Give Your Exhibitors What They Need and When They Need It

August 6, 2016

David Lawton

David Lawton, EVP of Sales at Convention Data Services has over 20 years of experience in the tradeshow industry with 6 of those years as an active exhibitor at numerous shows each year. His diverse background also includes experience in sales, customer support, design and product development. 

I recently attended an industry event where I listened to a panel of five exhibitors speak to a room full of show managers. The exhibitors all strongly agreed that their number one need was communication and education.

Communicating information about what tools to use and creating educational opportunities for your exhibitors to understand the usage and benefits will help them to maximize the value of your event and fulfill their company’s exhibiting goals. By giving your exhibitors what they need and when they need it you are helping them to succeed and ensuring that when you call to sell booth space for your next event, they’ll sign up again.

Here are some tips to help you give your exhibitors what they are asking for and what they need to have a successful event:

1.  Create and use a timeline

Using a timeline can make all the difference in the world. Exhibitors are inundated with emails from you and your vendors in preparation for your event, and many things can get lost in the shuffle or go unnoticed. By giving your exhibitors a timeline specific to your event you are easily communicating to them what needs to be done and when.

·         Begin with a structured plan and schedule for your timeline so you do not send too many emails or newsletters and overwhelm your exhibitors.

·         Consolidate all communications for your event into one email or newsletter with a timeline of dates and vendor deadlines. Also include a snapshot of all exhibitor educational sessions that are available to help them get ready for your event.

·         Start sending your communications and timeline well in advance of your event. Leading up to your event, begin sending them out monthly and increase the frequency to weekly as it gets closer to your event.

2.  Communication

Share information about your event and give your exhibitors multiple ways to access that event information.  

·         Post your newsletters and event communications on an exhibitors only section of your event website so your exhibitors can easily access the information and find it if they cannot locate the original email.

·         Create online versions of your manuals to give your exhibitors an event reference they can keep at their fingertips and access on their mobile devices.

·         Form an Exhibitor Advisory Committee or Exhibitor Task Force and at a minimum, hold annual meetings or calls to provide an opportunity for your exhibitors to speak with other exhibitors, discuss best practices, learn about new innovations and share successful strategies. These meetings are more effective when they are held during the year at times other than onsite at your show. In an onsite setting, the exhibitors are in “show mode” and cannot take the time to focus on the discussion items.

·         Use social media and a unique show hash tag as another way to communicate with and inform your exhibitors.

3.  Provide educational opportunities in multiple formats

Your first point of education should be to inform your exhibitors of what is available to them. In your monthly communication materials, promote your educational opportunities and how to access them in the various formats. Emphasize the value of this education and how it can impact your exhibitors’ success.

·         Webinars and podcasts help your exhibitors get the most from their exhibiting experience. Create sessions on tips for pre-event marketing, along with strategies for driving booth traffic, capturing leads and a successful follow-up. Schedule webinars that include your vendors (i.e., lead retrieval, decorator, registration, A/V). Record your webinars and don’t forget to post them to your event website in the exhibitor section so your exhibitors can access the webinar content at any time during the event cycle.

·         Our industry thrives on face-to-face interactions. Organize workshops or exhibitor “boot camps” in a central location where exhibitors can attend and take a crash course to learn about everything available for your event and receive one-on-one assistance. This provides exhibitors with the opportunity to create marketing materials, a lead strategy and prepare for your event.

·         Work with a lead retrieval vendor who provides one-on-one demos and training on their lead retrieval equipment to ensure your exhibitors and their staff are prepared for the opening of the show floor. Also encourage exhibitors to take advantage of onsite training in their booth for a quick reminder on the use of the equipment and a chance to ask follow-up questions.

·         Provide a success kit for your exhibitors that includes tips on collecting, managing and following up on their leads.

Remember, communicating with and educating your exhibitors not only benefits them but it also benefits you and your event. Their success translates into a successful event for you.

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.