If you are a corporate and are planning to participate at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) 2017, the country’s largest expo, you are already late. The exhibition, organised by the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair Company (ZITF Company) will run from the 25th to the 29th of April in Bulawayo, the country’s second largest city.
public relations with Lenox Mhlanga
Those who want to make their involvement count have been slogging at it for at least the past 12 months. Yes, one requires a full year to ensure that being at an expo of this magnitude is worth the investment.
I have been involved with the ZITF in one form or the other for more than 16 years. Apart from being their communications officer at the early stages of my long career in public relations, I have been a judge there for the last four years.
A wide variety of organisations from various sectors have benefitted from my “wise” counsel on exhibitions events planning. I am obliged to share advice that will assist large corporations, government agencies and small to medium enterprises (SMEs) to re-do their checklists, or worse, to scramble their teams into action with less than three months to go.
The first point of call is having your why. WHY are you shipping your team and products to ZITF 2017 in the first place? The ZITF company gives us good reason when they tout their exhibitions and events as the first place where industry trends, ideas and innovative products are unveiled.
ZITF brings together a diverse audience to promote trade and investment in the country. They also offer stand building, venue hire and business consultancy services.
Exhibitions like the ZITF are a huge opportunity for brands to add value in terms of image, sales, exposure and market positioning. What that translates to is the fact that such a golden opportunity deserves meticulous planning to make it pay.
Exhibitions, also known as “expositions” or expos are shows where businesses expose what they do or sell to an audience. It could be for launching a new product or service, providing information to targeted audiences about their activities, or simply giving that much-needed boost to sales.
This should be part of a public relations, marketing or brand activation strategy. This means that well thought out preparation is a prerequisite to your brand’s success in taking part in an exhibition.
Let me shock those who think that participation at an exhibition or road show for that matter is a walk in the park. Badly prepared exhibits can be an immense cost to a business, money that can never be recovered. It is serious business, not that short-paid vacation to impress the bosses with.
For any business that is involved in exhibitions, whether they be service providers or those that are exhibiting, it would increase your prospects to start planning for participation early.
To give you an idea, the big guns that win display competitions year in and year out such as Delta Corporation, Econet Wireless, Bulawayo City Council, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and the Zimbabwe Republic Police, start planning a full year before the show.
It should start with the post-mortem, a warts-and-all examination of an organisation’s previous participation. One does not want to repeat the same mistakes previously committed. It’s also at such meetings that the reviews from those that visited your stand count.
Well, you did solicit comments from your visitors, didn’t you?
Drastic as it might sound, it is at this point that you decide whether it’s worth throwing in good money. That is if you believe exhibiting was all a waste, that is. There is no point in flogging a dead horse, getting it wrong year after year.
Unless you have a bottomless bank account, that hard earned company money could be used more profitably elsewhere.
The second port of call should be that of selecting a theme. Many organisations opt to adopt the one that the exhibition organisers have selected, if they choose to participate in the competitions. The other is to link your participation to organisational aims and objectives.
What is it that you want to achieve through your participation? Are you launching a brand, product, service or to inform the public that the company is alive, kicking and doing amazing things in the market?
Whatever the objectives they must be SMART, that is, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. Every activity, item and prop on your stand should be geared towards achieving clear aims and objectives.
In that way, most aspects, including the elephant in room — costs — would have been covered as part of a much broader marketing or communications strategy. An exhibition offers a whole package of techniques and tactics that cut costs when executed properly.
The Zimbabwe International Trade Fair Company are event facilitators. It therefore pays for you to work with them before you hold your planning meetings. This ensures that all your requirements are identified early.
Issues such as space bookings and the form which your participation will take all rely on set parameters. ZITF are very good at providing all the essential information required when making presentations to management and team members.
ZITF also maintains a database of registered and approved service providers. These have been carefully designated to avoid incidences of shoddy delivery and, in some instances, clear cases of fraud.
Your budget determines the scope and nature of participation. The mistake some exhibitors make is to start considering budget issues at the tail end of the planning process. This results in people having to cut back, fix and paste to fit into the money available.
Lenox Mhlanga is an associate with Magna Carta Reputation Management Consultants. He has experience working for the World Bank and is a part-time lecturer in public relations at the National University of Science and Technology. He can be contacted on +263 772 400 656 Email: email@example.com