Participating in a trade show is a huge decision, and it can be stressful for you and your business. Many people feel lost when it comes to knowing how to plan for a trade show event. Planning ahead properly alleviates much of the headache associated with trade show event planning, and it makes things run a lot smoother.
From planning your booth and printing marketing materials to paying fees and thinking about logistics, there are many factors to take into consideration. Attending a trade show can also be an exciting and opportune event for your business. Use this trade show guide to kick off your process and keep your objectives in line as you move forward and closer to the show date.
Trade Show Event Planning
Before you decide to attend a trade show, think about your reasons for attending the show. What outcomes do you want to achieve? Will it be worthwhile it for your business?
Choose Your Trade Show Carefully
Obviously your business won’t be able to attend every trade show you come across, so carefully consider what trade show(s) you can feasibly attend and which ones will be more beneficial to your business. Do a cost benefit analysis for your top choices and then make your decision. You don’t want to take months to choose, as you’ll need anywhere from six months to a year to plan.
Read the Show Documents
Each trade show you attend should have a manual available on their website for you to read. Make note of any details about the show, including dates and fee schedules. Ask the organizers where the press room is located and if there is any mandatory meetings that you will need to attend. They will also be able to help you purchase advertising space to help attendees locate your booth and additional opportunities you should know about in advance.
Determine Your Goals
Before going to a show, it’s highly important that you know what you want to accomplish there. Are you hoping to reach your audience? Maybe you’re looking to introduce your business to a new audience. Some businesses make checking out the competition a goal as well. Write your objectives down and weigh them against what you believe the trade show will provide.
Put Your Plan in Writing
Think of your booth at a trade show like a marketing campaign. Marketing campaigns take extensive planning and must be written down, so should your trade show plan. Make sure your team and staff know who is responsible for what tasks. Writing your trade show plan down will make everyone accountable for knowing what to do. Include details like event times, where to park, meetings, and contact information.
Develop Your Budget
Attending a trade show can incur a great cost, but if you’ve determined that the even will be beneficial to your business, you’ll find it will be money well spent. Determine every single cost that is associated with the trade show. Booth fees, marketing materials, exhibit display costs, travel, etc. should all be calculated into your budget. Also, don’t forget about incidental expenses to cover any unexpected costs.
Trade Show Display Ideas
Your trade show display should reflect your company. It should tell a story about your business, while attracting and encouraging visitors to learn more about you and your company.
Your layout should be open and inviting. Use layout and space flow to encourage walkthroughs, increasing booth traffic and lingering. Don’t create a barrier between you and your visitors by sitting behind a table. Get rid of the table and stand up to greet attendees as they walk-by and visit your booth.
If you’re a tech company and attending a tech-oriented trade show, your display may include lots of audio-visuals, hi-tech multimedia displays, screen and demonstrations. For a wedding-oriented trade show, your business’s display might take a softer, more feminine approach. Consider the personality of your brand, and remember that trade show exhibits are no place for “keeping it simple.” Go all out, but don’t blow your budget.
Make Your Booth Visible
You’re essentially competing with the other exhibitors for the attention of attendees. Make your booth visible from across the building with large display signs and banner stand displays that feature eye-catching colors and your logo. Your message should be clear and should grab passersby’s attention in just a few seconds to stand out amongst the crowd.
Invoke Focus with Lighting
Use lighting to draw visitors to specific areas of your setup. If you want to showcase a particular product, use spotlighting to bring attention to them and add “drama.” For tech displays, black backdrops work perfectly with LED display lighting. This look and two-tone color scheme is eye-catching without being busy.
Drive Traffic with Details
Mirrors and other reflective surfaces cause attendees to look your way just because of their own reflections! It’s a good way to catch attention and then reel them in with interesting displays and exhibits. Capture more attention, and provide raffle jars and other giveaways and prizes for attendees’ emails. Use bright entryway flooring to usher people into your booth and keep them there with attractive highlights of your products and services.
