PLATFORM: Time to make an exhibition of ourselves - Exhibitions should be a golden marketing opportunity, but all too often they are let down by lack of effective PR, says GIOVANNA FORTE

Exhibitions are marketing temples of innovation, packed with PR opportunities. Or they should be. All too often they are tired annual roll-outs of standard products, interesting to only the most specialist trade press. Although bad design or lack of planning are often to blame, overlooking the benefits of effective PR has a large part to play.

Exhibitions are marketing temples of innovation, packed with PR

opportunities. Or they should be. All too often they are tired annual

roll-outs of standard products, interesting to only the most specialist

trade press. Although bad design or lack of planning are often to blame,

overlooking the benefits of effective PR has a large part to play.



Failure to think through the real reasons for taking exhibition space

leads to a massive waste of one of the most interactive marketing methods

available. A simple product display is no longer an option; exhibitors

need to actively promote their ideas in conjunction with well defined

PR.



The exhibition/PR partnership is the fastest road to showing how goods and

services can be used in innovative ways. Off-the-shelf products can be

found in brochures; if you’ve got something different, you need to show

it. This, then, is the way to take the process of communication much, much

further.



A glance through a magazine like Exhibition Bulletin shows clearly that

all the major sectors are overcrowded with exhibitions. New ones must be

carefully defined and researched and this is best achieved by way of a

business plan which includes exhibitor, visitor and media information.



Increasingly, professionals want to visit ideas-based shows, which take a

highly selective look at their industry - they are not interested in an

arbitrary display of board mounted products. In fact, on the trail of

inspiration and imagination, they are often not interested in products at

all, in the conventional sense.



New applications, fresh uses, lateral thinking - and the opportunity to

look into a crystal ball - are what exhibitions are all about.



It’s worth remembering that the USP of any event is the chance to exploit

fully the face-to-face contact with visitors who are there because they

already have an interest in what you are selling - a scatter-gun approach

will only give scatter-gun results.



While the starting point for organisers has to be a finely tuned idea of

who the visitors are and what they want to see, exhibitors must take this

information and run with it. How? By combining exhibiting with effective,

professional PR.



Exhibitors should aim to extract every ounce of interest from the

visitor.



This involves showing goods in unconventional ways, with flair and elan;

opportunities to be bold and imaginative are greater than ever and PR must

be part of that. Today’s wild ideas are often the stimuli for tomorrow’s

products and applications.



Exhibitors need to feel part of a cohesive whole and recognition of this

is leading organisers to involve designers in the overall visual process;

exhibition design has become a discipline in its own right, but it’s not

an easy one to grasp.



The ability to provide the right canvas onto which exhibitors can paint

their own identity is a rare one; when you find an event with a healthy

regard for design, exhibitors can, in turn, be more easily encouraged to

follow suit.



The sponsored cafe-bar has become a regular feature at many shows and is

an invaluable PR tool for sponsorship-aware companies. It provides a

welcome oasis within a busy hall, a hub where visitors can get together in

a relaxed environment.



Everyone involved in exhibitions knows that today’s visitor has less time

and is becoming more choosy. Professionals on both sides of the fence must

recognise that now, more than ever, a cohesive PR partnership between

organiser and exhibitor goes a very long way towards bringing the right

visitor to the right show. And that’s what we need, after all.



Giovanna Forte is exhibitions director at Montgomery Exhibitions.



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