Friday, December 1, 2023
We’ve received a lot of positive feedback about our exhibit at the recent LiftEx show at the Exhibition Centre Liverpool, organised by the Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA).
These days, LiftEx, which took place for the 18th time on 21-22 November, is a two-day extravaganza beyond the expo, incorporating meetings, an Accredited Training Scheme Seminar, and a celebrity-hosted awards ceremony. The event has come a long way since it was an apologetic tabletop get-together co-located with the association’s AGM.
That said, LEEA and its organising partners have to work hard to convince people it’s a good idea to exhibit and there’s always a moment of anxiety before the doors open; the show hasn’t been known for heaving aisles from morning one to afternoon two. So, even with the association reporting record pre-registrations, and our prime location opposite the front doors, it was a relief that our stand was well populated throughout the event and attracted lots of comments.
Without being too modest, there’s no secret to what goes into a good trade show exhibit—there are countless blogs on the subject—but it’s worth retracing our steps in the hope that it encourages other exhibitors to raise their profile next year and entices some newcomers to book floorspace. LiftEx serves as an entry point to our industry and, if we’re serious about campaigns like Global Lifting Awareness Day, also sponsored by LEEA, we must do a better job of presenting and selling ourselves.
Here are four (among many more) ways we can do it—with the help of a few lyrics from the song in the title of this article, famously sung by the Beatles, who were founded in Liverpool.
- ‘Roll up’
Don’t worry too much about an immediate return on investment.
If you challenge a trade show to give you £2 back for every £1 you spend, you’re looking at it too narrow-mindedly. I start with this point because only with a healthy budget, relative to a company’s size and status, can you make participation count. If you wince at the cost of every poster, graphic, freebie, and refreshment, your judgement will become clouded.
- ‘To make a reservation’
A trade show exhibit is only as good as the people on it.
Even if the location is good, the graphics are eye-catching, and the beer is cold, if one person is left to welcome attendees, answer questions, and pour refreshments, people will end up talking among themselves and ultimately drift off to another stand.
A decent chunk of the five figures we spent on LiftEx was taken up by putting a strong team together, in terms of both number of representatives and their knowledge. It might save on a hotel room block to leave someone from sales and another from marketing at their desks, but it’s a false economy if an existing or prospective customer can’t find someone free to talk to, especially if they’ve had a difficult journey and got stuck in a queue getting their visitor’s badge.
- ‘They’ve got everything you need’
There’s no need to take on the burden of a trade show exhibit alone.
Even if you’ve got a lot of creative people in your company, and marketing professionals that enjoy a challenge, there are businesses out there that specialise in exhibitions and conventions. Combining in-house flair and talent with those of a third party can be the perfect combination. We invested in a partnership with Swansea’s Tidal Exhibitions, for example. We told them what our objectives were, who we wanted to engage, and how we wanted them to react; and they handled the visuals, design, construction of the stand, and logistics before, during, and after the event.
- ‘Satisfaction guaranteed’
Welcome people as if the exhibit was a workplace or home.
As alluded to above, visiting a trade show or conference can be time consuming and stressful. Every visitor has had to make their own decision to spend money on participation and take time away from the jobsite. It’s also tiring walking around talking to people. That’s why it’s prudent to make your exhibit somewhere that folks can take a seat and grab a refreshment. We had a coffee machine serving hot drinks and a selection of cold beverages that we offered over two hectic days.
It’s also true that people are far more likely to talk freely and at length if they are comfortable in their surroundings. If there’s nowhere to sit down and an attendee has to stand there carrying a heavy bag, they’re not going to be incentivised to make their visit a long or discursive one.
At the centre of our LiftEx exhibit was a map, detailing our 10 national facilities, including the Gemmak Engineering fabrication site. Attentive visitors (and competitors) would have noticed that we also hinted at three new locations in Glasgow, Scotland; Avonmouth, Bristol; and the West Midlands.
I’ve always been transparent about my plans for the business and have repeatedly encouraged other business leaders—many companies are shrouded in mystery—to be more open about their intentions. I reject the argument that secrecy is safety when it comes to route planning. Only when a plan (map) is shared with everyone on a journey, can they all arrive safely at the destination.
LEEA has put some pressure on organisers to make next year’s LiftEx a success, returning to the scene of a disappointing staging of the event in 2014, when it was part of the Safety & Health Expo at London’s ExCeL. Albeit on the other side of town at London Olympia West, as a standalone event, many people will still remember the failed experiment a decade earlier.
I don’t have a problem with the decision to go to the capital per se, but it does mean I’ve got to take my own advice and look beyond the costs involved with pricey hotel rooms and associated hospitality in one of the most expensive cities in the world. This year’s LiftEx was one of the best ever—and we’ve got to build on that momentum.
‘That’s an invitation
Roll up for the Mystery Tour’
Lifting the world
It is beyond contestation that LEEA is the leading trade association for all those involved in the lifting industry, but there is still a misconception that it is a UK trade organisation that just so happens to serve the rest of the world.
While it’s true that it was founded (in 1944) as the London Chain Testers Association, with a view to taking on the might of government, it has long since transformed into an international body. As the association says, regardless of where they are based, there is now no distinction between members—all are subject to the same technical audits prior to being granted full membership. Regional councils help to focus certain efforts on local markets but that only enhances its efficiency as an international authority, having a positive impact at the point of use, wherever that might be.
It is in everyone’s interests that LEEA shakes the image of being a UK-based entity that is punching above its weight. It is the heavyweight prize-fighter in our sector and, although we should be proud of its origins here in the home nations, we must continue to empower it to turn outwards to a world that we can surely help more, but also can learn greatly from.
I was encouraged, therefore, to see that the association is recruiting for a number of important senior manager roles that will play a significant part in developing the organisation as it moves forward. The new directors of compliance, membership, and academy will each serve to reinforce LEEA’s global reputation; no doubt the director of membership especially will be tasked with further growing global membership.
We should welcome them to our world-class community.
Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd