Preparing for the Expo: Setting Goals

June 1, 2006

By Marlys Arnold

They say that without a timeline and a plan of action, goals are merely wishes. And let’s face it … many of those “wishes” won’t come true. So how can you change that?

Before you exhibit, first ask yourself:

1. Why am I exhibiting?

2. Who are my targets?

3. What do I want to accomplish?

Make sure your exhibiting goals are realistic and measurable. Know exactly what you want to achieve while you’re at the show. And by the way, getting “lots of leads” isn’t a good enough goal. You’ve got to set a quantifiable goal that can be measured afterwards. Without that, how will you truly know when you’ve reached it?

Goals can take many different forms. For example, do you want to:

• gain qualified leads

• introduce new products

• gain media exposure or publicity

• shorten the sales process/on-the-spot sales

These are much more concrete goals, which can be clearly communicated to every member of your exhibit staff to get them all working toward the same objective. These goals can also be quantified. It’s not enough just to determine goals — there must be a way to measure them. Only then can you truly look back after the show and evaluate your return on investment (ROI). Measurable goals must have a number attached to them. Don’t just say you want “a bunch of leads.” How many is that? Instead say:

• gain 50 qualified leads

• receive attention in 3 media outlets

• generate $10,000 in on-the-spot sales

• hand out 100 samples

Be sure your goals are realistic and attainable. (Don’t set a goal of 200 leads if only 300 people will attend the show!) If goals are unrealistic, it will actually de-motivate your staff.

In fact, I usually set two goals: one baseline that is very achievable, and the other more of a “wouldn’t it be great if …” number. Often, I’ve landed closer to my “dream goal,” far exceeding my baseline. It simply takes a solid plan of action.

Creating a Theme:

Want to create a memorable theme for your next exhibit? Keep in mind the following tips and remember the point is to use a theme to reinforce your message. If attendees remember your great theme, but don’t (or can’t) associate it with your company and products, then you have failed.

• Make it current – tie in with trends or events (i.e. be inspired by TV shows or movies)

• Avoid cliches and overused themes

• Follow your corporate personality (consistency)

• Play off the show’s theme or location (At the MM&E Expo in St. Charles, several exhibitors got into the “global” theme, using props and even costumes for their staff)

• KISS (“Keep it smart and simple”)

• Get your whole team involved in the planning process

• Hit an emotional nerve; play on attendees’ memories of childhood or a great place.

Remember: Define what impression you want visitors to leave your booth with, and then design cues that will create that impression.

(These tips are adapted from the book, Build a Better Trade Show Image, by Marlys K. Arnold. Reprinted with permission.)

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