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30 JUNE 2011 EXHIBITIONNEWS.CO.UK EXHIBITION NEWS main featurenumbers are an easy sell), but it also puts the ball in the exhibitor's court if they feel the show wasn't effective. Considering the sluggish uptake at many exhibitor training sessions, this might be the sharp shock companies need to wake up to the importance of exhibitor competence."Typically, what will happen is the marketing manager will get enthused about exhibiting and tell salespeople they are needed but they turn up not really knowing what to do or how the results will be measured," said Murphy. "Often they haven't even worked out their pitch. For some particular reason salespeople adopt a different approach to how they treat people at an exhibition from how they would if they were out on a sales call. People are walking by and they often just wait for a visitor to approach them."Murphy also claimed people often underestimate the purposes an exhibition serves. "They always say sales leads, but exhibitions provide an opportunity for many other things," she said. For some exhibitors, 'sales leads' means a business card in a glass bowl, many of which will not likely lead to any real return.The problem is a diffi cult one. Exhibitors aren't full-time exhibitors, and therefore don't really know how to do it best. However, no matter how hard organisers try, there is inevitably a low take-up for exhibitor training days. Richard JohnAusten HawkinsAs with John, Murphy believes that while it is the organiser's job to provide tools, it is the exhibitor's responsibility to use them."The exhibitor should be much more detailed in preparations. The organiser has to try to encourage ongoing communication between the visitor and exhibitor," she said. "An organiser's salespeople need to have a fair understanding of what exhibitors need to go through to get the sign off to book for an exhibition. "Help the marketing manager build a case for attending your exhibitions."Analyse thisVivid Interface MD Geoffrey Dixon agrees many exhibitors don't have a clear picture going in to a show of what they want to get out of it, and that this makes it hard for them to measure how effectively the event met their expectations. Not only are individual objectives often blurry, but different companies measure exhibition ROI against to different standards. As there are so many potential ways for business to come from as a result of an exhibition, this isn't surprising. However, Dixon believes ROI is an incomplete measurement often given too much weight."ROI can be such a misleading term. It suggests it's purely a fi nancial thing but it isn't," he claimed. "Bringing it down to a simple calculation can work for some people but in most cases you end up with a much more qualitative approach of how the show effected business. If anyone thinks ROI is a simple concept then they themselves are too simple."Dixon's company Vivid Interface offers a product called VISOR, standing for Vivid Interface Show Optimisation Research. This information gathering process can literally generate more information than we know what to do with so far.Using VISOR, each exhibitor fi lls out a questionnaire before a show that lists a series of goals. These can range from marketing (building the brand or launching products, for example), sales (generating leads or meeting existing customers), human resources (recruiting or educating staff) to strategic (identifying potential partners) objectives. The exhibitor then ranks each of these according to importance on a scale of one to fi ve.After the show, without letting the exhibitor see what they said pre-show, VISOR asks them to rank the exhibition according to how strongly it performed across the same goals. From this, an organiser can get a picture of what exhibitors are looking for, and what it might be offering that exhibitors aren't interested in.Tear-downWhat we've heard so far suggests that it's not our fault, it's our exhibitors who aren't holding up their end. However, AEO chief executive Austen Hawkins believes organisers can and should do more, especially when it comes to exhibitor training."I do think that if organisers apply their marketing talents to their exhibitor training ROI wouldn't be such a problem," he said. "It's hard to get our clients to come but that shouldn't stop us from rushing to the challenge. Every single exhibitor could learn something that would make their stand more successful. They aren't exhibitors in their heads, they are widget manufacturers."Exhibition organisers are at heart professional business facilitators, and that role has come a long way from someone selling space in a shed. While exhibitors may be infuriatingly reluctant to take advantage of all the training and tools an organiser throws at them to optimise ROI at a trade show, it is our duty to use all the cards in our deck to help them.In the end however, shows are not simply about sales. More importantly, they are about something that cannot be measured and must be taken on trust: Building relationships. ENGeoffrey DixonJane Murphy"If anyone thinks ROI is a simple concept then they themselves are too simple"Read Geoffrey Dixon's look at exhibition branding on page 37