Reverse trade shows are one of the hottest items in the meetings industry. They promise to bring more value to exhibitors by delivering high quality appointments with high closing rates. To work effectively, these shows use Appointment Scheduling software to setup meetings prior to the show.
The strange thing about reverse trade shows is that while having good appointment scheduling software is important, it is even more critical that this software is setup properly in the bigger picture of the attendees’ participation in the meeting. If the attendees do not make or show up to the appointments, than the quality of the software does not matter.
So how do you guarantee that attendees make and then keep their appointments? First, here are some things you should do in advance of the show.
- Use Email to prepare your attendees and exhibitors for this new type of trade show. This will be new to many people so you need to discuss how the show works, the time and place, and how the appointment scheduling software fits in.
- The appointment scheduling software needs to be easy to use. All messaging should include links directly to the user’s “portal” page where he or she can view and make appointments.
- Users should be able to import all appointments into their Outlook or other calendaring program. They should also be able to print an itinerary of appointments. It’s also a good practice to include the itinerary in the welcome pack.
- Send Email messages prior to the event reminding people to set their appointments and what to expect at the show. The last message should be just a day or two before the main event.
- You need to have a dedicated time for appointments. Explicitly, there should be no other meeting activities during this time period. The only exception to this is having food and beverage in the appointment room. If you have things like workshops going on during this time, many attendees will opt for these, even if they have appointments.
- The length of the appointment session should not be for an extended period of time. The exception to this is if your show is mainly for the purpose of appointments and planners were required as part of admission to make a fixed number of appointments. If appointment scheduling is optional, then you will quickly find that appointments will not be made at the rate you hoped. In this case, you should keep the appointment portion short. For example, four to six appointments of fifteen minutes each can be very productive for the exhibitors even if the total time is short. For an exhibitor, four good leads in 90 minutes is a good deal. Keep in mind that exhibitors would rather have 4 appointments in 60 minutes than 5 appointments over 3 hours.
- If you have an exhibit hall, then hold the appointment at the booth.
Even if you do all of the above, the next few points can make or break your reverse trade show.
Finally, the reverse trade show will be new for everyone – you, the meeting staff, the attendees and exhibitors. You should view your first such show as a learning experience. Take detailed notes of what worked and what did not. Iterate to make your next show even better.