Working for success at boat shows and yachting events
Last updated: 21/03/2017
After investing thousands, implementing ample resources and deploying all team efforts to prepare for the next boat show or trade event, it would be a shame for all hard work to go to waste. With a little foresight, a lot of planning, and the help of a good events manager, you could avoid an embarrassing blunder at your next business showcase.
Yachting Pages spoke with Nick Marks, managing director of RADAR Exhibitions, a creative events and marketing agency for the luxury sector, as well as our very own operations manager, Carrie Plummer about the do’s and don’ts of exhibiting at boat shows and trade events, putting your best foot forward, and taking to the floor.
Yachting Pages' boat show and events exhibitor checklist
Here at Yachting Pages, we advise you to leave no stone unturned when planning for a boat show or trade event; remember to consider even the smallest of details and take nothing for granted. Prior to the show, ensure to:
Make appointments: Make appointments upfront – months in advance where possible. If you haven’t booked appointments with attendees in time, logistics and busy schedules dictate that they’re unlikely to happen by chance at the show. Book the relevant contact in to a definite time and place, and, if given the chance, tie it in with a coffee or lunch date to save time. A lunch date will allow for a more relaxed and memorable conversation.
Create a home from home: To catch the ‘passing trade’ by chance, you’ll need a draw. Compete with the other businesses exhibiting by making sure that you are prepared with a welcoming stand with comfortable seating and a fan or two in hotter climates. Stocking up a refrigerator with cold bottled water and beer and offering nibbles will go a long way to encouraging people to drop by.
Offer freebies and reminders: You should be sending potential clients away from your stand with a business card, flyer, or a branded freebie to remind them who you are and why they need to do business with you, or to stay in touch. Sponsorship deals dependent, you may have a budget for a few promotional freebies. Branded pens, lanyards, key chains, mugs are likely to hang around people’s homes and offices for months to come, but it’s also worth thinking about those that people may need for their visit - a bag, a sun hat or fan may be useful.
Arrange networking events: These needn’t be too big or fancy. Arrange a simple drinks and nibbles event on the stand. If you have a bigger budget to play with, you could host or join on to a larger drinks or networking event to get to know new people and access new markets. Send communications such as email campaigns in advance of the show, and distribute flyers on the ground inviting the relevant people. A competition or prize giveaway will always provide some interest.
Trade show trends, technologies and developments
It’s no surprise that in such a creative industry there are a wealth of new trends, technologies and developments to keep up with. This generally means that each and every time you exhibit at a show, you could provide new and exciting technologies to entice and impress visitors to your stand – budget permitting. We asked Nick:
What are the most exciting trends, technologies and developments in the events marketing sector currently?
Nick said, "Where to start? We spend hours and hours meeting with other creative agencies and trawling through blogs and design apps in order to keep up-to-date with the latest trends, technologies and eye-catching attractions.
“Projection mapping is really popular right now, and it seems every week an even smarter use for it materialises. The potential within the yacht shows is there for all to see: Why waste time, money and space on taking a large product to a show when you can now project the item in HD 3D onto a single wall?
“Tablets and their software also continue to develop, and in-turn so does their capability to collect and engage with audiences even more accurately and in real-time. As for design trends, in the luxury market anything is possible and nothing surprises me. Last week we were asked by a client, ‘What is the tallest exhibition stand that you have ever made?’, which immediately struck fear in our production team!”
Boat show budgets
As many of us already know, it’s not cheap to put together an exhibit for a boat show or event, but with a little creativity, a lot can often be achieved on a much smaller budget than originally expected.
Carrie offered advice on budgeting for show logistics. She said, “I’d advise looking into customs and shipping charges well ahead of the show, to work out the best way to get your stand and materials to the destination. Your local Chamber of Commerce should always be able to advise on such matters, or to point you in the direction of the best sources for this information.
What do you think the average exhibitor should plan to spend on their marketing materials for a boat or trade show?
“We know the shows well and have attended the Monaco Yacht Show (MYS) and Cannes Yachting Festival this year. Obviously, the limitation of a stand or display is usually driven by budget, but budget doesn’t have to drive creative.
