So you’ve decided to exhibit at a trade show! The good news is, regardless of advancements and technology or various industry changes trade shows remain an effective and proven method of targeting new clients, maintaining relationships with existing ones, generating new prospects and sales, introducing your product or brand, or positioning yourself within a market. In the world of text messaging and Skyping, there is something about going out into the world and engaging directly with people about your brand or product that leaves a lasting impression. So if your goal is any of the above exhibiting is the right choice for you.
With that being said, even the frequent exhibitor can feel overwhelmed by planning their booth. It’s a lot like wedding planning minus the fun stuff like champagne and cake (unless it is a trade show for those industries) but potentially with the fun stuff like DJ’s and giveaways. Like weddings you are typically dealing with a venue and rules, decorating a space, travel, budgeting expenses, handshakes and meeting new people. There are other parallels but you catch my drift. It’s an event that carries significance and the end you are pooped!
Perhaps this is your first trade show or maybe this is your 20th and you are a sage (If so, congrats!). We wanted to provide you with a Trade Show Check List of all of the areas you will cover in your planning and what some of it means.
Much like a wedding invitation it starts with the basics.
- What is the name of the show?
- What are the dates/times? There are typically set-up dates and show dates and it is important to have both on your calender.
- Show Location – It is important to have actual show location and warehouse delivery location if applicable.
- Show Staff – Determine who will be show captain and who you will staff for the show.
Make sure you submit your application as soon as possible so that you get the ideal booth space. Your application to do list includes:
- Completing and mailing your form
- Submit deposit payment
- Request booth location
- Pay remainder of space fee
Exhibit Package Forms:
This packet is typically eye crossing and tedious depending on the show. The provided list below covers the key things to consider of the exhibit packet.
- Rentals – If you are a frequent exhibitor it might be worth it to you to purchase your own equipment however renting is a great option as well. Many venues offers audio/visual and rentals as well as carpet. The benefits of this are that you won’t have to transport these items. There is also an installation option which means one less thing for you to worry about.
- Cleaning – Venues typically offer cleaning services and have requirements/rules.
- Drayage – Drayage is a strange word, isn’t it? It’s a loose term for transport and is typically referring to the transport/delivery of materials from a dock or warehouse to your space. Some venues require fees for the handling and delivery.
- Electrical – Many venues require you to specify where in the booth you will need electrical and those electrical devices will need to be compliant with the venue.
- Labor and Rigging – Your booth will require installation and de-installation. Many shows give you the option of hiring their staff to safely install, while some require you to let them install certain types of equipment such as hanging signs and displays or motorized units that require additional rigging. It is very important to review the regulations in your exhibit packet regarding labor when purchasing displays as it may be an additional labor cost to install a certain type of display.
- Furniture & Signage – Pretty self explanatory, but this is where you will list what furniture and display items will be included in your booth. These categories are sometimes separate but in both categories you will need to provide an accurate list of your large item booth inventory.
- Plumbing – Will your booth require any water flow?
- Exhibit Booth Guidelines for Sizes – This is very important to pay attention to. You will always have dimensional limitations depending on the booth you select. For example, 10×10 booths are typically only allowed an 8′ max height in the back half of the booth and nothing above 4′ in the front half. Limitations apply with larger booths as well but it is important to review this information prior to buying a display system and accessories and check the dimensions!
Booth Display Preparation:
- All new display items should be ordered, delivered, and test installed prior to transport to show.
- Any repairs on old units should be completed
- Check any signage and make sure it does not need to be updated
- Double check any newly produced graphics for errors/typos
- Make sure you have everything you need for a solid booth layout. If you are renting a table, do you have a branded or color coordinated table cover? Seating? Lighting? Literature stands? Media (such as iPad or LCD) stands?
- Create a checklist of everything you are sending to the show to stay organized
Additional Items to Pack:
- Show evaluation forms
- Client lead forms
- Return shipping labels
- Extra power strips/extension cords
- Extra Light Bulbs
- Emergency Trade Show Kit or “Gang Box”: Read our suggestions on what to pack here
- Shipping carriers selected and all applicable documents supplied to carrier and facility
- Shipping forms completed
- Pick-up and arrival dates determined
- Shipping to show, hotel, or advanced warehouse facility?
- Return shipping arranged with prepared return shipping labels
Show Promotions: How are you promoting your presence at this show? What marketing channels are you utilizing to bring attention to your brand or product at this event specifically and how will you hold their attention post show? Here are some ideas:
- Pre-Show mailing
- Social network invites and/or event page
- Instagram from the event
- Show giveaways/prizes
- Paid advertising (Magazines, news publications, commercials, etc.)
- Press Kits
- Kiosk space
Post Show Follow Up: This is your plan of action to fortify the connections you have established at the show. At the very least, a courtesy email or physical letter is a good idea. Consider following up with product information, samples, etc. Keep the contact WARM!
Last but not least, make a log of comments about this show. The successes, the things you need to modify for next year, etc. while it is fresh in your mind. Good luck!