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
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
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,
Exhibitors should aim to extract every ounce of interest from the
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
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.