Successful Exhibiting Training Seminars

 

 

Stuart Livingston, who Colin interviews here, is the CEO of two highly successful Consumer Shows.

Frequently there is a gulf of understanding between Show Organisers and Exhibitors.  Here Stuart reaches out with solid advice and thoughts as to opportunities exhibitors often miss - from an Organiser's viewpoint.

Invaluable!

Best of Show™ assists Exhibitors to attain the highest ROI at trade and consumer shows - anywhere.  Our seminars and educational materials have been developed and are maintained by Colin Green. Colin is a Certified Trade Show Marketer (CTSM). 

Information on Best of Show™ seminars, workshops, eBooks, DVDs and CDs are on our website, www.bestofshow.com.  

Or telephone Colin in Sydney, Australia (02)9589-2000.  Our New Zealand telephone (04)570-2000 redirects to Sydney.

 

Colin:              Good afternoon Stuart. I understand that you're the CEO of the Caravan & Camping Association of South Australia.  Is that correct?

 

Stuart:             Yes, that’s correct.

 

Colin:              Can you tell me which shows the Caravan & Camping Association does there in Adelaide?

 

Stuart:             We organize two events. We organize our premier event, the SA Caravan & Camping Show, which is actually held in conjunction with another event that we organize called the Australian Outdoor Adventure Show. Those two events are held at the same time, around the end of February. We also have our mid-year event, which is called the Caravan & Camping Mid-Year Sale and that’s held early August.

 

Colin:              Tremendous. How long have those shows been going?

 

Stuart:             The main show in February has been going since 1967 and I don’t have a definite date on the Mid-Year event at the moment.

 

Colin:              So the Mid-Year event has probably been going for at least 10 years?

 

Stuart:             Yes, probably round about 15 or 20 years, most likely.

 

Colin:              Tell me about your exhibitors. What sorts of exhibitors do you get and what sorts of products and services are exhibited at your shows?

 

Stuart:             Predominantly, we get exhibitors that specialize in caravanning and camping equipment. That ranges from camping stores and caravan accessory stores selling knick-knacks like plates, bowls and air conditioners, up to caravan and motor home dealers as well.

 

There’s pretty much everything in between. We predominantly have caravan and camping exhibitors there; however, saying that, we also get a few exhibitors that are targeting the 55-plus market and they also come to the show pretty much every year.

 

Colin:              When you say the 55-plus market, overall what sorts of visitors or buyers are you getting? You’ve given a demographic of the age that they’re aiming at is 55-plus. Are you getting younger people as well, I’m going to assume?

 

Stuart:             The Caravan & Camping Shows are known throughout Australia for attracting an older demographic. Here in South Australia, the idea behind introducing the Australian Outdoor Adventure Show with the Caravan & Camping show was to build that market, to get people interested in camping earlier and in a way, to try to bring in younger products.

 

Now, that has worked by increasing our 18 to 35 demographic by approximately 9%, which is fantastic for building the market and getting young people involved in caravanning and camping, but really our core market is still that 55-plus.

 

Colin:              I understand. What sorts of things do you do to attract your market, in terms of seminars, rallies, food cook-offs, or anything like that?

 

Stuart:             The main area with the Australian Outdoor Adventure Show, which like I said, is held with the SA Caravan & Camping Show, we bring in product and promote it as more of a younger, energetic event where we have rock climbing walls, scuba diving demonstrations, mountain bike and motor bike demonstrations. We use those types of demos.

 

In terms of the 55-plus market, they are interested in things like seminars and demonstrations.  We find that the 55+ visitors stay, on average, between four to five hours, which is probably one of the longest times compared to any other consumer show here in Adelaide.

                       

Colin:              Both of them sound like really exciting shows, to be honest with you! How big are the shows in terms of the number of exhibitors and visitors, and the length of them as well?

