Why stakeholder engagement is vital to exhibiting success

Internal Stakeholder Engagement

Your next big event is on the horizon and you’re ultimately responsible for it running smoothly.

The Sales Director and the sales team in general are fully behind you. They read all the emails you send relating to logistics. They are happy with your plans, willingly giving their time.

HR are ensuring that other staff required for the stand are fully prepared and confident to represent you in the melting-pot which a big event can be.

Senior staff across your organisation are ensuring you have the support you need and are sending out positive messages about the forthcoming Exhibition.

Sound familiar?

If it does – congratulations – you are in a very small minority. Don’t waste any more time reading this. Kick back and have a well-deserved cuppa!

But, if it sounds like the kind of utopia you can only dream of read on.

Many organisations have blinkers on when it comes to exhibition and trade shows. It’s a marketing/event team thing. Other departments see it as a draw on resources. Sales teams are notoriously hard to get on board.

We’ve worked with thousands of stand staff, so we get to know the views of everyone involved – especially those who, at the outset, don’t seem too excited about working on a stand. What reasons do they give?

  1. It takes me away from selling for a week
  2. All we get is people visiting the stand trying to sell to us
  3. It’s like a graduates’ job fair
  4. We just get inundated with people looking for free pens and a free coffee
  5. We just get an email from marketing telling us where and when to turn up
  6. It’s boring

Let’s deal with number 4, 5, and 6 another day.

Think about three of the key challenges any private commercial organisation face:

  1. Retaining and growing profitable business from existing clients while winning new business and keeping the lead pipeline.
  2. Outstanding, trusted supply chain with your procurement team fully aware of all developments in the sector.
  3. Talent acquisition and retention.

Now go back and look at the list. Every negative can be turned into a huge positive.

As an example, let’s take point number 1.

We ask sales people about the biggest challenges they face in general. Here’s what they tell us:

  • Hard to reach clients and prospects
  • Getting face to face
  • Long sales cycle
  • Building commitment and trust
  • Competitive Marketplace
  • Finding new business
  • Lack of awareness of your full offering

Now all you need to do is apply WIIFT (What’s in It for Them)

A sector specific exhibition gives the sales team a huge advantage.

  • It gives them a compelling reason to pick up the phone to get hold of those hard to reach clients and prospects. Are they aware of the event? When do they plan to attend? When is a good time for them to visit your stand?
  • Meetings at exhibitions give an immediate opportunity to build rapport, commitment and trust which in turn shortens the sales cycle for both new and existing clients.
  • 99.9% of companies say they operate in a highly competitive market. Creating an amazing impression from your pre-, at- and post-show activity can really set you apart.
  • Even long-standing clients may pigeonhole you when you could be providing them with additional products and services. Exhibitions are a great place to put assumption aside, to listen to the client and where relevant introduce those new products and services.

You can apply this type of detail and WIIFT to procurement, logistics, operations and other departments.

By communicating the benefits of exhibitions and clearly outlining your plans to the heads of each department you’ll get buy-in from the internal stakeholders.

If key stakeholders see events as a barrier or a neutral activity, then your outcomes will reflect that.

If they see it as a big opportunity and a catalyst – guess what? It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Still a challenging journey for the project leader but far more satisfying with the key stakeholders on board.


Written by Paddy Power, Exhibition Stand Staff Development Trainer and Facilitator at Marketing

This post was first published by CHS Group (https://www.chsgroupuk.com) in support of their exhibitors at the Conference & Hospitality Show in Leeds, 24th April 2018

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