By Mary Tucker, Sr. PR/Communications Manager, IAEE
By definition, trade shows would not exist were it not for their exhibitor communities. As any show organizer knows, building and developing strong relationships with exhibitors is imperative to making sure an exhibition is successful and flourishing. IAEE recently presented a webinar, How to Build a Better Exhibitor Communications Plan, hosted by Trainer and Consultant Robyn Davis, CPTD.
Known for her fresh perspective and process-driven approach to exhibitor success, Davis is the recipient of the 2021 IAEE Bob Dallmeyer Educator of the Year Award. She currently serves on IAEE’s Membership Engagement Committee as well as her local chapter’s Board of Directors. Through her company, Exhibitors WINH, Davis creates custom exhibitor success programs for major American trade show organizers – teaching their exhibitors the strategies required to “win” at their trade shows and, as a result, often improving their exhibitor engagement, satisfaction/results and retention.
A strong exhibitor communications plan can make all the difference involving smooth transitions between the phases of your show – pre-, during and after the event – and its benefits are applicable to new, as well as established, exhibitors. The starting point to an effective communications blueprint involves making sure the communications are well-received. In the webinar, Davis outlines the various reasons show organizers may not be connecting with their exhibitors as successfully as they would like and offers solutions for overcoming these obstacles.
“Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition has a wide range of ‘sweet spots’ that resonate with our exhibitors and we want to be sure to hit on those appropriately,” says IAEE Vice President of Partnership Relations Rick Jennings, CEM. “The goals and objectives for each exhibitor can be vastly different, yet are equally important.”
One of the most essential factors Davis emphasizes is making sure you understand the timelines and bandwidth you are working with, which can encompass a broad scope of communication strategies. She discusses the ins and outs of variables such as the deliverability of your messaging, how the reputation of your communications factors into the responses you receive, and the balancing act between your target audience’s priorities and where you fall into the mix.
“In communicating with our exhibitors, we strive to ensure the information is valuable and timely,” notes IAEE Vice President of Marketing & Communications Nicole Bowman, MBA. “We want to provide the tools needed to make the most of their Expo! Expo! experience, which includes promoting their product and/or service throughout the full show life cycle as well as forging strong bonds with Expo! Expo! attendees.”
Davis explains that an exhibitor communications plan can center around a theme and details how the moving parts of this concept work together to maximize the purpose for each component. For example, the timing of each element is crucial in giving it the proper cadence, thus enhancing the impact of the messaging.
“Effective communicators understand that timing is everything,” adds Bowman. “You know you’re doing a good job when you get a call from an exhibitor to say, ‘I was just thinking about this and, lo and behold, your communication arrived to address my concern!’”
Davis stresses that the key to reaching that level of connectedness with your exhibitors lies within your communication methods. She notes that while email may appear to be the best communication channel – especially in today’s highly digital environment – that it may not be necessarily so. Even more important to remember, it is not the only channel. She offers a wide range of communication options and gives examples as to how each can be applied to create a multi-layered and impactful communications plan.
Regardless of how complex your exhibitor communications are or need to be, the same rules of transparency apply to all. Transparency serves as the foundation of building a strong relationship with your exhibitors and is essential to establishing trust. In addition, you must be receptive to all feedback. IAEE’s Jennings could not agree more:
“I am absolutely open to hearing all feedback from Expo! Expo! exhibitors including the good, bad and the ugly,” he states. “Our mission is to make sure we are meeting their needs and not the other way around. Because Expo! Expo! is the show for shows, solely serving the trade show industry, it has built a reputation for being innovative.
“This means being the first to test new waters, which can result in some tough learning experiences at times. We do not shy away from taking those risks and count on honest feedback to continuously improve our offerings. In the end, it is a win-win for all involved because this is how new ground gets broken and how our industry advances.”
Davis ends the webinar with valuable tools and tips for expanding your exhibitor communications plan so that you reach that ultimate goal of “mind melding” with your exhibitors to create a win-win for your upcoming exhibitions and events in both the near and far-reaching futures.
Watch the on-demand recording of How to Build a Better Exhibitor Communications Plan here. Register for upcoming webinars and view other on-demand recordings here. IAEE webinars are free for IAEE members and cost $49 USD for non-members, find more information here.