How to set clear exhibition objectives in 5 steps

Rowan van der Veen
Aug 13, 2018 8:35:00 AM

An exhibition without clear objectives is a game without rules: the team plays, but nobody knows what for. It’s probably just a lot of fun. Which is fine too, but the stand and wages won’t pay back themselves. Without clear objectives there is no plan and without a plan, there are no results to be measured and improved. Exhibition objectives determine how you present yourself as a business on a trade show and whom you target. These factors, amongst others, influence the design, interior and development of the stand design. Kinda important, so to say. Do you want to know how to define clear and strong exhibition objectives? You are about to find out. 


1. Why do you attend trade shows?

The very first step you have to take in defining exhibition objectives is to determine why you are attending trade shows. Why are they part of your marketing strategy? We know plenty of reasons why businesses attend trade shows, but eventually they can all be traced back to 5 basic reasons: 

  • Networking: meeting new partners, suppliers or future customers.
  • Strengthen business relationships: quality time with existing partners, suppliers and customers to build sustainable relationships.
  • New business: collect new leads, sell products or services and make appointments with potential customers.
  • Brand awareness: increase brand awareness amongst your target group in order to stimulate future growth and market share.
  • Product launch: show and demonstrate new products to your network and other interested parties. 

These reasons are, in fact, already objectives. The moment when you can define relate your exhibition participation to one of the reasons above you have taken the first step in defining your exhibition objectives. From this point on you can start building your exhibition strategy by defining more objectives and looking what you need in order to meet them. 


2. Whom do you want to target during the trade show? 

In the next phase you define your target group. During the trade show, visitors from different companies, departments and with different job titles will show up at your stand. Each one of them with different reasons and expectations. Some are just looking for basic information, others are looking for a specific product or service. Some just want to sell their own products to you (these are the worst). Obviously, you can’t speak to everyone. You only want to talk to the people you consider your target group. These people might be prospects, existing customers or the people you invited to your stand. Use the little time you have as efficiently as possible: ask yourself ‘who do I really want to speak during the trade show? Do we approach them formally or casually? Are they immediately open to a conversation or do we need to convince them? Should we use innovative tools such as VR to engage them or do they prefer information on paper flyers?  

Most of these questions can be answered upfront and will help you to specify your objectives and create an exhibition strategy. Besides this, there is this thing called ‘the internet’ which is really useful when you want to learn more about the trade show visitors before the show. Think about member groups on LinkedIn or Facebook, exhibition-specific hashtags or posts that people do including the exhibition name on social media (more about this later)


3. What do you want to achieve? 

At this point, you know why you attend trade shows and whom you want to speak. But what do you want to tell your visitors? What do you want them to learn about you? The simple sum of the two steps above quickly provides you with the answer. Do you want your visitors to purchase the right item? Or do you want to add at least 10% new customers to your online newsletter? Do you want to pay attention to your current customers and network or do you want to show potential customers that you have got the best offer in the world? Once you have clarified this, you are ready to start building. The foundation is set, time to continue. 


4. How to put your objectives into practice

An exibtion plan is the way to go to safeguard a proper execution of the objectives before and during the show. Make sure that the objectives in your plan are described according to the SMART-guidelines (we know: cliché, boring, outdated, but still very relevant).

  • Specific – does it target a specific problem or subject area?
  • Measurable -  did you establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of the objective?
  • Attainable – is the objective realistic given the circumstances and tools available?
  • Relevant – is the objective valuable and does it contribute to the overall business?
  • Timely – is the objective grounded within a clear timeframe? 

After describing the objectives in the exhibition plan, you proceed with the completion of the plan. In order to achieve your objectives, do you need plenty of room to sit and chat or do you need dynamic bar tables with some snacks on top? Do you organize plenary sessions? Do you need a demonstration area for products? When everything is planned, the next challenge is to make your standcrew dream the objectives. The final result is in their hands, too. 


5. Make it measurable

We will keep repeating this, so better get used to it: unmeasurable objectives are no objectives. Know your numbers, walk the talk. I guess we made our point. A measurable objective is a source of improvement and possibilities. Moreover, it motivates and stimulates the stand crew. Make sure to write down each objective together with your stand crew, discuss the expectations and hypothesis and evaluate each of them after the show. How did we do? How many leads did we collect? Are they of the expected quality? Did we meet the sales rate we wanted to achieve? This way, you work together towards a common goal. You celebrate the successes and you take your learnings for the next exhibition. 


Exhibition objectives? Check!

Do you have any questions or comments related to this blog about exhibition objectives? Or are you looking for support and advice regarding the formulation of exhibition objectives? Let us know! We are always there to help. In fact, we love to give you advice and listen to your experiences. Just give us a call or send us a chat message.  

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Rowan van der Veen
By Rowan van der Veen Online marketeer

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