Trade Show Marketing Ideas to Drive Traffic Your Way
Trade show planning also means planning to get the attention of attendees. It would be wise to develop a marketing strategy that makes your target audience aware of your presence at the event. Try the following ideas to make your marketing efforts a success.
Grab Their Attention Before the Show
Get your audience’s attention before the show and get them to seek you when they get there by doing some marketing in advance of the show. One company mailed pineapples to attendees and saw awesome results – recipients flocked to their booth. You should consider using social media to promote your brand before the show. The takeaway here is to creatively develop buzz about your business amongst trade show goers before the event. You’ll already be in the forefront of their minds at the show, and they’ll want to meet the people behind the company who reached out to them.
Make it Fun for Visitors
Collaborate with other vendors who complement – not compete with — your services. Develop a stamp system, so visitors who have their cards stamped by each of the exhibitors on the card will be entered in a drawing to win a nice prize. You’re bound to increase traffic, but once you get them to your booth, give them a reason to stay and hear you out.
Reel in the Kids; Parents Will Follow
If you have a booth that is family or kid friendly, appeal to the kids first. Use balloons, bright colors, toys, a play area or candy to get kids to notice you. Parents will likely follow their kids to see what all the fuss is about. Be friendly and make yourself and your staff available to greet and talk with booth visitors.
Appeal to Their Senses
Stimulate every sense to create a real experience for your booth’s visitors. Engagement makes people interested in what you have to offer. Use attractive colors and lighting and play music that goes along with your theme. Use a scent machine to create a pleasant, simple and attractive smell that draws people to your booth. Make your displays interactive and hands-on. Hand out edible, branded goodies, like cookies or other treats.
Offer a Unique Experience
Trade show attendees may be over stimulated from all of the lights and signs. Offer a calm, but appealing alternative. Be easygoing, but friendly. Offer refreshments and even a place to sit down. By offering a place to relax and regroup, you’ll have the opportunity to start a conversation and talk up your business.
12-month Trade Show Event Planning Checklist
Now that you’ve gotten most of the preliminaries out of the way, you can move on to planning out the next several months. Here’s a month-to-month look at what you should be focusing on as the trade show date approaches. Some of the things in this checklist we’ve already discussed, but this is just a way to keeping everything in order. Keep in mind that this is just a guide. Feel free to adjust this as needed to fit your company’s own needs.
12 Months Before
- Determine participation – Decide whether attending the trade show is beneficial for your business, and do a cost benefit analysis to determine whether the benefit is worth the cost.
- Develop your trade show marketing strategy – Understand who you are targeting at the tradeshow. Is your current audience attending, or are you seeking new business?
- Select booth size and space – Choose an appropriately-sized space. Don’t choose something too small that will get lost in the crowed of displays, but don’t go so big that the size overwhelms your exhibits.
- Read show manual and contract thoroughly, making notes of all important information and dates – Make sure you have a full grasp on the dates. Timing is everything when it comes to successful trade show event planning.
- Send in an application, along with payment – Spaces run out pretty quickly, especially at large and popular trade show events.
- Develop your budget – Consider all costs and expenses, and be sure to leave room for incidentals. You don’t want to go over budget because of improper budgeting.
6 Months Before
- Determine layout design – Design a layout that tells your brand’s story to visitors. Keep your layout open, flowing and inviting. Use visual cues to draw customers to and through your display.
- Explore exhibit options – Consult with your exhibit display provider to go over options. Experts can help you determine the best options for communicating your brand’s message.
- Determine exhibit vendors, transportation company and set-up/take-down vendor – You’ll want to have all of these things lined up for a smooth start and finish. Confirming the details the day of the trade show event will decrease your chances of miscommunication or problems.
- Book hotel rooms for traveling staff – You don’t want the headache of not being able to find hotel rooms by waiting too close to the event date. If it is an especially large event, book as soon as you’ve decided you want to go.
4 Months Before
- Develop a sales plan – Think about what strategies you will use to make sales. Are you looking for sales at the event? Do you want to capture leads and gauge interest?
