Even the most experienced trade show exhibitors can find it difficult to properly plan and orchestrate their participation as an event vendor. For first- or second-timers, it can be especially daunting. Fear not! We put together this article on a few trade show planning objectives that ALL exhibitors, seasoned or not, should try to hit, including; Goals Setting, Show Attendance Assessments, Budgeting, Timeline Planning, Exhibit Selection, Shipping & More.
Define Your Primary Goal(s)
The first objective is to simply define the type of trade show goals you want to accomplish during the event. It may sound simple or counter-productive but you may discover additional opportunities you never thought of before.
Common goals we often see include:
- Increasing brand recognition and awareness
- New product/service introduction
- Sales lead generation
- Client relationships management and nurturing
- Emerging trends
It will pay off in the long run to identify these goals early. This will focus your energy and budget on creating the most effective exhibit design – exhibit, signage, marketing materials, etc – based around your primary goals.
Finding the Proper Show(s)
There are over 10,000 trade shows conducted in the United States every year. Obviously start trimming down to the shows specific to your industry. From there, consider what size shows align with your goals. Too big a show and sales may suffer. Too small and you may not gain sufficient brand awareness.
Questions to ask yourself when choosing the proper shows:
• Will the show attract enough of the right types of participants to justify the expense?
• Is the show conveniently located, geographically for your potential clients?
• If the event is successful in generating sales, will your company be able to fulfill the orders?
• Is it a first-time ever trade show and/or does the organizer have a successful track record with prior shows?
Itemizing Your Budget
Exhibiting at a high-profile trade show can certainly garner better results but the larger the show, the more expensive it may be to attend. You simply will need more of everything – space, marketing and promo material as well as staff – and of course budget. But again! Don’t let this deter you. Bigger shows may mean bigger budgets but they also mean bigger ROI.
Considerations in setting your trade show budget:
- Plan on spending approximately one-quarter to one-third of your budget on obtaining the exhibit space.
- Check for early registration incentives to reduce said exhibit space fees.
- Seek and carefully read the “exhibitors kit” to avoid cut-off and late fees. (Usually on the show website)
- Finally, check on what other show service fees – electric, cleaning, drayage as well as trade show I&D – will be required for your particular show space.
Looking for a Deeper Dive Into Trade Show Planning?
Check out our resources section for tons more trade show guides and tips!
Planning a Timeline
In a nutshell, developing a solid timeline (and sticking to it) is the essence of trade show & event planning, as it will determine the success of the entire campaign. It may even save you thousands in associated costs.
START EARLY – as much as year ahead of time is not too soon. Best time to plan for next years trade show is while this year is still fresh in your mind. You will have a much fresher idea of what went wrong, what went right, what to change and what to scale.
We recommend completing this task in three-month or quarterly blocks. First quarter should be the most time sensitive; Booth space, Layout, Exhibit Designs and budgeting. The last quarter should be the little details; Final Exhibit Fabrication, Graphics, Promo items, Labor Forms, etc.
Designing Your Exhibit
As the primary reason for your trade show campaign in the first place, the trade show exhibit design is crucial. In this case, first impressions are everything. So it’s essential to get your exhibit design right.
A few considerations in designing an exhibit:
• Will a modular trade show booth work or will it need to be custom built? Could it be a combo of both?
• Make it multi-sensory if possible –touch, see, hear, taste and smell (if applicable) at the very least include sound and video.
• If you plan product demos, promotional items and contests, make sure you dedicate plenty of space for foot traffic and visibility in a crowd.
• If space allows, include room for on-site storage of marketing materials, bags and giveaways.
What good is all this work if the exhibit never shows up or is late? Logistics is the unsung hero of the trade show industry and should therefore be a cautious decision during trade show planning. Get the wrong storage facility and thousands of dollars of exhibit materials can be damaged or rendered useless. Get the wrong shipping company and you may never see your investment again. Do your research, ask around. Good exhibit logistics are out there and well worth every penny.
So there you go! Experienced or not, proper trade show planning is the foundation of any successful event. Even if you already have some objectives in place – Reliable Shipper, Exhibit Designer, Budget set – It doesn’t hurt to revisit for better opportunities. That is after all how we progress and make the industry better as a whole.