How to avoid embarrassing mistakes at events
Events, like exhibitions and trade shows, may seem a little old-fashioned, but can still be an excellent tool as part of a wider marketing mix. Chosen wisely and marketed in advance, you can attract a targeted audience with the opportunity of spending quality one-to-one time with them. But as I’ve said in previous blogs… marketing success is all in the preparation.
When a small business owner decides to exhibit at an event, it can be a challenge to make sure nothing is forgotten, and that everything is done in time. I would even go as far as to say it’s a bit like planning a wedding. And I know, I’ve done both.
Find an events professional
Especially if you’ve never done it before, my top tip would be to seriously consider engaging a professional event organiser. Someone to guide you through the pitfalls, and make recommendations for the things you may not have thought of. They will even advise on follow-up, and help you identify what success will look like. This doesn’t have to be an expensive agency, there are lots of great value freelancers out there.
If your budget does not stretch that far, you should put a single person in charge. Have them create your own checklist so that nothing gets forgotten, in the trade, this is called a ‘control document’ and its objective is to be a comprehensive manual for everyone involved. It not only covers the big day, but the lead-up, and follow-up as well.
What goes in an event control document?
Here’s a quick list of the key headings that will help you remember not to forget something. Even if they don’t apply to your event, fill them in explaining why. Half the battle is knowing what you don’t need, as well as what you do.
- Date, venue and organisers: List everything about the venue including access times, parking, security restrictions, transport, directions, event organiser’s contact details (including in an emergency) and their PR company. List any relevant deadlines to with bookings, deliveries, loading/unloading and/or PR. Make a note of your number and exact dimensions of your space (including any height restrictions, number of power sockets available etc). A diagram can also be helpful here.
- Objectives: List the main objectives of the event, even set specific targets for data collection for example. Use this as a focus for your team so everyone is clear about why you are doing this event, and what you will get out of it. Include team contact details and roles and responsibilities for in the lead-up, during, and after the event.
- Your equipment: Make a list of all the equipment that you will be using on the day, or that which will be on loan from the venue (including the actual stand and any graphics, audio visual, spare mobiles, laptops, spare/back-up leads, sound or lighting requirements). Don’t forget Internet connections and mobile phone signal. Check what’s included in your stand fee and what is not. How will all this be set-up and taken down?
- Your marketing activity around the event: Make sure everyone knows how you are supporting this event before, during, and after the day itself. Also make sure your staff are aware of the key people you have invited, and that they know how to collect ‘data’. Make a list of all the sales and marketing literature, activity, uniforms etc., that you need to prepare in advance of the show, along with turn-around times and associated costs. If you are running a promotion, make sure everyone is fully aware of the terms and conditions and that your promotion is legal.
- Legals: Do you need insurance? Are you aware of the first aid facilities at the venue? What is your procedure in the event of an accident? Have your Health & Safety policy on hand and make sure your team has read it. Also, ensure you have the right paperwork with you if you intend to make sales on the day. Also be considerate when collecting personal details. Have your ‘permission marketing’ statement ready (Opt-in message).
- Accommodation, expenses and miscellaneous: Include details of any staff accommodation and expenses information. Ditto if you are putting guests up for the night. Advise of any refreshments that are (or not) on offer. Another top tip is to always have a small stationery and first aid kit on the stand (and don’t forget storage for handbags, coats and other paraphernalia). You just never know!
Events can be great marketing for small business. However, disorganisation can lead to embarrassment on the day and a waste of the time, money and energy put into it. These are the key headings you should consider as an absolute minimum to make sure you have your bases covered. If you think I have missed any points, please feel to contribute below.
For more small business marketing tips, you may like these:
- Blog: To ask for email permission or not »
- Presentation: Squeeze every penny from every marketing pound »
- Video: How social media supports the sales process »
- Case study: Building an online community »
Clear Thought Consulting works with small businesses, equipping them with the marketing strategies, suppliers, skills and set-up that they need to become bigger businesses. We do this by planning and delivering 12-month marketing transformation programmes – supporting a small business through a step-by-step process to making marketing pay. We firmly believe that when you can’t out-spend your competition, you have to out-think them.
Published on 14 February 2011