 

Stuart:             Our main event in February, the SA Caravan & Camping Show, attracts about 240 to 250 exhibitors. We have to actually cap the size of the stand because it’s such a successful event and we have a clear obligation to giving our own association members exhibition space at the show. We basically cap the size of their site just so we can fit everybody in, which is a fantastic problem to have, but it’s a fairly difficult one to manage, if you can understand.

 

Colin:              Absolutely.

 

Stuart:             In terms of public attendance, that show gets between 37,000 and 40,000 visitors, which is well over half attended shows per capita for caravan and camping events in Australia.  

 

Colin:              How long do the shows run?

 

Stuart:             Our February event is for five days and our Mid-Year event goes for three days.

 

Colin:              What advice would you have from an organizer’s viewpoint to exhibitors as to how to do really well, how to really stand out at the show?

 

Stuart:             I’ll give you my advice from my own point of view. One thing I would say is to have a really clear aim in mind—what do you want to achieve from the show? If it’s a certain number of sales or a certain amount of leads, define that, and then break it down into daily objectives or targets. You’ll find working day to day will be a lot easier than trying to work for that main target at the end of the day.

 

I also think when I actually walk around, I see fantastic staff; I also see staff that could do with a bit of training. I think choosing the right type of staff for your stand is very important and to also rotate your staff to keep them fresh. There isn’t any point having a staff member out there working from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for five days straight if they become tired and lose their drive.

 

You’ll find that staff member’s morale probably drops a bit and their effectiveness does as well. I also think it’s good to actually tailor the staff for the specific demographic you’re aiming at. If you’re trying to aim at a younger crowd, there isn’t any point in having an older, say, 55-plus person trying to sell to someone who’s 18 to 25.

 

I think staffing is probably one of the really key areas. But I also understand that with the Caravan & Camping Show, a lot of the businesses that come are family or small businesses, so it is very difficult to open up the store or the yard and to also staff the Caravan & Camping Show. I also think that building a database of potential clients is extremely important.

 

That may be in the form of trying to organize a “come and try” day. So you work at the show, which opens at 10:00 a.m., and then you grab all your leads and inquiries for a “come and try” day the following day in the morning. There is a kayak supplier who was doing that and doing it very well.

 

He would meet them down at the beach at 7:00 a.m. and take them for a paddle. He found that the rate of sales, once he’s got them down there in the kayak, were about 90% who would buy the product once he actually had them in there, trying it. Again, build a database, which then pretty much becomes your bible for all your post-show activity.

 

Colin:              I find that very interesting because you’re talking about building a database and then inviting the database to the show? Many exhibitors seem to go to shows expecting that the organizer will bring 100% of the audience. You’re saying that the exhibitor should be doing a lot of stuff. What else do you think they should be doing?

 

Stuart:             The gentleman with the kayak was really building a database at the show and then inviting them down to a “come and try” event. We can get lots of qualified buyers to a show. We know that from all of our surveys and our stats. However, as a business, I do think there is a lot you can do to actually increase your success sales wise or lead-generation wise at the event.

 

I think it probably starts about four to six weeks prior to the event. I can talk on behalf of the Caravan & Camping Shows because they are very successful. People wait for the events to buy products from them. What I would suggest is that businesses start to pre-promote that they’re going to be at the show, maybe four weeks out.

 

I know that’s difficult because there are people looking to buy straight away, but if a person doesn’t buy, invite them to come and see you down at the show. I also think pre-promoting can be done through any hard copy correspondence, where you put in a note and say, “Come and see us at the Caravan & Camping Show.”

 

You can put it on your website. Your staff should be advised to tell clients over the telephone. You can easily make up an auto responder on your e-mails and again, you can also use the database that you’ve currently got of your clients to invite them to come and see you at the show and to sell them maybe an upgrade or an add-on to their previous purchases.

 

Colin:              That sounds like pretty good advice to me. A lot of organizers I speak to just about pull their hair out because they say they’ve got an exhibitor manual, they put all sorts of important stuff in there, and it’s not always used very well. You have an exhibitor manual, I take it?

 

Stuart:             Yes, we do.

