Putting your best foot forward: Success at boat shows and events

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 global events and marketing agency for the luxury sector, 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.

How did RADAR Exhibitions start? How has your business evolved from start-up to today?

RADAR Exhibitions was first founded in 2010. In the last five years, we have grown from a team of two sat around my kitchen table in Brixton, into a full-service events agency with in-house creative and project management at our West London office, and full production from our facility in Sussex.

Our work is split fairly evenly between trade show installations, corporate events and retail installations. Our client base is varied, but that said, more and more of our work these days seems to come from the luxury and fashion industries; for example, we were the appointed events agency for Atelier Swarovski at this year’s London and Paris Fashion Week.

Why is now the right time to break into the marine superyacht industry? Do you foresee any challenges in this market and winning new clients? 

First and foremost, we understand luxury; many of the luxury brands we work alongside crossover into the marine and superyacht industry, and this, combined with our knowledge and experience of working in the same locations and venues as the yacht shows taking place each year seems to make it a natural progression for the business.

What are the most exciting trends, technologies and developments in the marketing and events sector currently?

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 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! 

What are your thoughts on the current displays and exhibits seen at the boat shows? What would you do differently?

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.

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.

What do you think the average exhibitor should plan to spend on their marketing materials for a boat or trade show? How can clients make the biggest impact for their money?

There really is no set price. 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.

What common problems or challenges do you face in creating marketing materials for boat shows and events? What should clients bear in mind to make the project easier?

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. 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.

Finally, what should clients look for in their marketing-material provider?

The proof is in the pudding. 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.

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