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Cranmore Park Blog

The Birmingham area has long been touted as one of the best places for conferences in the UK. Its relatively central location and good travel links make it easy to get to for international meetings, and there are many fantastic conference venues in and around the Birmingham and Solihull area that organisations can take advantage of.

If proof was needed of this, one needs look no further than recent statistics from Birmingham's hotel industry. The sector has seen a major boost in occupancy rates recently, and the number of conferences being held in the city is thought to be why.

In all the frantic organisation that leads up to a trade show, it’s easy to overlook how you plan to engage with customers once your meticulously planned booth is up and running.

At the most basic level, everyone intends to be friendly and enthusiastic, but there are a few techniques that can help leave potential customers with the best possible impression of you and your brand.

As business owners know well, a trade show often represents a significant investment for companies, particularly new businesses and small to medium enterprises (SMEs). As such, it’s important to make sure that you have a clear set of goals so you can measure investment against return. Goals also help at the planning stage, enabling you to tailor your strategy to your aims.

At the most basic level, all businesses will be looking to increase sales and profits. However, this is too vague to have as a goal. As when coming up with any business strategy, it’s important to have not only the ‘what’ element of your goals, but also the ‘how’.

Have you ever had a trade show that was a failure, but without any clear reason why? It could be that you had very few people come over to your stand, or that the people who did talk to you rarely ended up making a purchase. Often, this is because you got one thing wrong: your positioning.

This seems like a very tiny part of a successful trade show experience, but it is actually incredibly important. Where you sit or stand plays a large part in how approachable you seem, as well as whether you come across as relatable or distant to the attendees. So, where do you usually position yourself?

If you're hoping to enjoy a successful trade show, you've got to ensure your booth or stand looks as professional as possible.

In order to give the right impression to attendees - the people you hope will become your customers following the event - you've got to achieve the right set-up.

Meetings have a valuable role to play in business, but it's important to ensure they are productive. Too many man hours are wasted in meetings which drag on unnecessarily or should never have been organised in the first place.

If you're going to remove employees from their desk - and their workload - for any period of time, you have to have good reason. Your meetings need to offer a return on investment; otherwise how can you justify disrupting your employees' day?

It's bound to happen to you sooner or later: you go to a conference, full of enthusiasm, but are let down by one appalling session. Maybe it was unhelpful, told you misleading information or was just unbelievably dull! You can laugh about it later, but while you're in the session what do you do?

You can always get up and leave, of course; you will find that the vast majority of sessions at any conference will be helpful to you. However, if that is not something you are comfortable doing then it is good to know how to deal with a bad presentation as a member of the audience. Here are a few tips:

Hosting a Wi-Fi hotspot at your conference or trade show can make for a more successful event for all concerned.

With so many people reliant on their smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, people expect to be able to get online wherever they are.

Exhibitions and large trade shows are a great place to advertise your business. Usually, this means getting a stand together and showcasing whatever it is you have to offer, whether that means showing off the services you offer to potential customers or trying to get retailers to stock your wares.

This can be a great way to grow your business, but there are several challenges you must overcome first. Trade shows will not consist of just your stand and a swathe of potential customers; there could be dozens if not hundreds of competitors there with the same goals as you.

If you're exhibiting at a trade show, you need to find ways of maximising your investment - not just on the day of the event but in the weeks and months that follow. You've met new prospects and generated new leads at the trade show, but now you've got to drive home the advantage and turn potential into profits.

According to Timothy Carter, digital marketing manager for Nimlok, there are a number of different ways to achieve this goal. In a recent article for Small Business Trends, he explained some of the ways companies can continue to benefit from trade shows after they have taken place.

Whether you've booked it as part of a conference, are intending on holding a training session or just want somewhere to talk to clients, your meeting room is important. You will need to make sure it is right for all your needs. However, many people do not consider everything when it comes to setting up their room.

The layout in particular is something that often gets overlooked. It might seem like a very minor detail, but the way your room is laid out can affect how well your session goes. If you want to encourage an open debate but the room is laid out so not everyone can face each other, it is going to negatively impact your session.

Technology has grown at an astronomical pace in the last few years, which has surely affected your life in some way. Your business will work largely over the internet, your car will have the latest sat nav system and your phone will be capable of far more than you would have expected just two or three years ago.

However, it is often still difficult to understand how this new technology can specifically help you and your business. One of the clearest signs of this is the fact that every conference is not a sea of people using tablet PCs like the Apple iPad. Tablets are incredibly useful for conference-goers, yet surprisingly underused.

Networking is a key part of most conferences, but it is also the most difficult aspect to pull off successfully. It's simply not something many people are all that good at, unless you have spent a lot of time at a lot of events getting to know strangers.

The main thing that most people get wrong is not a small thing, such as your body language, your small talk or how polite you are. Instead, it is the larger goal that most networkers forget. Essentially, very few people actually understand why they are networking in the first place.

There's much more to conferences than just the programme of events - the workshops, seminars and keynote speakers. They are a convergence of like-minded individuals, who very often have similar backgrounds, experiences and ambitions. As such, conferences offer fantastic opportunities for networking and making valuable additions to your contacts book.

But if you fail to plan properly in advance, you might struggle to make the most of these networking opportunities. Very often, there is a packed programme of events, which leaves little additional time for socialising - particularly if it's only a one-day gathering. You might be eager to rendezvous with certain people, but simply not get the chance.

At any trade show or exhibition, there are good booths for advertising your products and services, and there are great ones.

Ideally, you want to tie down one of the latter - some prime 'real estate' at the event where you are prominently-placed and guaranteed footfall.

If you're staging a meeting or a training session, you'll welcome the opportunity to lay the room out according to the optimum design.

It may be that you need a 'boardroom' set-up, with everyone around one table, or that you require more of a 'classroom' set-up, with chairs and desks facing the front of the room.