If we’re being honest, trade show managers don’t always conduct daily business with their exhibitors in mind. A recent webinar held by The Expo Group brought to light some ideas for improving lines of communication between these two groups, and one aspiration of note was building a show website that better suits the exhibitors’ needs.
“Why don’t we get our software developers to think like an exhibitor?” That was a question posed by industry journalist Michael Hart, who led the webinar along with The Expo Group’s Dana Freker Doody.
“There are a few things [exhibitors] need to know, such as [information about] signage, electricity, furniture — so why don’t they make that easier to find?” he continued.
Another issue with the exhibitor side of things when it comes to a show’s website: Exhibitors are often filling out many forms in advance of the show, and when they send them in, they don’t always receive a confirmation of receipt. Or if they do, said Hart, there’s an inconsistency from show to show, so they don’t always know what they’re walking into.
You can’t change the sometimes rocky show manager/exhibitor relationship overnight, but there are some things show managers can do to make exhibitors’ jobs a little easier, without significant investment in time or resources.
We turned to two industry professionals — Jason McGraw, former senior vice president of expositions for AVIXA, and Craig Moritz, an event sales and management veteran — to get their take on the essential elements that all trade show websites should have. In addition to functionality, it should also be user-friendly and look nice, too.
“A show’s website is typically the first place someone is exposed to the event’s brand, so it should be colorful, informative, easy to navigate and provide a great overview of what the show is about,” says McGraw. Ultimately: “It should make a compelling case for why attendees and exhibitors should go to the event.”
1. An easy URL website address
It should clearly indicate the name of the event, says McGraw. For example, acmeshow2019.com
2. A strong graphical header on the homepage
In addition to matching the show’s brand and theme, it’s essential that this header also clearly indicates show dates and location (including venue and city), says McGraw.
3. A simplified menu
McGraw says websites should not have more than five or six top-level, drop-down menus (or large buttons) that link to pages with the essentials, such as event info/why attend, content/education, exhibitors and media.
4. An in-your-face registration button
It sounds like a no-brainer, but you need to make it easy for people to sign up for your event, says McGraw. Put a large registration button at the top of the homepage and all interior pages. Along those lines, also create a page that makes a compelling case for why someone should register, including facts and figures detailing what the show is about, attendee demographics exhibitor product categories, etc.
5. An easy-to-submit exhibit and/or sponsorship agreement
With online applications, it is not always intuitive for exhibitors — especially those new to the show or who do not exhibit much — so to fill this out, so it creates unneeded frustrations. The solution: Make it simpler, and provide a method of confirming receipt. Essentially, “make it easy for a client to give you money,” says Moritz.
6. An accessible exhibitor list
Ironically, some shows make it hard to find their exhibitor list, pricing and floorplan, says Moritz. Always include a clear button that links to this information.
7. A clean, comprehensive exhibitor service manual
Larger events can be very complex with multiple venues and different nuances within those venues, says Moritz. If the show stays in the same venue year over year, the manual is easier to hone; however, for shows in a different venue annually, clearly highlight the unique areas for exhibitors — especially when it comes to union labor and the specific restrictions therein.
8. A clear move-in schedule
Exhibit hours and the move-in/move-out schedule should be also be clearly laid out and easy to understand. This is especially true for shows with staggered exhibit hours, says Mortiz.
9. An FAQ section
Break this up by size of exhibitor, says Moritz; small exhibitors are going to have very different questions and needs than the larger exhibitors. Putting together solid FAQs for both is great customer service that saves you time in the long run.
10. An easy-to-spot search bar
Put it at the top of every page, says McGraw. The last thing you want to do is make visitors to your site hunt for a search function — you’ll lose them.
The concept of “show, don’t tell” applies here. Rather than writing about how great your event is, let past exhibitors and attendees do it for you. Sprinkle in testimonials from previous years throughout your site, says McGraw, or even better, include video testimonials showing why your event was worth attending.
What other essential elements of trade show websites did we miss? Let us know in the comments or share with us on Twitter, @TSNN_com_US.
To watch the archived version of The Expo Group webinar “Increased Velocity: How To Compel Exhibitor Loyalty In Today’s Fast-Paced World,” go here.