Exhibiting: When numbers mean very little

In the fourth part of a series offering advice to fledgling exhibitors, Answers Training MD Simon Naudi suggests focusing on visitor quality.

Why do we all make such a big deal about visitor numbers at an event?

I suspect it is because of habit - a habit we commonly learn when we buy advertising. How often do magazines rave about their readership or circulation figures? How often do online media refer to "hits"? Think about radio listeners and television viewers - again all measured as number of exposures. Exhibiting is different.

As an exhibitor at various shows, I cannot tell you (even to within a few thousand) how many people attended them. Moreover I would be just as blase whether the overall visitor numbers were 2,000 or 200,000, as I shall explain later. What I can tell you, however, is how many people came on to my stand, who they were, what they were interested in, when they are likely to buy, how much they should spend and when we will close the business.

Consider a scenario of two competitors, separated by no more than a metre of carpet across an aisle; one is only just able to cope with the interest and demand, the other wondering why nobody wants to talk to them. They are probably in a similar business, offering similar products and services, probably at a similar price to a similar or more often an identical visitor.

The choice as to which one you prefer to be is yours.

The first rule of exhibiting should be to focus on what is important when exhibiting. It should therefore not be the overall visitor number.

Do the maths ... If you saw a visitor for only five minutes, every five minutes, without even a break, over the (say) three days of a typical show, you could possibly hope to see more than 250 visitors. Overall visitor numbers are therefore largely irrelevant.

You should arrange with the organisers to see the demographics and identify which ones, from the whole visitor population, you want to see and which are of less interest. Once you start to focus like this, you can begin to realise the enormous rewards that exhibiting can offer.

There are certainly actions and behaviours that you need to consider long before the show happens that will increase your chances of a fabulous show result. So invite your chosen population and design your stand to reflect their wishes.

Make it attractive to those you wish to court and unattractive to those you don't. Once you are at the show, you can greatly influence that interaction with your identified visitors.

The key is to spend time with that proportion of visitors who will bring you the type of business you are looking for. The mistake is to spend your time idly chatting to low value and low potential prospects on the basis that at least someone is talking to you.

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