaningful face-to-face conversations.

The art of conversation 

With so much competition at exhibitions, many businesses pull out all the stops to get people on to their stand. Free gifts, complimentary refreshments, exciting competitions and flashy displays grab people’s attention and generate footfall. But you need to make sure you’re attracting the right people and leaving a lasting impression.

It helps to remember why people are at exhibitions in the first place. They’re there to learn about new trends, innovations, products and services that will support them in their own job, or help the business they represent. The attendees are actively looking for solutions to their problems – so you’ve got an eager audience to engage with.

But that doesn’t mean you should jump straight into your sales pitch. In fact, that’s a sure way of losing a lead before you’ve even asked them their name. Instead, start by getting to know them. What are their challenges? What have they tried up until now and what have the results been? What is the wider business trying to achieve?

Taking a personalised approach and asking the right questions can help you firstly qualify leads, and secondly, build a rapport with those who you might be able to help with your product or service.

While your audience may be at the event to find relevant products and services, they may not be in a position to buy there and then. This is why it’s so important to have compelling conversations, make your business memorable, and have a clear call to action. And it’s these next steps where we should focus our efforts on when measuring exhibition success. 

Setting your goals

Before your exhibition, you should have a clear strategy in place that determines what you want your target audience to do after you’ve met and qualified them.

Is the next step in the process signing up to an online webinar, taking advantage of a free trial, booking a meeting, or even simply connecting on LinkedIn? These are the types of goals that can translate easily into measuring your performance at exhibitions and trade shows.

Some simple statistics you can track include: 

  • Satisfaction scores from feedback forms

  • Market research surveys completed 

  • Webinar or free trial sign ups

  • Meetings booked

  • Newsletter subscribers 

Enhance your insights with technology 

Although there are numerous ways you can monitor and measure exhibition performance yourself, technology can give you further insights and provide longer term benefits.

For example, face detection tech can track eye contact connections and provide a mood evaluation for the attendees you interact with. This data helps you understand which products or displays attendees are looking at and how engaged they are on an emotional level. This is information you can leverage to improve your displays and methods of igniting and maintaining attendees’ attention.

There are also systems that bring all your lead generation, tracking and follow up processes together. For example, Tilkee is Expo Stars’ official Tradeshow Lead Capture and ROI Measurement Partner. As well as organising the leads generated at events, the platform automates a lot of the follow up steps and provides data around engagement and conversions. Not only does this help to monitor results of each event, but it provides valuable information to improve future trade show strategies.

Taking a measured approach

We live in a world where technology means it’s easier than ever for us to get data – and lots of it – at the touch of a button. Or, in the case of exhibitions, at the scan of a badge. 

Sometimes, though, just because we can get large volumes of data, it doesn’t necessarily mean we should. 

At exhibitions and trade shows, businesses have a rare opportunity to get in front of potential buyers who are in the right frame of mind to find out about different products and services. And the key here is prioritising meaningful conversations. 

Yes, technology can help to amplify and improve the way you monitor and track results, but it should be used to support – not replace – building trust and relationships on a one-to-one basis. Taking a personalised approach, focusing on face-to-face engagement and prioritising quality – not quantity – leads, will help you transform your exhibition strategy and evaluation process.

For more information on all business in Europe, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief Europe.

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