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The Tricky Business of Evaluating Trade Shows

Updated: Feb 27

At ESM, we get asked about how you can prove the value or success of a trade show a lot – mainly because they can eat up a lot of your marketing budget and are therefore under a fair bit of scrutiny back at the office when the dust has settled.  So other than counting how many customers you met or leads your team generated, how can you truly evaluate whether the spend was justified?  The most effective way to demonstrate ROI is to produce a comprehensive post-show report.  This should focus on data from four key areas: event strategy, the results, spend and any improvements that could be made.


Using our guide below to help build the report, you will be able to clearly assess the show for your senior management team to review.



1) Executive Summary

It goes without saying that there will be some members of your management team who don’t get past the first page, so a summary of the report is always a good idea.  Include elements such as lead counts and their perceived quality, any press interviews your team gave, how many customers visited the stand and got introduced to your new products, an overview of the show in general in terms of footfall, competitors who over or under performed and any key vox pops from customers in response to your products.  Round it off with a summary of your recommendations for next year.


2) Corporate Goals & Initiatives

Set the scene a little to list out and clearly identify your show objectives, then go back through this list and analyse whether they were met.  It is important to identify both the good and bad here so that you can make recommendations for improvements in the future.  If you have done the show in previous years, look back at the company performance and see if you can do a show to show comparison.


3) Sales-Lead Report

Identify the total number of leads your team generated and then see if you can break that list down and grade the leads by quality, volume or likelihood to convert to a sale and if possible, what the potential value of those sales would be.  Identify any follow up that has been undertaken, or in the planning stages, then try to see if you can calculate a cost per head by dividing the total stand cost by the number of qualified leads (i.e. – leads who are likely to convert).



4) Media Overview

If you have participated in any Press Office activity, request a full report from the team regarding the titles who visited and whether they had any direct interest in your products.  Couple that with any interactions the press had with your team on the booth.  If you have a media listening tool, include any press that has been achieved since the show which you feel influenced that piece and then take it one step further and quantify the value of press mentions in terms of cost per column/page space. 



5) Stand Analysis

Give a thorough run down of your exhibition stand design, include any photographs and make note as to how effective the team felt the design, product displays, graphics and location were.  Make sure you take a holistic view and comment on whether the stand portrayed the image the company/brand wanted it to, which products were featured and how visible were they to passers-by and whether the key graphics messaging was clear and compelling.


6) Marketing, Promotions & Sponsorships

Detail your marketing plan which was put into action prior to the show to attract visitors to your stand.  Did you undertake any mass mailouts, launch a competition or free gift initiative and did you update all portals provided by the exhibition organisers with your company, brand and product information on time?  You can analyse the success of various activities by mentioning how many gifts were given or competition entries you received, or pre-show appointments booked in.  If you sponsored any show initiatives or goody bags, ensure you detail how you maximised that sponsorship opportunity with branded messaging, and if customers came to your stand mentioning they had seen the advertising activity.  If you sponsored a goody bag, include the list of buyers it went to as part of the lead generation created during the show.


7) Team Strategy

It is always important to review how the team performed during the show, whether you had the right number of staff present to help set up, work and break down the stand, if everyone was trained on all products and understood the shows objectives, and where improvements could be made.


8) Competitors

Summarise how you felt your company performed against your competitors – did they launch as many products as you, were their products stronger, did their stand design look better or worse than yours?  Highlight if you have any learnings from competitor activity which can be considered for next year or during the next few months of trading as counter competitive strategies. 


9) Budget

It is best here to highlight 3 key things:  What the original budget was, what the total spend was and what was spent the previous year.  Identify any cost cutting you achieved and if you went over budget, explain the reasons for this and how it can be prevented in the future.



10) Conclusion

Roll up the entire report and indicate the overall strength and performance of the show, giving reasons for your conclusion. If you have undertaken the show in previous years, compare performance and rank the show against others you may do.  Identify what you want to continue doing and where the improvements lie, not forgetting your recommendations for activities next year.

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