 

Colin:              What proportion of your exhibitor base do you think would read it, and is it really important for exhibitors to read it? What’s in it?

 

Stuart:             The exhibitor manual is the bible for us in the office here, whereas as an exhibitor, all your forms are in there to, for example, order different power supplies. There are also obligations for occupational health and safety, which for your own staff is very important that you read those and you brief your staff pre move-in and also during the event.

 

If you go through your exhibitor manual correctly and properly, you’ll adhere to all the due dates, so you’ll have a lot less chance of attracting any penalties for late orders because we’re finding that we have to pass those on because we are also getting those charged from our suppliers.

 

We’ve recently changed our event times. Our show has been 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. for the past 15 years and we’ve recently changed it to a 9:00 a.m. start and 5:00 p.m. close and that caught a lot of exhibitors unawares and caused a few problems, like with staffing in the morning. Like I said, everything is in the manual.

 

We also had information like discount coupons for dining out if you’re here. We have a location guide for stationery supplies, hardware stores, post offices. We try to get as much information in there as we can to actually save you time and money.

 

Colin:              Do you have forms within your exhibitor manual to enable exhibitors to source tickets for customers they really want to come to the show?

 

Stuart:             We presupply our exhibitors with free entry tickets to the show, but there’s also the opportunity there to prepurchase tickets and the smart exhibitors are using those to ask current clients back to the show, back to their stand, to sell them a new product or additional products.

 

Colin:              I’d like to turn to the media. When I talk about media, I’m talking about radio, television, newspapers, magazines, newsletters—these sorts of places where many business people want to get editorial. Of course, when they send information to the reporters, they hope it will be picked up, but it may not necessarily be; in fact, usually it’s not.

 

Is there anything you can do, bearing in mind that you have important shows in South Australia? I’m going to assume that the editors themselves would actually be contacting you to see if you’ve got any material. Is this correct? Of course, you can never promise that any editorial will get into any particular publication, but can you markedly assist?

 

Stuart:             Yes. We actually send out an e-mail leading up to the show, asking for any press release items, if you’ve got new products or new models coming out. We do find it’s a bit of an uphill battle, I’ll be honest, but we do suggest to people that are supplying this information (which is also unfortunately few and far between), that they try to keep their product or release linked to a fairly topical issue.

 

A topic could be the environment, luxury, or technological advances like something to save time. We find there’s a lot more success doing it that way than just promoting a particular model of caravan or a tent, for instance.

 

Colin:              You say few and far between—you’re telling me that few exhibitors actually take that up?

 

Stuart:             Yes. We only get a handful every year and then people do get some exposure through the media, of course free of charge. Then we get a lot of other exhibitors saying, “How come I wasn’t involved? How can I get involved?”  

 

It’s simply a matter of reminding them, “Did you send us any information for PR releases or not?” It does work, but it’s a shame that not many exhibitors take the time to read an e-mail and action it with all the contact details and model information as well. 

 

Colin:              And images too. 

 

Stuart:             Exactly. 

 

Colin:              Sounds like a great opportunity which is left on the table by many exhibitors. When you say a handful, say you’ve got 250 exhibitors, what sort of numbers are you talking about? 

 

Stuart:             Between five and ten I’d say. 

 

Colin:              Oh, that is a big opportunity. What other promotional opportunities do you create surrounding your show? Any special features in media, web features or a wall presentation, showcases, prize draws, et cetera? 

 

Stuart:             We have a lot of demonstrations at the show, whether it’s the rock climbing or the mountain bike and motor bike demonstrations or seminars, which are really good opportunities for exhibitors to become involved in if you supply a product or to sponsor certain areas. We also have an awards night where exhibitors then use that award that they may have won, as a press release, with which we have had success before.  

 

We also run a competition where you have to travel around the show and validate your entry form at particular locations. Exhibitors also have the chance to supply products for that as prizes and that also gets publicity on our website, on our e-newsletters and on the television commercials. 

