Home > event > Exhibiting at a Trade Show? What to Do Before the Show

Exhibiting at a Trade Show? What to Do Before the Show

WhatToDoTrade shows and events are still an important part of marketing plans for many companies, law firms and organizations.  Face time with current clients, potential clients and partners is still critical to success.  Trade shows are also very expensive with booth space costs, marketing materials and travel costs.  Therefore, maximizing the benefit from exhibiting at a trade show is important.  This post is about what needs to be done before the event.  Other posts will deal with what needs to be done during and after the show.

For each show that your company or organization has selected to exhibit at do the following:

  1. Have a kickoff meeting. You need to get the ball rolling so have a meeting with those in your company or organization to discuss the goal for your attendance at the event.  Discuss what products and/or services will be ready in time for the event.  Discuss the hoped for target audience at this event and what is a good way for your company or organization to attract their attention.  Discuss what theme you will use at the event.  Will it be the same theme as used before?  Discuss how many individuals from your company or organization will attend the event.
  2. Create a cost spreadsheet for the event. Mark down the estimated costs for booth space, booth extras such as electrical & furniture, travel costs (airfare, hotel, car rental, food), promotional giveaways, etc.
  3. Create a packing spreadsheet for the event. Anytime you think of anything you will need at the event such as cleaning materials, packing tape, computer equipment, signs, booth, pens, giveaways, brochures, etc.  put them on this spreadsheet.  The last few days before an event are very hectic and you don’t want to forget some critical items so add them to the list as you think of them.  And this list will be used as the starting list  for the next show.
  4. Create a show task list. If your company or organization’s involvement in the show will be major (multiple vendors, multiple speaking engagements, large booth space, etc.) you might consider using project management software such as MS project.  But in many cases the show task list can be done on a spreadsheet sorted in date of when it needs to be done order.  This task list will be constantly changing.  Tasks should include items such as make travel arrangements, ship materials to show, make kits, etc..  And add to the list when you need to submit your order for the giveaways, signage and updated booth skins.  These probably have the longest lead times.
  5. Create your show promotional calendar. Let people know that you will be attending this event.  Send out email blasts to customers.  Put it on your LinkedIn group.  Put it on your Facebook Fan page.  Send tweets about it.  Maybe even some direct mail.  Definitely put it on your website.  Write a news release about your attendance especially if your company or organization is speaking at the event.  You need to coordinate the timing of all your marketing for the event.
  6. Create a trade show manager notebook. Whoever the assigned show manager is for your company or organization needs to have in their possession at the event a notebook that contains the exhibitor information for the event, all contracts, all confirmations and information regarding the staffing for the show.  This notebook should also contain the return packing labels for shipment of the booth and other items back to the company or organization.
  7. Setup meetings with individuals that you want to meet at the show. Review who will be coming to the show.  Setup in advance meetings with media people, show organizers, current vendors, prospective vendors and perspective employees for breakfast, coffee, lunch or dinner.  Take advantage of the time you have with these individuals.  The days and nights will be long but beneficial.  I’ve seen it countless time that a new partner that we’ve met at a show will send us business very quickly after the event as we were fresh in their mind.
  8. Design you booth layout. Sketch out a diagram of the booth and mark down where tables, chairs, signs, podiums, booth, etc. will be located.  Review where you think the most traffic will be coming from for your booth.   Make sure the people coming to your booth can see what your company or organization does.
  9. Inform employees. Send an email to those in your company that will be attending the event with the information about the event that they will need.  This will include date/ time/ location of the event, when they need to be there, where they will be staying, how they will be getting to the event, event attire, booth staffing schedule, other events that they are required to attend, how the show’s attendance will be promoted, what marketing materials will be in the booth, booth rules, etc..  The sooner that they have this info the better prepared they will be and the happier they will be.  If new products or services are being mentioned at the event, make sure that they have the proper training before they get to the event.
  10. Assemble your handouts. Determine what you will be handing out to various types of individuals (press, prospects, potential employees, etc.) and assemble the kits in advance.   Some people still like to have something in their hands when they meet a new vendor.  Don’t hand out the prospect kits to everyone but hot prospects.  If you have a great deal of information to hand out consider a flash drive or DVD with the information on it.  Direct them to a landing page.

Remember that trade shows and events are an important but expensive part of the marketing plan and thus important to the success of the company, law firm  or non-profit organization.  The more planning that is done before the event and the more that is done in advance will lead to a more successful show attendance.

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