Lawler, who was promoting Bonnington, Kelkay and Vivagreen, said what made "everyone so optimistic and positive was not visitor numbers because although no figures have been published yet, it was clear to me that whilst busy at peak periods, it wasn’t markedly busier than previous years."
She said "perhaps people’s expectations have changed. The show is all about building business reputation and presenting a menu of retail opportunities. I think the stands and the staff on them are all better for it."
Lawler added: "With a complicated planning process and the organisational headaches involved in putting on a trade exhibition, it’s easy to lose your brand equity management amongst the stand builders, accommodation bookings, transport, deliveries and breakdown teams. You probably appoint a project manager to control all the logistical aspects of the show. My tip is to make sure you have a separate brand champion who keeps the whole event on message."
Lawler's other top tips:
• Get your overall brand hierarchy and core brand messages agreed and established well ahead of the show. Make sure you have brand graphics and ‘tone of voice’ clear and consistent so that there’s no debate when you’re in a mad hurry to get to print hours before a deadline.
• Train the team so that everyone understands the brand values and business objectives, and make sure they know how to communicate them. Create a business Q&A document and keep it up to date so that everyone is delivering the same consistent answers to customers, the media, competitors.
• Keep your core message and your brand identity clear and consistent in all your pre-show activity. Send all your customers an invitation before the show that reinforces your core brand messages.
• Take advantage of all the marketing and pr opportunities on offer. Brief the media partners both before the show and every day. Follow up afterwards with them too. Enter the new product awards showcase. Make sure you have great photography available of new products, key people, your stand.
• Agree your standards – make sure that visitors to the stand get a great reception from you and your staff. Agree rules for staff breaks, dress code, eating and drinking on the stand, slumping on the furniture, talking on the phone, staring at the laptop, curry the night before?
• Have a simple, quick and foolproof way of capturing customer data and actions – the scanning and database technology available is great, but have a paper back up system in case there’s a failure. You’ve invested a lot, make sure you capitalize on every lead.
• Follow up every visitor after the show and make sure the style and content remains ‘on brand’.
• Debrief thoroughly so that you can improve for next time.