Trends & Features

Are you attending the right trade fair?

I’ve organised and attended hundreds of exhibitions all over the world and I thought I’d use this article to share my experiences about how they work. My aim is to give you some insight so that you can better evaluate the events that you attend or are considering attending. I believe that in an increasingly digital world, a good event can provide much-needed face-to-face contact with your customers. Events are also great for networking, market updates and some team bonding in the bar afterwards! Hopefully by giving you an organiser’s perspective on things I can help you decide which events will yield the maximum returns for your business.

Good events will originate from a sound business plan. The organiser spots a gap in the market and a way to exploit it and they then build their value proposition from there. The organiser should have a detailed plan for the following four areas:

• Content (how the on-site experience will be attractive to visitors)
• Marketing (how the event will be promoted to visitors)
• Revenue generation (how the organiser will make money and who from)
• Operations / delivery (logistics and budgeting)

When evaluating an event, ask the organiser about their plans for each of these areas so you can evaluate their likelihood of success and spot opportunities to piggyback their promotional campaigns. An event that is genuinely different, has a clearly defined niche and an effective engagement strategy is always more likely to succeed. Furthermore, any event that doesn’t have a 12-month cycle (the time between the official launch and event delivery) is at an immediate disadvantage – if the organiser is in a rush then the event is more likely to fail.

My personal view is that the audience always comes first – the organiser should know their market, be passionate and have a genuine understanding of what the audience needs. An organiser with a genuine passion is more likely to create a great event.

Here are a few things to check when evaluating an event:


Is the event in an appropriate venue for the size of audience? The transport links, catering, parking, size and quality of the venue will influence who attends and how long they stay for.


Has the organiser put thought into the layout of the exhibition hall or networking areas? Stands should be equally spaced apart and food stations or feature areas spread evenly across the hall.

Market research

What market research has the organiser done and are they happy to share it with you?

X factor

Are there any speakers or features that are genuinely exciting and will attract a crowd? Opening keynotes from ministers, celebrities or royalty can encourage the audience to arrive early, extending the ‘busy period’ of the show.


Has the organiser committed funds to key marketing and content activities? Make sure they put money down before you do.


Is the show at the right time of year? When do your customers typically make purchasing decisions?


Each day at the show should be profitable in its own right –an event that is open longer than two days should really have more than 10,000 visitors to justify the extra exhibiting expense.


Innovation won’t make or break an event, but it certainly is the difference between a good event and a great event! Here are a couple of examples of where innovation can really make an event stand out:

The payments punch up at Payexpo

The feedback from previous years was that the content was a little dry and boring so to liven things up we put an Olympic boxing ring in the centre of the hall and held debates in it. The speakers were encouraged to dress up, we had an umpire to keep the conversation on track and the audience voted to decide the winner.

The tricks of the trade theatre at The National Home Improvement Show

Our audience were interested in completing their own projects but often lacked the practical skills so rather than just telling them how to do it we showed them with live demonstrations in a purpose-built theatre.

Acute and general medicine

The big innovation here was pricing – we offered delegates CPD points by delivering a scale model that offered content for a tenth of what they normally spent. Overnight we became the biggest event for secondary care doctors.

So as many of you know I attempted to run 100 miles in 24 hours in June and I failed (only managing 80 miles). I raised a lot of money for a very worthy cause and it felt like a cheat that I didn’t actually complete the task. So on November 25, to hopefully raise a bit more money for the awesome Events for Namuwongo, I gave it another go.

Unfortunately I failed to make the distance in 24 hours, however, with great support I managed to complete the 100 mile mark in 29 hours 23 minutes! You can find out how it went at mikes-progress/running-100- miles-round-2 And if you like you can add a donation to Events for Namuwongo at fundraising/MichaelSeaman24

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