Top 9 Ways to Make Your Exhibit Program Work As Hard As You Do


By Barbara Orr, Owner/Partner and EVP, Poretta & Orr

You’ve been to plenty of conventions, and you’ve probably participated in quite a few. You can probably reel off a lot of lessons learned. But guess what? In our experience, exhibiting companies sometimes miss an important step or two, and that could hurt your final results. Why? Studies have shown that in medicine, attention to detail is crucial. At Johns Hopkins, they instituted a checklist of five items just for the use of feeding tubes. Five common items that were part of the normal protocol anyway. Some of their HCPs thought this was unnecessary, because of course they knew how to do their job. But they were told to use the checklist with every patient, anyway.

In a year, Johns Hopkins examined the results. They determined that this simple list – doing what doctors thought they were already doing – saved them over two million dollars. And the lives of eight patients.

So how important is it to do everything necessary in your exhibit program? Very. Because you may not wield a scalpel or write prescriptions, but your work is also aimed at saving lives and improving the quality of life. And results matter.


That’s why I offer this seemingly obvious, but entirely vital, checklist of things to do from the moment you fill out the entry form.

The Show Starts BEFORE The Show If you’re going, let people know. Do your pre-show marketing, early and often. a. Use social media to let them know when, where, and how to reach you

b. Send a teaser video

c. Have a landing page on your site that includes a way to reserve a meeting at the show, and encourage people to bring colleagues along

d. Send a press release

e. Host a webinar, and follow up at the show

f. Send helpful hints about traveling to the show and what to do when you get there

Figure Out Why You’re There To introduce a new product? To educate HCPs? To offer a better app? Make it clear, with consistent messaging pre-show, at the booth, in any seminars, and post-show. Everybody will be distracted – they won’t get the message until they see it for the third, fifth, or tenth time

Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse Make sure your sales force has incorporated the messaging into their DNA, and will be able to discuss it fully and intelligently

Be Prepared for Success What happens when someone actually does schedule a meeting, or wants to follow up with a rep after the show? Have a plan

Use Every Minute What are your people doing outside the booth, at other seminars, after show hours? Do you have dine-arounds scheduled? This is a golden opportunity, when you have so many potential customers within reach all at once

The Show Never Ends Prompt follow-up is important to keep the sales momentum going and turn those leads into sales. Have a lead campaign ready, and start it right after the show closes, to remind attendees of what they saw and heard. Make sure every personal contact is reinforced with a personal message

Regroup, Recon, Revise Find out what your people learned, what worked and what didn’t, and apply that to future marketing efforts

Don’t Forget The People Who Weren’t There Lots of people on the pre-show mailing list will not make it to the site. That doesn’t mean they aren’t interested

a. If you get any responses to your mailings, ask them to opt in to future messages

b. Do a social media feed (Facebook, retweets, Pinterest posts) about what’s happening

c. Show them your booth

d. Send informational material not just about you, but other topics they may be interested in

e. Conduct surveys

f. Provide metrics about attendance, video commentary from attendees, etc.

Remember What The Goal Is Information, engagement, action. This only happens when you understand what your demographic wants, gather whatever data they’re willing to offer, and then plug in to their needs by catering to their interests and giving them access to any news you have

The convention model is changing significantly today, but the model for success is a process that still holds. Our experience is that holding to the verities will always serve you well.



Barbara Orr has over 25 years experience in the exhibit and event industry. Her approach emanates from a start in strategic marketing; through a blend of talents, she has strongly developed her specialty in marketing, events and exhibits. Barbara oversees new business development and client services along with event marketing and creative services for Poretta & Orr, Inc, and their clients. Barbara has been involved in many industry associations over the years, including marketing, event and exhibit. She is a former board member and event chair spanning 15 years for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and served on the Healthcare Convention & Exhibitors Association board of directors, Special Industry Task Forces and Planning Committee for many years, receiving the prestigious HCEA Distinguished Service Award and Outstanding Service Award, the only two-time winner of these awards. You can reach Barbara at