- Order promotional and giveaway items – Visitors to your booth with almost expect some kind of promotional item to take with them. Promotional items are also a great way to get your brand’s name imprinted in potential clients’ minds.
- Finalize exhibit floor plan – Confirm all the details, look at blueprints of the layout and make any necessary changes.
- Print marketing materials and literature – Make sure all of your marketing materials and literature are written, designed and ready for printing. Printing them now will save you the last minute hassle of doing it too close to the show.
2 Months Before
- Reread exhibitor manual – Make sure you comb through every detail. Don’t miss anything!
- Plan and finalize all audio-visuals, presentations and demonstrations – Make sure you know all the equipment you’ll need for any audio-visuals, and be sure you and your trade show staff have presentations and demonstrations down to a science. The last thing you want is to look unprofessional in front of your audience.
- Reserve any additional needed space – If you need meeting space for your team or for clients who are ready to consult with you during the event, go ahead and reserve it now.
- Select catering menus, if necessary – If you will serve your visitors any goodies, like baked goods or light refreshments, arrange for that now.
- Submit any necessary authorization forms – If any details about your event are being handle by third parties, get those forms in, so all you’ll have to do later is confirm.
- Plan pre-show meeting with trade show team – Set a date for the meeting you’ll have with staff involved with the trade show to go over the details of the event. You’ll also want to go over what is expected of each of them.
- Order staff badges and uniforms – Do these things now, so that any errors can be corrected in time.
- Submit orders for equipment vendors – This is another task to do in advance to avoid last-minute issues.
- Prepare all staff and manager information packets, memos, briefings, etc. – You’ll want to distribute these as soon as possible. Encourage your staff to go over the information thoroughly, so there is no confusion.
One Month Before
- Review final layout and exhibits – At this point there shouldn’t be any major changes. Just make sure everything is in place and lined up for installation, and maybe make very minor tweaks as necessary.
- Make follow-up packets – Make sure you are prepared to follow up with your leads soon after the show, while your brand is fresh in their minds.
- Confirm install and takedown schedule with responsible parties.
- Gather all materials for shipping – Make sure to confirm delivery dates and times. Sign up for email and text notifications from the shipping companies, so you can stay up to date on tracking and delivery confirmations.
- Hold in-office meeting and discuss:
-Purpose and goals
- Create a binder to hold:
-Copies of all orders and receipts
-Vendor contact information
Day of Trade Show
- Pick up freight arrivals.
- Confirm all room reservations, catering and meeting reservations.
- Confirm date and time for electrical installations.
- Supervise the booth setup – You’ll want to be around to give direction and make sure everything is running smoothly.
- Hold pre-show briefing – Create an air of excitement, but also make sure your team understands the importance of the event and knows their responsibilities.
During the Trade Show Event
- Network and enjoy the trade show.
- Conduct daily staff meetings and daily briefings – Regroup after a long day, and keep everyone in the loop about the next day’s happenings.
- Arrange takedown and shipping of items – Confirm, again, all takedown arrangement. Ship all items back to your home office location.
- Reserve your space for next year – Get a jumpstart on planning if you plan to return the following year.
- Supervise takedown of booth and exhibits.
After the Show
- Transfer leads to database and follow up –That’s why you prepared the follow up packets in advance. Go ahead and get your packet sent out in the first week after the show.
- Send out thank you notes as necessary.
- Determine if goals were accomplished – Develop a system of measurement for success. Maybe getting 100 leads means you accomplished your goals. Come up with a measurement tactic that fits your business and your objectives.
- Determine improvements – Look back to see what could have been done better, or if everything was perfect, brainstorm how you can outdo yourself the next year.
- Begin planning process for next year’s event – After all, your next tradeshow is right around the corner!
Planning to be an exhibitor at a trade show requires lots of work and planning, but using this trade show planning guide can omit much of the guesswork stress. Get the best price and quality for all your trade show displays and products through APG Exhibits. Successful planning makes for a successful event and we can help you get there.