Exhibitions are Big Business, but many fall short of the objective exhibitors hope to achieve. In this article we examine why that is and what you can do to ensure exhibition success.

£19.2 billion is generated each year at trade shows and exhibitions. This traditional marketing method is still a key pillar in driving brand awareness, retaining existing customers and building relationships.

Here’s some more figures to consider:

265,000 Exhibitors participate in exhibitions each year across the UK

There are 1.3 million Business Events each year

13 Million people visit exhibitions each year generating £11 Billion in spend

£2.7 Billion is spent each year on goods and services by exhibitors


Why Do Companies Invest in Exhibitions?

In a recent study which surveyed thousands of exhibitors across the UK, the main reason given was

“Community building and education. It’s all about giving attendees reasons to want to be part of your brand”

More than a third of companies have planned to increase their spending in marketing and communications this year and expect this trend to continue.

marketing and communications

37% are looking for employees who are qualified in and have direct experience with communications.


Challenge One

Relying On Outdated Strategies

“The world is fast paced and the market is flooded, so you need to grab the audience’s attention in the most dynamic way possible. Building an arsenal of video, images, soundbites, GIFs and blog posts will help guide those customers in the most personalised and impactful way possible”

Darren Smallman, Head of Marketing, Brighton Fringe

Traditionally exhibitors will capture audience attention through 4 main channels in the hope of achieving exhibition success:

  1. Email Promotion
  2. Website Promotional Pages
  3. Paid advertising on social media
  4. Leaflets

Although these may generate a result, their effect is reducing –

  • On average 90 emails are received each day by office workers
  • The average website converts at a rate of 2%
  • Paid social advertising is becoming more expensive as expertise is required to keep up with algorithm/policy changes
  • Industry standard for leaflet conversion is 1%


“Now that Facebook has vowed to de-emphasise content from brands its increasingly likely that event organisers will have a tough time getting in front of audiences”



Challenge Two

Lack Of Content = Lack Of Audience = Lack Of Sales

 “People want as much bang for their buck as possible and events must be supported by pre and post sales offerings”

-Lindsey Fish, Founder and CEO, Mum’s Enterprise

A large percentage of exhibitors fail to create personalised, engaging and meaningful content that can be shared across multi media platforms by advocates of their brand.

Larger brands understand the importance of this and how it can differentiate them from the competition by creating extravagant “activation’s” to ensure exhibition success.  These not only generate an element of curiosity, excitement and fun to a product or service, but they also drive opportunities to create press release worthy promotional content and engage people in the hope of gaining viral sharing, thus reaching an audience far greater than that of the show itself.

Oreo completed one such campaign in which people could 3D print their favourite flavour Oreo.

oreo promotion

Example of a great way to engage, share and capture from a large brand -https://blog.bizzabo.com/experiential-marketing-examples

The catch? Everything had to be communicated and shared through the audiences/users Twitter account creating an enormous amount of visibility for the brand and therefore greatly increasing the exhibition success and return on investment.

Smaller budgets often restrict a company’s ability to maximise their exposure to this lucrative marketing channel and subsequently they rely on traditional methods of data capture and follow up.


Shareable, memorable content matters because it widens the net of your potential client base. Not just in the numbers, but also in the type of individuals who are aware of your product or service.

An audience can be broken into 5 key components –

chet holmes pyramid

*Chet Holmes – Defining your audience

Only 3% currently want to “buy now”.  Larger brands understand that at some point the other 67% ( not including the definitely not’s ) will either be persuaded once they know more or are close to buying. Exhibition success means making sure your marketing reaches the significantly larger percentage.

Shareable, relevant, personalised content speaks to the 70% rather than just the 3% that many smaller companies focus on. 


Challenge Three

Expectations Have Changed

 A traditional exhibitor presentation will include –

  • Product Description
  • Value Proposition
  • Data Capture
  • Follow Up Date Agreed

Although tried and tested, on its own this strategy is expected to have significantly reduced in its effectiveness both this year and in years to come.


Millennial’s now make up the largest percentage of the work force and will soon become the largest consumer market.

They are attracted to brands that foster a sense of community. They value experiences far more than they value things –

“80% – Number of millennials surveyed who would sacrifice a “thing” in their lives to fund going to more festivals/events”

–  Eventbright

This is the rise of the ‘experience economy’ resulting in a shift in communication strategies and spending.

experience economy

As a result over 30% of exhibitors will be spending more on tools and technology this year to tackle this change and once again achieve exhibition success.


 In Summary…


  • Traditional methods of communicating with audiences at exhibitions create results that are short term and speak to the smallest section of the exhibition audience.
  • Consumer habits have changed dramatically with companies now having to become content creators and media managers
  • Finding and choosing high impact low cost strategies, tools and services is a mine field



6 Steps to avoid being in the failing 64% and achieving exhibition success


  1. Create a brand experience at your stand that is engaging, interesting, entertaining, relevant and personalised.
  2. Promote this engagement through all channels prior, during and post show.
  3. Ensure the brand experience communicates your core product/service as well as transacts with your audience through data capture
  4. Make sure your brand experience is memorable and share worthy and has the ability to immediately share each individuals experience through their social media and email platforms ensuring maximum reach
  5. All audience member experiences should be easily recorded and filed to enable you to re-engage with that audience post event.
  6. Ensure the brand experience activity is measurable so that you can calculate your ROI.


Who are we?


We are Smiley Booth and we have spent the past 10 years creating brand activations and exhibitor promotions for the biggest brands on the planet.


How do we serve our clients at exhibitions?


Our unique service creates a fully branded experience that is underpinned by bespoke content creation, data capture, social media sharing and email marketing. This enables our clients to have access to brand activation results that won’t break marketing budgets but ensure exhibition success.

Our services were recently engaged by Qatar Airlines for their stand at the Dublin Horse Show to celebrate 10 years of service internationally from Dublin Airport.

A spokesman for Qatar Airlines stated:

“Our stand was bar far the busiest at the entire show. We had a constant queue of people wanted to use the photo booth and the international scenes in each photo fitted our objective perfectly. We were able to give visitors to our stand a tangible keepsake, collect their email data and give them a reason to share their image online. The destinations in the photos also gave us a talking point to discuss with them. I wouldn’t hesitate to use Smiley Booth again the results far exceeded our expectations”.

Scratching your head as to how you can maximise your next exhibition stand and ensure you’re not in the 64% without breaking the bank?

Get in touch and we’ll be delighted to learn about you, your business and its goals for your next exhibition. We’ll be able to recommend some results based services that will ensure your next exhibition is significantly more successful than the last.