Lessons from Another Legal Tech Events Season – Part 1: Exhibitors

Published on 2023-12-12 byChris Ford

Elite frequent flier status has been achieved for another year. The Away bag can be properly unpacked. The branded socks, beanies and t-shirts can be put away into drawers. The hotel soaps and shampoos can be added to that one container in the bathroom, never to be touched again.

We’re at the end of another hectic autumn events period, and looking forward to not seeing another airport, hotel lobby or exhibitor floor for a good month and a half until Legalweek.

You may have had a booth at one or more of the big events put on by ILTA, ACC, Clio, Legal Geek and IBA or any of the smaller events on a busy calendar from late August through November. It’s worth reflecting on whether you made the most of the investment.

As someone who spent a lot of time on various exhibitor floors over the past three months, from a vendor perspective, certain things I keep seeing make we wonder “are we really still doing this stuff?”

By “this stuff”, I mean failing to optimize the opportunities that events present as a critical business development tool.

At each conference, I walk the exhibitor floor to get a sense of how strategic and effective the presence of the exhibitors is. And oftentimes, I walk away with the above question ringing in my head.

Let’s break it down.


The Box-Checking Exercise

Back when I was starting off in marketing, I would make my way to work, marveling at the new horseless carriages and reading about the Kaiser’s worrisome ambitions, then set about following a template for building a marketing strategy. Mail outs? Check. A website? Check. A Facebook page? Check. You get the idea.

Marketing has evolved well beyond the old box-checking exercise from when my hair was all pepper, no salt (sigh). So WHY are you exhibiting at this event? It’d better not be because “it’s part of any marketing strategy”. You should be there because you have calculated that you will see a tangible benefit from lead generation, existing opportunity conversion, renewals or brand awareness, or there is a reputational cost to you NOT being there.

Which brings me to the next question…


What Does a Successful Event Look Like?

It’s 2023, and vendors are spending ten of thousands of dollars to have a booth at a big event, stock it with swag, fly in/house/feed/clothe a team of people to run it, pay a scandalous daily rate for wi-fi access, and they still can’t tell me how they measure success for it all.

The correct answer has to be a quantifiable set of metrics. Everyone at your booth needs to sing from the same hymn sheet when asked that question. “30 demos, 10 new opportunities, 4 existing opportunities progressed, 3 closed/won” is the type of answer you want each team member to give. That is a team that knows that they need 2 new contracts at their ACV of 30K each to pay for the 60K total cost of the event. They know that they have their 3 account execs and a member of the C-suite at the event for four days, time not doing what they normally do, so another new contract will cover that opportunity cost. They know that they close a third of their opportunities, and they know that they get one new opportunity for every three demos performed.

They also know that they have to set themselves up for success before they even step on a plane…


Winning Without Booth Traffic

Here’s my hot take – booth traffic and any opportunities that arise therein should be the cream on top of a successful event for your team.

As I’ve previously discussed, if you have a handle on who your true target audience is, you know that there are maybe several hundred decision makers that you are actually trying to reach. There may be a few dozen of them, if you’re lucky, at this event. And there might be a handful that are currently or will soon be in the market for your solution. You can’t leave it to chance that they will meander past your booth and want to engage.  You need to reach out before the event and book meetings with these precious decision-makers. The real business usually happens in one-on-one meetings away from the booth. The vendors who have nebulous answers to the ‘what does success look like?’ question invariably have few or no meetings pre-booked. The team that gave the quantifiable goals? They set a target of 15 meetings booked with decision makers from their top 50 target accounts.


Winning at the Booth

If there’s one thing that makes me want to sprint into oncoming traffic, it’s pineapple on pizza (come at me – I will die on this hill). If there’s two things that make me want to sprint into oncoming traffic, it’s that culinary abomination and seeing vendors sitting behind a desk or table at a booth, eyes down on a laptop or phone. While you shouldn’t be aggressive in engaging passers-by, you need to at least make yourself approachable. Lose the chairs altogether unless you have a table set up to hold demos. Considering the amount of investment in an exhibitor booth, it is stunning that some adopt a posture that makes it seem like you are actually bothering them if you want to enquire.

Driving traffic with treats, fun games, swag, beverages (both leaded and unleaded) and the holy grail of attracting booth visitors, the barista cart (you cannot convince me that the secret ingredient to all exhibition hall coffee isn’t despair), is fine if you have the right, light-touch approach.


Post-event is About More than Lead Follow-Up

Hopefully, you have gone into the event with a comprehensive follow-up procedure for all opportunities that you cultivate. You may even have messaging ready to go out to the attendee list that is given to you as part of your sponsorship. Great.

But what have you learned from this exhibitor experience? What would you do differently? Was it worth the investment?

These are critical questions that need to be addressed and put into a report by the show lead (usually a marketing team member). Book a team debrief call with all who attended within a week of the event to answer the above questions. Discuss what other exhibitors did well, what you could have done better, what resources the team would have liked. Conclude with the quantifiable results from the event, and recommendations on whether you should attend again next year, along with the level of participation.

About the AuthorView Profile
Chris Ford

Chris Ford

Co-Founder, Head of Marketing and Consulting Legaltech Hub

Chris Ford is the Head of Marketing and Consulting and an original co-founder of Legaltech Hub. Having spent over two decades in marketing and business development leadership, he has found a home in the legal industry in the last several years. With experience building and leading marketing functions at LexisNexis, Axiom, ZERO and Baretz+Brunelle, he leads marketing efforts at Legaltech Hub as well as advising external clients. 

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