“There really is no set price here. At RADAR, we take on projects that range in cost from £500 per square metre, all the way up to £5,000+ for a two-storey flagship installation. Wherever possible, we sit down with our clients and help them to establish what they want to achieve from the event, and from there they can not only set a realistic budget, but also justify spending it.”
Carrie added, "If you're coming from overseas, it’s a good idea to look to work with local suppliers nearby to the show for understanding of the local infrastructure and ease of passage upon arrival - It’s often cheaper and easier to enlist the help of local suppliers to provide your marketing supplies and get things done. Not only are they often a far sight cheaper, you won’t have to coordinate the logistics to transport them halfway around the world from your hometown. They have a wealth of local knowledge and are nearby should things go wrong."
How can clients make the biggest impact for their money?
“We have clients that come to us with last-minute event requests, and the first thing they say is, ‘We don’t want to spend much money.’ In this situation, exhibitors can do two things: Take an awful pop-up banner to the show, set it up yourself and stand in front of it lackluster, or get creative.
“We specialise in the ‘get creative’ bit, and a lot of people would be amazed by just what you can do with a small space, a great product, a few iPad’s and a good team. That said, I should mention that we are also very good at designing creatively, producing and managing large, high budget projects."
What are the three things that your trade show stand or creative effort always include?
“Head and shoulders above everything else is having the right staff working the space. If you have people on the stand who don’t want to be there, it just won’t work. Take people who want to be there and believe in the brand. Regardless of their job title, their enthusiasm will attract more people to your stand than a grumpy sales person who doesn’t want to be there.
“Secondly, simplify your offering. Despite coming to the show, research shows that visitors still usually want to walk straight past the stands, and so in the two seconds they may spend looking at you they need to have their mind changed. It’s amazing how often we get sent copy for wording on a stand wall that you would need a magnifying glass and three minutes of reading to understand. Keep it clear and simple and let your people do the rest.
“Finally, create somewhere comfortable to talk. Exhibitions by nature are loud, hot and bright. It might seem obvious, but in such surroundings you’d be amazed how many more people will want to talk to you if you point them in the direction of a comfortable seat, in a quiet corner with a cold drink.”
Curtailing common problems
As with any large project, exhibitors are likely to face problems throughout the process of preparing for a boat show or trade event. Besides not going prepared with the right tools and equipment to set up or maintain your stand or exhibit, problems often arise before you arrive at the show, in the design stage.
What common problems or challenges do you face in creating marketing materials for boat shows and events?
“I see organisation as the main issue here. Providing you plan your event in good time and team up with the right partners, it should then all fall into place relatively easily.”
What should clients bear in mind to make their project easier in the design stage?
“As an example, a good stand design should cater only for the needs set out in your show targets. It might seem simple and obvious, but when a project is rushed, things become presumed as much as they get missed, and then nothing actually works very well at all.
“When looking for a marketing-materials provider, the proof is in the pudding. Clients should ask to see case studies, portfolios and direct referrals. Anyone can set-up an exhibition or events company and build a website, but a strong portfolio takes a lot of hard work and a lot of years to build – trust me.”
Here at Yachting Pages, we have ample experience of exhibiting at boat shows and trade events, and with great experience comes great understanding. We advise you to leave no stone unturned; remember to consider even the smallest detail and take nothing for granted.
Bear in mind...
Carrie also advised that it’s worth bearing in mind the problems that can and do arise during the shows. She said, “Always have a contingency plan. The worse can, and often does happen without warning, so it’s a good idea to have a ‘Plan B’. Never disregard any premonition or nightmare scenario from actually happening, and remember to consider the small details and take nothing for granted."
Useful items you might forget:
- Parcel tape
- Masking tape
- Bottle openers
- DIY tools
- Electronics chargers
- Extension leads
Carrie finished, 'Always have a handy list of contact information and printed paperwork to hand, as you may not always have access to cell phone networks or reliable Wi-Fi access."