 

 Colin:             So if it’s on TV commercials, they’d be getting free promotion just simply for providing a prize. Is that right? 

 

Stuart:             Exactly and also, our e-newsletter has got a distribution of about 22,000 now and we know that when we send information in the e-newsletter, responses increase a lot. It’s a very good opportunity where your press release information, the prizes you’re supplying and your sponsorship deals all get promoted through our e-newsletter, which is a very powerful and cost-effective tool for us. 

 

Colin:              Your e-newsletter would be very carefully targeted, wouldn’t it? 

 

Stuart:             Oh, exactly, because they’re all qualified caravaners and campers who have registered through our website. 

 

Colin:              With all of these opportunities you’ve got, you serve them up and hand these out to exhibitors. Can exhibitors make suggestions as to what they’d like to do at the show? 

 

Stuart:             For sure. We have a very open office at the show. We’re easy to find; we have exhibition area liaison officers walking around which are allocated to a certain area that they manage. So there are always lots of opportunities for exhibitors to pass on feedback or opportunities for us.  

 

Because the consumer shows are organized by the Caravan & Camping Industries Association of South Australia, in our general meetings that we have post show, the members of the association also have the opportunity to give feedback at that meeting as well. 

 

Colin:              So it’s not just you dishing it out; they can make things happen. 

 

Stuart:             Absolutely, yes. 

 

Colin:              As far as booking in concerned, you were saying that you have the luxury, I guess from your viewpoint, but not necessarily a luxury from an exhibitor’s viewpoint, of being booked out. On that basis, if someone wants to get really noticed within your show in terms of getting opportunities such as the press we’ve spoken about and other opportunities, and even indeed getting a spot, how far out should they book? 

 

Stuart:             The Caravan & Camping Shows nationally are very, very strong events and all the exhibition space sells out, as our event does here. Our event has a problem whereby demand for exhibition space outweighs supply and that’s why we cap the space. It is a very good problem to have, but it is a very challenging problem to actually manage.  

 

Saying that, Christmas is only two months before our event so it’s a very difficult time because people are understaffed and the caravan and camping trend is very busy during that Christmas period. So we have around three or four weeks, around Christmas time, when people don’t act on booking forms.  

 

We suggest, for the SA Caravan & Camping Show held in February, as soon as you get the booking information, make your enquiries straight away because the show does sell out. You’ll find it you make it post-Christmas, you’re probably going to miss out. 

 

Colin:              That’s probably very good advice for anyone going to almost any show anywhere, I would think, because you just never know if the show is going to sell out. Then it comes down to the space available too. 

 

Stuart:             Yes. That’s right. As I said, all of the Caravan & Camping Shows nationally are very, very strong and have a very strong brand and a very strong clientele that come back, as in repeat customers. 

 

Colin:              Given what we’re talking about, would you say there is a top spot to exhibit in? Is there one spot particularly better than another? 

 

Stuart:             We are very, very careful not to give anybody a bad stand or location. We purposely locate smaller exhibitors around busy areas and larger exhibitors further away from the main access points, because we know that  a large exhibitor taking 1,600 to 2,000 square meters will not be lost nor missed.  

 

                        We carefully plan the stands, we carefully allocate the stands and we look at the traffic flow from past experiences. We’re very careful in giving the right type of stand to the right type of exhibitor because we’re mindful that if that exhibitor has a bad experience and the allocated stand is to blame, which is pretty rare, we know that exhibitor may not come back. The best, most positive part of all our exhibitors is that they are advocates of our event. Their word-of-mouth to other potential exhibitors is very strong.  

 

Colin:              So if they do feel there’s an issue, it’s a good idea to have a chat and talk about it because it is, more than likely, going to be something they might have done taking up opportunities as opposed to where they were located. 

 

Stuart:             Sometimes during the event there can be little things like a bin being in the wrong place, which corrals or blocks off traffic in a different manner. You can have a bin near an upright pillar that creates a two-meter-wide barrier to coming into a certain area. We’re very mindful that all of those things are taken into account, and especially the location of the bins. 

