Top five questions to ask yourself before booking a trade show booth

It's that time of year again when marketing and trade show managers in the energy industry begin reviewing their event schedules and determining which shows they want to exhibit in and what size and style booth space they'd like to reserve. Due to the sheer number of worldwide oil and gas events this can be a daunting task even for experienced marcomm professionals. As anyone who's ever reviewed the event calendar for SPE, IADC, or any other professional organization in the energy industry will attest, there are a lot of shows out there to choose from! 

So how do we choose? Here are a few basic questions that I encourage clients to ask themselves before exhibiting at any show:

Why are we exhibiting? 

Over the course of my decade-long career in the exhibitions industry it’s never ceased to amaze me how often I hear sales personnel and booth staff at an exhibition shake their heads in exasperation and say “I don’t know why we’re here.” If your team doesn’t understand the purpose of exhibiting they won’t be in a position to help you achieve your goals. Whether it’s increasing qualified leads, relationship management, brand awareness, or launching new products and services, all successful exhibition programs must have a clear business objective. Your goals must be measurable, attainable, and articulated clearly to your team well in advance of their arrival on the show floor. 

Who is our targeted attendee? 

One of the great things about event marketing is the sheer volume of people that attend and the varying levels of influence they have within their organization. Competition for attention on the show floor is fierce, and exhibitors will often go to extreme lengths to capture the biggest crowds and isolate attendees from their competitors. Let’s face it, heavy booth traffic is great. However, I counsel all of my clients that I’m much more interested in getting the right ten or fifteen targeted individuals in your booth daily to have a real, engaged conversation with your team than I am having 100 random people there for a free drink. It starts with identifying who these people are well in advance of the event and then targeting all of your efforts to attract, engage, and retain those individuals in your space during the show. 

How will we measure success? 

Establishing metrics for evaluation of your tradeshow presence is critical to the success of your program. In an era where procurement teams and finance managers require justification for every marketing dollar, having real numbers to show for your exhibition efforts will demonstrate value of your program to your internal customers and will help you determine what shows are productive and which ones aren’t working for you. 

What industry sector does this show serve, and are we in it? 

Because of the number of oil and gas trade shows worldwide and the difficulty and expense of securing booth space at the larger shows, more and more clients are electing to participate in smaller regional events that target specific subsets within our industry (Subsea, Shale, and LNG for example). This can be a great strategy for companies that want greater visibility and value for their event program without the massive expense and considerable time involved in participating in a global oil and gas show. Just remember when it comes to trade shows, bigger isn’t always better. 

Where, geographically, do we need to exhibit? 

Due to the global nature of the energy industry there are literally thousands of oil and gas trade shows all over the world, and deciding where to focus your event marketing efforts can be a challenge. When planning a show schedule it’s a good idea to sit down with your sales and business development teams and discuss the geographic areas where you’re experiencing growth, where you’d like to see a stronger presence, and where you have infrastructure and resources to support new business. Every company is different, and the shows you choose to attend domestically and abroad should reflect your company's unique vision for the future.