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EXHIBITING- March 2011 online revolutionYour desk is strewn with pilesof forms waiting to be filledin, and yet another update tothe exhibitor manual has arrived,but you still can't find that one vitalbit of information you need. The 'todo lists' on your whiteboards arecreeping onto the walls and yourcomputer monitor is disappearingunder yellow sticky notes. It mustbe exhibition time! Did you remember to.?How in the world are you going tocontractor viewThe advent of the online exhibitor manual will meanno more lost reports or invoicesCommercial director of Melville Data Services, Debbie Lee, looks at the progressive eradication ofhard copy exhibitor manuals.make your presence look special,relevant and a 'must see' optionwhen you are surrounded byliterally thousands of competitors?In the first place, you need to getthe audience to pay attention towhat you've got to say.The stand will need some kind offlooring, lights and furniture. Youmay also want computers, displayscreens and literature displaystands. And, if you are going toserve food or drinks, this willrequire extra staff and equipment.Anything that isn't rented willneed to be shipped out from theoffice, and you may also need tosort out travel and accommodationfor your staff working at the show.And don't forget restaurantbookings for any clients you aremeeting on site. And.well, need I go on?As there is so much to do in thefew weeks or months before anexhibition, you'll need all the helpthat you can get. Exhibitionorganisers have always producedexhibitor manuals with instructions,contact details and checklists tosupport exhibitors and help themget the most out of their show. A good exhibitor manual is theclosest thing to a one-stop shop forshow information, checklists, mapsand forms, as well as contact detailsfor the organiser and contractors.These used to be weighty tomes inring binders with weekly, orsometimes even daily, updates. Butnow online manuals are fast replacingtheir paper cousins and taking thingsone step further.The advantages of onlineWhy move from offline to online,when offline does have a lot ofadvantages? With offline, you cancarry it out with you and read it onthe train, you can show relevant"The onlineexhibitor manual isa two-waycommunicationtool" March 2011 -EXHIBITING44contractor viewpages to colleagues, you can faxthe maps to the courier so that theyknow where they are going, andyou can highlight things and makenotes in the margins.The key advantage of an onlinemanual is that it will always be themost recent version. Youdon't have to pickyour way throughpiles of mailedupdates to findthe one thatarrived the daybefore yesterday,rather than the onethat was a week lastThursday.There will always bea place for hardcopies, and an onlinemanual will include theoption to print any or all ofit out.But you also have theflexibility to be able toemail links or screenshotsto anyone who needs to seeparticular information.Getting the most outof it and saving timeThe vast majority of onlinemanuals include comprehensivechecklists, and many will openstraight to a snapshot of yourprogress and links to thoselists. These links will clearlyshow what needs to be doneat each stage, withdeadlines, and will help youprioritise your time. You can also sendthem to your colleagues,to keep them updated oreven to delegate tasks to them.The online exhibitor manual is alsoa two-way communication tool.Organisers can see how you aregetting on with the planning processand send gentle reminders, or offerhelp if you really seem to bestruggling. The contents areconstantly updated and can includelinks straight to the contractors'ordering systems.The switch to online has beengradual, and every year the manualsbecome more user-friendly,providing the latest news updatesabout the exhibition, updatedchecklists and key information. For example, to track progresswith contractors currently, anyorders need to be updated manually.In the future, online exhibitormanuals should be able to trackthese automatically.The manual will only work for you ifyou use it to its fullest extent. Youshould get to know what it can doand don't be frightened of thetechnology. All manuals have built-insupport mechanisms and functions,and the exhibition organiser shouldhave a telephone or online helpdeskif you get really stuck."As there is somuch to do in thefew weeks beforean exhibition, you'llneed all the helpyou can get"Online exhibitor manuals are easier to access while on the road