 

Colin:              What proportion of an exhibitor’s annual sales are likely to be generated at one of your shows? 

 

Stuart:             We surveyed this last year and we asked that exact question. We were very, very happy to hear that around 30% to 40% of their annual sales are generated from the Caravan & Camping Show. 

 

Colin:              That’s very significant. I was talking to some caravan people up here in New South Wales and I asked the same question and I got exactly the same sort of numbers, so it’s hugely significant. 

 

Stuart:             Yes. I guess it’s very important to keep in mind also, that it’s not just generating a sale at the event—which the show is very successful at doing and so are the exhibitors trained and briefed and prepped; all the systems and procedures are there to catch a sale at the show—but it’s also post-event. It’s actually getting those clients back into your yard. They may not buy at the show but they’ve seen it at the show and they come back, say, three to six months later.  

 

Colin:              Have you any tips as to how soon exhibitors should follow up after the show, and also how they might go about it? 

 

Stuart:             I know the smarter way is to implement post-event sales procedures straight away. Even when the businesses are moving out of the venue, there’s somebody in the yard chasing up details pretty much straight away. I would suggest, and very basic sales training would teach you, to actually contact those potential clients and thank them for coming down to see you.  

 

Get their details into a database, and keep in touch with them regularly, so when they do consider making that purchase, your particular brand and business is always top of mind. 

 

Colin:              I’ve seen some really interesting statistics, primarily out of the USA, but I think they ring very true here too, in that around 83% of buyers are never followed-up after a show. How would you feel about that sort of number? Would you think it would be right? 

 

Stuart:             Without sounding rude, I walk around the shows a lot and I see some of the staff that are working there (and I can only talk about what’s happening at our shows), but I know at the show there’s a lot of opportunity for improvement for exhibitors in regards to their staffing, their attitude, systems and procedures at the event itself. Post-event, I wouldn’t be surprised. 

 

Colin:              Of course one of the major reasons we’re having this conversation and sharing it with people is to give people things to think about and say, “Yes, I can do even better.” Even though they may, in your show’s case, get 40% of annual sales from the show, they could ask themselves “how much higher can I go?” 

 

Stuart:             You brought up a lot of interesting comments in your training about post-sales and follow-up at post-event, and I think it’s probably something where the majority of exhibitors have got a lot of room for improvement. 

 

Colin:              This, of course, is just sheer encouragement to say, “You can do so much better. Go out there and take care of that.” It’s not particularly arduous.  The big deal after a show for exhibitors is they have so much mop-up and catch-up to do because they’ve taken time off to do the show and now they’ve got to try and catch up.  It’s tremendously important that they follow-up immediately because otherwise leads tend to be forgotten and this leads to major embarrassment and loss of confidence in the business. 

 

Stuart:             Businesses spend a lot of money, time and resources to exhibit at a consumer show and their mindset should be that their sales process also follows after the event - to follow up. I think it’s important that they allocate time and resources for the post-event follow-up. 

 

Colin:              Right. I agree so much. Stuart, you’ve been fantastic and I really thank you so much for your time. Tell me, what are the web addresses of your shows and/or the web address for the Association? 

 

Stuart:             The Association’s address is www.CaravanAndCampingSA.com.au and the site for the Show is www.CaravanAndCampingShow.com. You’ll find that actually takes you through to the same website. As I said, if someone is enquiring about booking, get on to us early because it fills up fast. 

 

Colin:              Should they do that by phone or e-mail? 

 

Stuart:             There’s information there about how to become an exhibitor or they’re more than welcome to contact us direct. Our number is Adelaide, South Australia, 08 8260 4488. 

 

Colin:              Stuart, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate that and I believe that your candid comments as an organizer will help some of the exhibitors who read this, substantially. 

 

Stuart:             If we can help at all, please give us a call and we’ll try to give you as much advice and assistance as we can. 

 

Colin:              Thanks Stuart!

 

 

 

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