In a time when corporations and governments are faced with doing more with less marketing resources, knowing that your exhibit program is achieving a positive ROI or ROO is crucial.
When you examine your results you want to be sure you have answered the Evaluation question, “How do we know if our exhibit program is doing what it is suppose to do?”
Simple measurement does not tell you the whole story. For example if you set your objectives too low, meeting them does not really prove anything. If you set them too high then missing them also leaves you with an information shortfall. In either case do you have enough information on how to improve your performance in the future.
While there are excellent formulas and guidelines to help you set focused, measurable and realistic objectives it’s not an exact science.
One of the biggest mistakes many exhibitors make is going back to the same event year after year and doing the same thing. It doesn’t work that way. I am not suggesting you have to go back to the drawing board and start over each time but often making subtle changes can fix what is not working and strengthen what is. That is what evaluation is all about.
Here are two methods of evaluating your exhibit program that you might want to try.
Internal post-show evaluation.
There are many people associated with the show who would be able to provide meaningful feedback on your exhibit performance. These can include your staff, senior executives, show management or suppliers. Prior to the show contact the people you would like feedback from and ask if they are up to the challenge. Then send them a list of the criteria you are interested in getting feedback on.
This can include such things as:
How you compared to the competition
The look of your booth i.e. Signage, lighting, general appearance
The flow of the booth
The use of draws, give aways, collateral
The proficiency of your booth staff
The quality of the event visitors
The quality of the show as a whole
The quality of related activities such as the education program.
Evaluate each item on a scale of one to five with one being less than satisfactory and five being excellent. Then create a form which includes all the questions and evaluation criteria you want your volunteers to look at. Remember to also include an area for additional comments and observations.
Prior to the show send the form to each person who has volunteered to help along with the instructions on how it’s to be completed, when it’s to be done and when it is to be returned to you.
As soon as the show is over, get in touch with each person and ask for their feedback.
With information from a number of different perspectives, you can analyse your overall performance and identify your strengths and weaknesses.
An independent evaluation
This type of evaluation falls under a variety of names including: mystery shopping, booth auditing or performance auditing. Regardless of the label the procedure is the same.
You contract with an experienced independent consultant who will work with you to create the criteria, visit your booth and your competitors’ booths as a show attendee and report back on how you fared with respect to the criteria.
Using an outside consultant means you will receive unbiased information. After the show the consultant will provide you with a quantitative report on how you measured up based on the weighting of your criteria and a qualitative report based on personal observations. The report should also include photographs. The results of this independent evaluation will help you set benchmarks for future performance. .
Both techniques work well. You can choose one or the other or both – it all depends on how seriously you look at your trade show program.
You will have many constructive ideas to incorporate in your future plans. Take this information and file it somewhere where it is easily accessible when you are planning your next show.