How can I stand out from the crowd at conferences and exhibitions?

Industry conferences and exhibitions help companies gain exposure and develop new leads. When budgets are tight, however, how can your company make the most of its investment in these events?

1. Prep your target market
People attend conferences to gain deeper insight into trends, hear more about new products and technologies, and learn from case studies.
Attendees are more likely to recall your brand touchpoints ahead of, during and after the conference, than they are to remember the great freebie they got at your stand,” says Ronell Swartbooi, account manager, DUO Marketing and Communications.
That’s why it’s important to have the conference organisers explain every marketing opportunity available, and then to get creative. Standing out from the crowd is not about on the day only, when you have a brief period of time to capture the audience; it’s about creating anticipation and interest before the event, and following up afterwards.

2. Create immersive experiences
On the day, your stand needs to reflect what makes your business unique.
A client who manufactured point-of-sale terminals for informal traders had an engineer on standby to answer questions and also set up a section with a merchant selling his wares, giving visitors a real sense of the impact of the product,” Swartbooi says. “People tweeted about the stand because it was a unique experience, and that encouraged others to visit.
Another popular tactic is getting LinkedIn specialists at stands to optimise guests’ profiles. “At one event there were queues of people waiting to spend a few minutes with these experts,” says Glenn van Eck of events company Magnetic Storm. “It was in the queue that the brand engaged with the waiting audience and built relationships.

3. Base your freebies on real needs
Giveaways are a great extra to offer conference delegates.
Give people access to things they might need on the day,” says Swartbooi. “Host a branded charging station for mobile phones and tablets, for example.
Good quality pens, memory sticks, T-shirts, caps and bags are always popular. For companies with a bigger budget, a mobile charger or wireless mouse is also always a hit.
Make sure that freebies, like your stand, and other elements of visual presence, are eye-catching and use unique colour schemes that align with your brand.

4. Align presentations with business objectives
Time is money. If you are going to speak, make it worth your while to spend time developing a presentation, and make it worth attendees’ time to listen to what you have to say. Ensure you have
something worth talking about, and try to tell a story rather than give a presentation.
To be noticed by conference organisers, and asked to speak, will depend on your positioning as a thought leader.
Every brand touchpoint, including staff and stakeholders, can influence perceptions of your calibre as a speaker,” says Swartbooi. “One of my clients was approached after an industry article of his was published. Another was contacted after a Google search on a keyword related to his company’s offering, and one was recommended by someone he engaged with at an informal event. Building a speaker profile is a long-term investment.