Making the most out of exhibitions

The autumn and spring are the busiest times for exhibitions, giving plenty of opportunities to promote your business by having a stand or attending as a visitor. Each year the potential to reach a wider section of your customer base increases through specific industry events or more general business ones. But are you making the most of these opportunities?

Exhibiting at a show is not usually cheap. Once you’ve paid for your stand you often need to consider the additional items such as lighting, furniture as well as how you plan to decorate the stand to promote your business in the best light. Don’t forget staff to man the stand plus accommodation if the event is away from where you are based. The costs all add up.

But exhibiting undertaken correctly brings you in front of a huge variety of people. Some may be existing customers, others will be new to your business. It’s a time to have a proper conversation to find out how you can help customers with the products or services you offer. Some of the best contacts are made when you meet people face to face and start engaging with them.

To get the most out of your presence at an exhibition block out time to develop your strategy for the weeks running up to the event, during the show and how you will exploit all the new contacts you’ll make. An exhibition may be a one or two-day event but if you wish to generate the best return on your investment you will spend many days on it, incorporating it into your business and marketing plans.

wooden sign

What kind of marketing collateral will you produce to promote your business?

Photo credit: Olgach – Free Stock Images

Developing the right message is crucial. This could be expanding on what you already have or if you’re planning a new product or service launch will likely need a fresh focus. Once you’ve decided on the story you’re going to tell this can easily be incorporated across all your marketing collateral, such as brochures or leaflets, posters, social media updates and regular postings on your website. Publications and websites often support exhibitions and can be an ideal way to further spread your message to potential customers by sending them a press release about your business and its products or offering to write an opinion article discussing pertinent issues relevant to your industry sector. A good starting point here is looking to see who the media partners are to the event.

During the event interacting with visitors is essential. Don’t sit at the back of your exhibition stand and wait for people to come to you. (Yes, I have seen plenty do this over the years.) Stand at the edge and start engaging with people as they walk past. Ask something about them is a good conversation starter and see where the chat takes you. And don’t have too many giveaways without getting their details in return. Today’s visitors to your stand are tomorrow’s customers so you need to acquire as much information about them that will help build a relationship and future sales.

The work doesn’t end once the show has finished. If successful there should be plenty of follow-up communication as well as potential new business coming through the order books. And take the time to evaluate how the exhibition went; what worked and what didn’t. This is always a useful exercise to undertake so you can improve on the next event.

Top tips

  1. Always start with a strategy – what do you wish to achieve?
  2. Work on your messaging – be consistent throughout all your marketing collateral
  3. Identify potential publications –  send a press releases or offer to write an opinion article
  4. Think about the best way to capture the details of visitors to your stand
  5. Have fun – exhibitions are great places to meet new people





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Time to change the model to get true sustainable fashion

There has been a flurry of news in recent weeks concentrating on how the fashion industry is working towards improving its approach to sustainability.

All great stuff, particularly the Sustainable Apparel Coalition that has joined forces with a host of organisations and businesses to promote the Apparel Impact Institute initiative which sees the sharing of knowledge and resources to overcome the challenges of reducing environmental and social impacts. This initiative focuses on industry collaboration, identifying small pilot projects with the potential to scale up at a later date. The first projects concentrate on mill improvement, tackling energy, water and chemical use, with future programmes looking at closed-loop recycling and worker well-being.

Similarly, the True Fashion Collective has industry collaboration at its centre, aiming to bridge the gap between niche sustainable fashion enthusiasts and the mainstream audience to keep sustainability at the forefront. It promotes the need for everyone across the supply chain, from designers, manufacturers, retailers and the consumer to all play their part in creating a more sustainable environment.

woollen yarn

Sustainable practices need to be introduced across the whole process

Despite these and other initiatives that are being launched, there is still the problem with the economic model that forms the bedrock of the fashion world, as well as other consumer goods. Advertising and promotions bombard us daily telling us we need to buy, buy, buy. All too often many products can be purchased for a cheap price, will get worn a couple of times, only surviving one or two washes before they are discarded, usually into landfill. No thought to those who made the clothes in the first place or how well they are being paid, how well they are being treated in the workplace.

And we’re none the happier for it.

The True Fashion Collective does acknowledge the need for us to consume less, wash clothes less and love our wardrobes more citing a Nielsen report detailing the power that we as consumers have. In a report from 2015 it found that 66% of global consumers were willing to pay more for sustainable brands, and that figure rises to 73% for global millennials.

But should it be just down to the consumer? Changing the mindset needs to evolve across the board. As consumers we should be able to buy sustainable products without thinking about it, at price points available to all. If the industry is to truly collaborate designers and manufacturers should be looking at ways to reduce their environmental and social impacts within their processes. Without this the term sustainable fashion is a contradiction in terms.

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Don’t forget the humans

At yesterday’s VentureFest in Bristol there was much to learn about how digital technology is improving peoples’ lives and how it will help in the future.

The event was the culmination of a series of workshops, seminars and projects held over the year to look at how smart cities can develop. Smart cities being those that use technology to enable connections with people, places and experiences, creating a vibrant, inclusive, resilient and inclusive economy.

