3 of the most stressful things about exhibiting at a trade show…
1- Not knowing what costs are going to be.
Solution: Review all information from show and all vendors in detail and early (many provide advance order discounts due to ability to plan better when they have orders early). Encourage the show organizer to select an official services provider who doesn’t play games with pricing and will help you with budget predictability, rather than confuse you – pay special attention to material handling up-charges. (<<Shameless plug for Fern and Fern Transportation there)
2- Will [the right] people show up?
Solution: Don’t just expect them to. Buy lists (from show), research, individually invite and follow-up. Count on those who just show up as extras, but plan to get the right people there yourself.
3- Will I get out of there in time to catch my plane?
Solution: Hire the official services provider to help you get your exhibit and materials out of the show at show close so most of your focus can be on following up with attendees and having less stressful travel. Turnkey solutions and rental booths are a good option for many that can appear fully custom to your brand and needs and often be less expensive than building/buying/bringing your own and allow more scale flexibility, especially if you are a growing company or present yourself in many different sized exhibit spaces. Using the official provider’s shipping service will also allow you more peace of mind.
What they should be:
1- Training [the right] exhibit staff specific to opportunities the show provides and preparing them to maximize engagement. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Too often exhibitors and exhibit staff just show up and don’t have a plan. Train, have objectives, have alignment, and execute.
2- Getting all off-floor engagement opportunities planned and executed well. Client/prospect dinners, hospitality events, sponsorship engagements. Everyone is busy on the show floor, don’t forget the very significant off-the-floor opportunities. Get the right prospects/clients out to dinner with the right people on your team. Consider hospitality events, either independent or through sponsorships and also have a well thought out and executed plan for maximizing those opportunities, again take it upon yourself to make sure the right attendees are invited and attend.
3- Is the follow up plan right and will it be executed with perfection? Most important, follow-up. This is where the ball gets dropped most. You are making a huge investment make sure you don’t give up before the returns should even start to come in. Gather your data, make a plan, have goals, make assignments, follow-up, hold people accountable. This is why you exhibited, take the final steps. In reality, your exhibiting in most shows should be a 365 day cycle and you should roll from show planning to execution to follow-up and repeat with aspects of this process running throughout the year.
Shows are most successful for exhibitors when they plan and execute well. When executed well, there is absolutely no other sales/marketing medium that can come close to being as impactful as face-to-face experiences.