The ebb and flow of running a trade show is rarely an easy process to navigate year by year. One of the key concerns is getting exhibitors to sign up for a spot in the first place, and then delivering a compelling enough experience to convince them to return in future.

Dealing with this dilemma requires a mixture of strategies and solutions, put to work in the right way, so let’s go over a few of these to help turn your trade show into an enduring success.

Make The Booking Process A Breeze

Even if your event is attractive in principle, it might struggle to gain traction with prospective exhibitors if the process of actually registering interest and securing a place on the trade show floor is inconvenient, convoluted or time-consuming.

This is where online event booking software becomes an asset. Rather than relying on traditional, manual methods of orchestrating exhibitor sign-ups, you can instead streamline and automate as many aspects as possible.

In addition to being more convenient for exhibitors, such solutions also make it less hassle for you to oversee things at your end. So if you’ve got limited resources at your disposal, and you want to avoid the potential for booking errors, software designed to take care of event booking will be invaluable.

Embrace Effective Outreach

Before exhibitors can go about booking, they need to know your trade show exists and be enthused by what it has to offer them.

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There are a few ways to go about this, and it all depends on whether you are trying to court new exhibitors or reconnect with previous attendees.

Social media and content marketing are well suited to the former, as you can set your sights on a particular audience and craft campaigns designed to connect with them. Clearly you’ll have to pick platforms that suit your prospects and your industry niche, or you could be wasting your time.

Email marketing is useful for the latter, since you should have a sizable list of contacts if you have hosted a show in the past, and reengaging them with news of fresh opportunities to exhibit with you again should pay dividends, if handled correctly.

Whatever the context of your outreach, remember to focus on the main selling points your trade show has to offer. 

This could include things like the number of visitors you anticipate will attend, and the demographics they’ll fall into, along with details about what has made previous events so memorable, whether that’s leading keynote speakers or positive testimonials from established exhibitors.

Provide Premium Perks

At busy trade shows, exhibitors can feel that they are struggling to generate the momentum they desire, which in turn might make them less inclined to come back again further down the line.

This is where premium perks come into play. Giving exhibitors the option to pay extra and stand out from the crowd as a result will give bigger players a reason to get involved, and also let smaller fish have something to aspire to.

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You could serve up sponsorship deals or advertising agreements that will get brands noticed both at the event itself, and more broadly in any coverage it receives. You could create exhibition packages that allow certain brands to go above and beyond with their booths and stalls in terms of size, configuration, features and signage.

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Irrespective of how you plot out your perks, simply having any kind of added extra as an option will get prospects interested.

Prioritize Networking Opportunities

The entire purpose of a trade show is to allow exhibitors to connect with customers, clients and partners, bolstering their brand and also checking up on the competition as they do so.

This means that networking is the main order of the day for all attendees, and as an organizer you can be proactive in enabling this, rather than just assuming that it will all come about organically.

Exhibitors will appreciate being given structured opportunities to network, particularly if these are scheduled outside of the usual opening hours of the event. Post-show drinks receptions, parties, concerts or straightforward networking get-togethers are all part and parcel of this, so don’t neglect to include them!

The Bottom Line

As well as implementing strategies that are aimed at attracting and retaining exhibitors, your other goal as an organizer must be to see whether what you are doing is having the right effect. 

If you have made changes but your exhibitor numbers don’t increase, or retention rates even fall, you have to consider what’s causing this, and take remedial action.