When the recent 2017 FIT Show at the NEC recorded a 17% increase in visitor numbers compared to 2016, it came as no surprise to some.

The fact the show had moved from Telford to the NEC this year already suggested that this was a show on a definite growth curve. However, behind the scenes, a proactive and enterprising drive to attract more visitors, involving both the organiser (FIT Events) and their exhibitors, had a significant impact on the final attendee numbers.

Using a tool which had been available to exhibitors for years but often overlooked, FIT Events incentivised exhibitors to send out hundreds of emails, inviting their own clients and prospects to attend the event.

The results were amazing with 27% of the show’s total visitors coming through this exhibitor-led approach.

A league table showing how many visitors each exhibitor had managed to attract saw exhibitors scrambling to prove that they were the biggest draw at the show. Up for grabs for the eventual table topper was £10,000 off their fee for exhibiting at the next event in 2019.

As the FIT Show’s official event registration suppliers, LiveBuzz provided the tools to make this happen. Within their exhibitor hub, an online platform from which companies can manage all their event-related activities (maintaining attendee lists, printing badges etc), exhibitors have the capability to send personalised, promotional emails to potential guests. These use company-specific URLs via which people can register for the event, offering both a standard and VIP registration.

Despite having been a free part of the LiveBuzz service for years now, some exhibitors choose simply not to use it – while some organisers don’t actively promote the service.

All of that changed with FIT Events, as Jo Channer, Head of Exhibitor Services at LiveBuzz, explained: “This was our first year of providing registration services to FIT Events. They immediately realised the potential of an email marketing tool which could be made available to all their 231 exhibitors. Not only did they encourage the exhibitors to use the tool, they used a cash prize to incentivise them to do so and maintained a near constant dialogue with exhibitors to encourage them to drive as many visitors to the event as possible.”

“In all my time in the industry, I hadn’t previously seen an organiser mobilise their exhibitors quite like this. Yes, the size of the financial incentive helped but FIT Events also ran an exemplary email marketing campaign of their own, urging exhibitors to get behind the visitor drive and to be part of the competition. That message was reinforced at the exhibitor day, several months before the show, when over 100 exhibitors came together to find out more about how the show was going to be promoted.”

“For me, this was great to see because it is exactly what the email tool was designed for. Previously, perhaps we haven’t promoted it as strongly as we should have done. Regardless, we can now demonstrate the positive impact it can have on visitor numbers in the hands of an engaged and proactive event organiser.”

Once visitors began registering through their personalised URLs, the competition began in earnest amongst exhibitors. But simply registering wasn’t enough. Exhibitors had to see their guests come through the door for them to feature in the league table which really mattered; actual attendees as opposed to registered guests.

As LiveBuzz’s front of house staff processed the arriving guests, updates on the number of guests per exhibitor were provided on an hourly basis as the competition for the £10,000 prize hotted up.

The email marketing tool wasn’t the only LiveBuzz exhibitor service which FIT Events availed themselves of. They also insisted on providing a scanning device, free of charge, to every exhibitor, allowing them to instantly capture the personal details of everyone who visited their stand. Some opted for a handheld scanner while others used an app on their own devices but the net result was 100% coverage across all the exhibitors.

Jo continued: “Providing the scanners was, I think, another smart move on the organiser’s part. Exhibitors really appreciate the ease with which they can access all their visitor data after the show. I even had one exhibitor tell me they’d never exhibit again in the future if they didn’t have a scanner! FIT Events trusted us sufficiently to give us full responsibility for all the communications with exhibitors about the scanners. That was quite refreshing as some organisers can get a little nervous about a supplier contacting exhibitors directly. By doing so however, we were able to get everyone set up with whatever they needed in time for the show.”

“Overall, I felt this event was a fine example of an organiser that had taken the time to think through the exhibitor experience, not just the visitor experience. They provided exhibitors with the tools they needed to help make a success of their exhibition presence and they maintained a healthy dialogue with them right up until the event itself.”