Technological development is moving at a fast pace and it’s difficult to predict where we will be in two years time, let alone in five. While it was interesting and useful to find out about how different technologies are being used today in cities around the world I did find there was a lack of conversation about the people. As a thought leadership conference there were a lot of high-level discussions and plenty of examples of actual doing, rather than just talking about it which is often prevalent at this types of events. But where was all the detail about working with the people who need to use the technology to make the process work effectively?

As a professional involved in behaviour change and engagement it is important not to forget the human element in all of this. There are two arguments here. One, just get on with it provide a solution and people will use it anyhow if it is useful enough. A ‘build it and they will come’ scenario. It worked with Apple – none of us knew we needed a tablet, after all. Or secondly, talk to the people, gather information to identify the real problems they are facing and work with them to provide a suitable solution.

cartoon group of stick figures

Isn’t it better to engage with people to find out what the real problems are?

Photo credit: Chachas – Free Stock Images

I can see the benefits of both arguments. In some cases you are not going to persuade everyone to change the way they behave. Better to provide a solution that works, is easy to use and provides economic, environmental and social benefits. But working with people can create better engagement and inclusion.

A prime example is the current debate over recycling and how to encourage people to recycle properly. There’s no denying the progress that has been made in the UK since the turn of the century but surveys are still being published detailing the sense of confusion of what to put into the recycling bin and what not to. The latest report, by Viridor, highlights peoples’ desire for more guidance on how to segregate their materials and understanding about what happens to the resources once they have been collected from the doorstep.

It’s interesting to see within this survey the public is willing to change their habits, to use refillable packaging, if only they could find somewhere to do so, and would be happy to pay to use a Deposit Return Scheme, a concept that has finally caught the imagination within Whitehall.

This report yet again demonstrates the need for creative engagement to get the message across. Let’s take advantage of this willingness to learn, this eagerness to adopt new ways of purchasing products. As an industry there is still a way to go, particularly as we’re facing a future of limited resources with an ever-growing population. On limited budgets this could be difficult but investing money into this now will be less costly than the alternative.

All this technological development is great but will be meaningless if you can’t get the humans to use it.


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Getting the right message

What sort of message do you send out to attract customers? Does is demonstrate the type of business your are?

Getting the message right is crucial to help grow your business and it is worth spending time developing your values and how these will be reflected in the communications you make. Most of all it will help make you stand out from the crowd, which is becoming increasingly difficult each day as we are bombarded from all angles.

A brainstorming session is a good place to start to formulate your ideas and these can be honed into a few messages after a short time. It is useful to find one key statement that represents what the business is really about and use additional phrases to support and expand this central theme.


Are you sending out the right message to your customers?

Photo credit: Natalipopova2011: Freestock Images

Once the key message and supporting phrases have been agreed you can use them when creating content within your communication strategy. When generating copy don’t forget to be mindful that it will be useful and engaging to those reading it.

Things to remember when creating content:

Good content:

  1. Highlights benefits over features
  2. Provides solutions
  3. Information provided in a succinct manner
  4. Includes images or video
  5. Features content generated by others

Bad content:

  1. Talks only about the business
  2. Not specific for targeted customers
  3. Is only about the hard sell
  4. Waffly and difficult to understand
  5. Difficult to engage with


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Call for political and business leadership to curb pollution

UN Environment is calling for greater political leadership and engagement to ensure a pollution-free planet for all.

In its latest report Towards a Pollution-Free Planet the organisation cites the need for political commitment across all government departments, not just the environment, and engaging with a number of stakeholders, including local government, business leaders, industries, trade unions and citizens to tackle the problem of pollution.

Technological developments and new management strategies have helped to reduce pollution in many parts of the world, but if consumption and production continues on a linear take-make-dispose model there are fears it will create a greater burden on an already polluted planet.

Greater resource efficiency, clean technologies and moving towards a circular economy are all helping to transform cities and countries but the capacity to adequately tackle pollution varies hugely across regions, social groups and genders, says the report. It adds that while change is being implemented it is limited in scope and scale with partial frameworks for global and regional environmental agreements. To date there are no legally binding agreements that systematically address pollution in all its forms, UN Environment says.

fire and smoke

UN Environment report Towards a Pollution-Free Planet calls for greater engagement and political commitment

The report calls for a mix of actions building on existing internationally agreed environmental goals that will drive innovation and social equity throughout the economy. Five messages are included:

  1. A global compact on pollution would make prevention a priority for all
  2. Environmental governance needs to be strengthened at all levels with targeted action on hard-hitting pollutants
  3. Promoting sustainable consumption and production through improved resource efficiency by prioritising waste reduction and management
  4. Investment in cleaner production and consumption will help to counter pollution
  5. Multi-stakeholder partnerships and collaboration are vital to develop technological and ecosystem-based solutions

Tackling pollution prevention and regulation compliance is seen as an opportunity to clean up everyone’s environment while creating new jobs and improving economic productivity.

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