The world of conferences, trade shows and exhibitions is an important one within the events and hospitality industry in the UK.  These are fantastic, valuable events, bringing together industry professionals, colleagues and other players within the market under one roof, and so for many represent the perfect networking event.

Of course, conferences and exhibitions to some might mean different things, though in many respects, these two sectors merge seamlessly with each other and the fundamental top 10 guidelines for hosting a big conference or exhibition are the same.  A conference is often an internal company affair, with blue-chip companies perhaps holding one of these a year for their employees from across the country (or internationally) to get together to celebrate the company’s success and set key targets for the upcoming year.

Exhibitions, on the other hand, involve many companies from the same industry displaying their products and services on an exhibition stand within the exhibition ball, with the visitors being those people related to that particular industry, whether they are wholesalers, retailers or members of the media. There’s certainly a cross-over, of course, with the nature of the events and the type of furniture hire for conferences in the UK.

Obviously the conference and exhibition sector was decimated by COV-19 last year, but here’s looking forward to a return to normal from here. Hopefully the information below will help you when you are planning to host a large conference or exhibition, so find our top 10 guidelines here!

1 – Consider your audience

Who are you laying on this event for? Is it internal staff? Employees? Or are you targetting retailers within the industry sector?  It might even be members of the public. Your target demographic will certainly influence how you proceed from this point.

2 – Choose a suitable venue

Of course, once you have an idea of numbers, then you can hire the venue you need.  Size is, of course, important.  However, also have a think about the location.  If many of your delegates are flying in from oversees, then where’s the nearest international airport?  And is there suitable accommodation nearby? If people are just UK based, then where are the majority based?  If they are in London, then look to hold your event in London to cater for the majority, with the others to travel.  London is blessed with some stunning event venues such as London ExCel, Olympia and many others, enabling you to create memorable occasions.

3 – Sell the floor space early

If you need to sell floor space to suppliers or retailers, then do this early!  The last thing you want to be doing is panicking about this as your event draws near.  Floor space at these venues can be expensive, with every square metre counting!

4 – Make your pre-show communications engaging & effective

Build up the excitement to the event early.  You can do this by email flyers, internal company e-memos and on social media.  And when it comes to social media, you want to be active on a regular basis.  Make your posts fun and engaging, not formal and stale.  You might need to employ a media agency to handle this for you, depending upon the size of your conference or exhibition.

5 – Plan your visitor flows carefully

Now, more than ever, you need to ensure that your venue is well-thought-out in terms of the footprint, and the effective and efficient flow of visitors around it.  Aim to avoid potential areas of bottlenecks!

6 – Create a balance between conference areas, displays and seminar/demo areas

Even the most high-profile exhibitions don’t have 100% of the floor space dedicated to exhibition stands.  There will be a mix of exhibition stands, demonstration area, lecture / keynote speaker zones, catering areas, VIP lounges and more.  Even a conference won’t be 100% seating.  There will be a break-out area for delegates to enjoy a coffee and a chat, along with some display stands for relevant suppliers to the industry.  A mix is always best.

7 – Create an effective entrance foyer

Often overlooked, you need to spend some time considering your entrance area and how effective this is.  The chances are that lots of people will be arriving at the same time, and so it needs to be a large enough space, well signposted with effective queue management temporary barriers and suitably staffed.  For instance, when delegates arrive at your event, do they need to register or sign in?  Even down to the fact that is there somewhere they can leave their coats and baggage?

8 – Work with trusted suppliers

The temporary nature of these events means that the chances are you’ll need to be working with an exhibition equipment hire supplier for chairs, tables, display showcases and other event equipment. Only the best companies have conference furniture hire in the large quantities required for these types of events, so work with these industry professionals who know what they’re doing! – this will be invaluable!

9 – Remember social distancing!

We couldn’t write an article about guidelines for conferences and exhibitions without mentioning COVI-19 in more detail.  Whilst none of us can predict the future, the term ‘social distancing’ is here to stay.  Think about numbers think about the flow of people, hire hand sanitizer dispensers and portable handwashing machines, for example, to encourage your visitors to act responsibly. Exhibition equipment hire London such as this is nowadays essential for any large event.

10 – Don’t forget your post-show comms

And once your event is over, it’s not quite time yet to put your feet up and bask in the glory of your success.  Get your post-show communications going on social media and email.  Circulate photos of the event and keep the buzz going.  This way, if it’s an annual event, your visitors and delegates will be encouraged to return next year.

Hopefully you’ll find these guidelines useful, and we wish you luck in organizing your next big conference or exhibition.