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Guide to Trade Show Planning – Part 1

10/15/15 by Brandon

In previous posts, I mentioned that your exhibit should be a marketing tool, not a sales tool. In this series about trade show planning, we will go through the planning of an effective marketing strategy.

trade show planning success
Exhibit Edge
has gone through this marketing process before ─ we’ve been exhibitors at a trade show called ExhibitorLive that happens in Las Vegas in the spring. We developed our first show checklist about two months out from the trade show. We divided our checklist into 4 major categories:

 

  1. The Message
  2. The Technical Approach
  3. Booth Flow and Lead Capture
  4. Logistics

So at the first planning meeting we assembled the team and looked at all four categories in general. One big thing to discuss was what message we would present at the show. We knew that we were taking the Exhibitor Lounge studio to the show, but what would be the message and the goal.

So we asked ourselves, “How do we define success at this show?” These are the metrics that a Marketing Manager needs to establish long before the show starts. The entire event centers around this one question. If you look at your exhibit as a selling tool, then you will have a hard time measuring your return on investment (ROI). If you look at it as a marketing tool, then those metrics are much easier to define.

Successes of Trade Show PlanningOur goal for the Exhibitor Live show was to sign up two to three hundred people per day into the Exhibitor Lounge community. It is a metric that can be well defined and accounted for as a direct result of the event, and can easily be measured. Once you know your goal, then you can develop a strategy to achieve that goal. That strategy takes into account all four major categories mentioned above. So we brainstormed and put our ideas and questions into each category. I will go through some of the questions we asked each other, but first I want to give you some basic facts about the show that we worked with.

  • The exhibit is in a 10 x 10 booth space.
  • The show is a 3 day show that runs about 4 hours each day.
  • The show has about 4,000 attendees.
  • The show is in Las Vegas and the exhibit is in Chantilly, Virginia.
  • It was about 7 weeks before the event started when we did the checklist

So here are some of the brainstorming questions:

  1. How do we sign people up?
  2. How many people will we need to man the exhibit?
  3. How will we create a draw to the exhibit?
  4. What can we do pre-show to advertise?
  5. When will the exhibit need to ship?
  6. Will we video live at the event?
  7. Will we have a giveaway, and if yes, what will it be?
  8. What is our budget?

These are just a small amount of the brainstorming questions. The next step is to put them into the 4 main categories and prioritize. Knowing the “show will go on,” you have to look at logistics and get a schedule in place. We are not including personal logistics like hotel arrangements since those should have been done long ago. Under logistics we put these topics.

  • The Shipping date from Virginia
  • Ordering deadlines for literature and giveaways
  • Advertising deadlines

Logistics of Trade Show Planning

These logistics are critical to your planning schedule. All exhibit managers track these deadlines, but don’t stop there. Remember, there are three other categories to a successful trade show.

Next week we will look at the decisions that were made at our first planning meeting and our progress towards the show.