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Getting the most out of the National Ploughing Championships

The National Ploughing Championships (NPC) will return to Ratheniska in Co. Laois from September 19th to 21st, writes Liam DePaor, managing director of de Paor Consultancy.

The NPC is the biggest rural event on the island of Ireland and almost 300,000 people are expected to attend from all over Ireland, Britain, the EU and further afield.

Although some major exhibitors have pulled out in recent years, it will still have over 1,700 trade stands.

These will cover energy, forestry, livestock, machinery, construction, agri-business, auto arena, house and home, food and beverage, health and wellness, lifestyle and tourism, information technology, business, and education. All trade space has been sold out and there is a waiting list of trade exhibitors hoping to find some space.

Trade space is expensive but if you book before May 12th, the cost for outdoor space is €180/metre frontage for a 9m depth stand or €203/m frontage for an 18m depth.

If you wait until June 1st, the cost increases by 32%. To summarise an early bird booking for an 18m stand frontage will cost you €3,654.

Then, you have accommodation, banners, delivery/collection, electricity, food, insurance, literature, stand build and structure, travel costs etc.

You can estimate total costs at around quadruple the exhibition space costs.

If you have a smaller and less impressive stand, then first impressions are not going to be great so busy potential visitors will simply walk past your stand.

One option, depending on what products or services you are marketing, worth considering is to book an indoor stand.

For an early booking, a 2m x3m unit will cost you €842 per unit. After June 1st, the price increases to €1,113 per unit. A 3m x3m unit will cost you €1,265 per unit and after June 1st, the price increase to €1,673 per unit.

The Dome

Categories include food & beverages, house & home, lifestyle & tourism, retail & business, health & wellness.

Exhibitors are positioned within a framed marquee. The overall dimension of the marquee is 65m frontage by 30m depth with 114 units in total.

The Hub

Categories include education & business and retail & business.

Exhibitors are positioned within a framed marquee. The overall dimension of a marquee is 65m frontage by 30m depth with 114 units in total.

If you are in the dome or hub, you are guaranteed a full house with thousands of potential customers passing through over three days.

In addition, the costs of putting the stand together are minimal.

For outdoor space, a good option is to share space with a livestock exhibitor.

Livestock farmers are guaranteed to visit cattle and sheep breed stands in large numbers. The breed societies may be happy to reduce their costs and share space with you.

One example of this is the IHFA which shares space with some commercial firms that can then expect a visit from many of their 3,700 members who have large herds of high-yielding cows and significant purchasing budgets for animal health products, equipment, feed etc.

So having already invested a significant budget for the Ploughing Championship what can you do to ensure that you get a significant number of visitors and a good return on your marketing budget?

Firstly you need to let busy potential visitors know that you will be there and where your stand is located.

Even when people visit the NPC over two days as many do, they will only have time to visit only 5 to 10% of the available stands so they need to know your location and why your stand may be of interest to them?

Media

So, it is well worth sending a news release early in September say 5-600 words to your local newspaper, local radio station, agri media and popular websites such as That’s Farming telling them where your stand is located, who will be staffing same and what products or services you will be marketing.

It may be worth inviting specific journalists to visit your stand for a press, interview or photoshoot.

The agri media depends on advertising for their commercial success and will give your PR more space if you can afford to do some advertising.

All major agri media and quite a few local newspapers have features on the NPC. These are well-read and a good place to target your PR or to do some advertising.

Local radio stations often have a stand at the NPC and even when they appear to be absent, they may send a journalist along.

So, there could be an opportunity to get some publicity on your local radio before, during or even after the Ploughing is over.

Obviously, it helps if you have a new product or service to publicise but potential customers are also interested in getting good technical advice.

So, if you have good technical sales staff why not mention their area of expertise?

Photos

Ideally, you should also include an interesting photo.

To quote Confucius, the famous Chinese sage, a picture speaks a thousand words. One of our clients, McAree Engineering, who manufacture feed silos always, have a nice vintage tractor on their stand and it usually attracts lots of interest and people looking to be photographed on it.

Visitors are also interested in a free draw for popular products/services, or it could be a weekend for two in a nice hotel and prizes of a dinner for two.

This is also a useful way to collect information and contact details from visitors.

It is a good idea to take a photo of the draw using an Agri VIP on the last evening. This photo can be used to generate extra publicity after the NPC.

During the show, you can arrange to have some professional photos taken with Agri VIPs and visitors to show that you have a busy stand and the best of visitors.

To achieve this, you need to book a photographer before the event as photographers on site will be very busy and are simply not available for extra work.

Photos can be captioned and sent with a mini news release to the local press, agri media etc but this needs to be done after the first day as the media will be bombarded with PR material from then on.

Publicity fills the available space and if you are late, you have missed the boat. Photos can also be used on your Facebook page, Instagram account, on your website, in your newsletter etc.

Your stand

Working on a stand at the NPC is very tiring so you need adequate staff and to look after them with good food and toilet facilities.

Otherwise, they will be wasting time queuing up for food and busy toilets.

One way to beef up your staff is to hire some ag students for the event. These students can empathise with farmers – will make them welcome and have the skills to persuade them to fill in short questionnaires and participate in prize draws.

If you have the space, it is useful to have a private area where key staff can spend time with important customers or visitors.

Key staff also need to be protected from tyre kickers and time wasters so have someone picked to interrupt wasteful conversations and advise key personnel that someone else is waiting to speak to them.

Tired visitors also appreciate light refreshments and toilet facilities if they are available -a great investment in our opinion.

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