What I’ve Learned From Planning and Attending 250+ Trade Shows and Events

By Katie Everett

people at trade show

Trade show planning is so much more than just setting up a table and chairs in a large convention center. It’s a great way to get face time with your customers and prospects, learn about industry trends, and talk with media. Hundreds of little details go into planning these events, large and small, and they all play a key role in making sure each event runs smoothly. I’m new to the UPRAISE team but have more than 3 years of experience in planning successful trade shows for a cybersecurity client. Here are a few tips to success for a company starting out their trade show plan.

Read The Show Rules and Deadlines (Multiple Times)

The first thing I do when knowing we’re taking a client to a show is read through the ‘Exhibitor Sponsorship Packet’ and note the deadlines. To ensure no deadlines are missed, add calendar invite reminders to your team’s calendars. Missing deadlines can result in late fees or on-site fees that can be 2-3x the normal price. Important deadlines to be aware of that are often missed are: Wi-Fi, electrical, furniture, hotel room, and shipping cut off dates.

What To Send To The Trade Show

Have you ever ordered a box of collateral and giveaways for your booth and nearly all of it was shipped back or was thrown out after the show? I have. Unless you are offering the best and most expensive giveaways with your large trade show planning budget, you should follow this rule of thumb: order enough to cover approximately 20-30% of the show attendees. Not everyone at the event will stop by your booth.

Have you ever ordered a box of collateral and giveaways for your booth and nearly all of it was shipped back or was thrown out after the show? I have. Unless you are offering the best and most expensive giveaways with your large trade show planning budget, you should follow this rule of thumb: order enough to cover approximately 20-30% of the show attendees. Not everyone at the event will stop by your booth.

If you run out and have a prospect that really wanted your giveaway, make them this offer: Schedule and hold a meeting with you post-event, and you will ship their team a box of giveaways.

There you have a win-win: a meeting scheduled with the prospect and your company’s branding placed around their office.

Beam My Boxes There, Scotty

After reading the deadlines, add a reminder for the advanced warehouse cut off dates and another 7 to 9 business days beforehand. You’ll save the most on your trade show budget by shipping ground to the advanced warehouse. After the warehouse receives your boxes, they will store the boxes until the date of the event and place the boxes at your booth ahead of time for your team on-site to set up.

If you miss the advanced warehouse, you have two options generally:

  1. “On-site” shipment date – this is usually the day before or day of the event. This is extremely risky if your carrier is delayed. This is not recommended but can be done in a pinch.
  2. Ship to your on-site event team’s hotel. The team will need to carry the boxes into the convention center which only really works for tabletop events, however, you have a better chance the boxes will be at the location on time.

Lastly, tape a piece of paper with your company name and booth number to each box. This is another fail-safe in case your boxes end up at someone else’s booth.

You Have 8 Seconds To Capture Someone’s Attention

When an attendee is walking the show floor, you are competing for their attention from not only the surrounding booths but also with the attendee themselves as many people are walking around with smartphones and smartwatches that offer plenty of distractions. It is crucial to punch out only a few of your company’s action words that can be digested within 8 seconds.

Consider these ideas when designing your booth:

  • What does your company do in 1 sentence?
  • List the major impact words from this sentence that you want the attendee to walk away with.
  • What is the story you are trying to tell with the booth?
  • Are you launching a new product at the event?
  • Can you reuse this collateral or booth design at another show?

Don’t forget to put your logo on your booth! Your logo should be visible from all directions on the show floor.  

The Show is Never Really “Over”

If your event provides lead scanning devices, use them to take notes on everyone you spoke with while at the event – even if they only stopped by for a giveaway. Taking notes on the back of a business card is also just as effective! Upload your leads to your CRM with as much detail as possible for the sales team to follow up.  This will allow for your sales team to have the background they need on these new prospects and give your event the ROI it deserves.

A powerful tool for post-show follow up is HubSpot, an email marketing platform and so much more.

Related Post: 5 Email Marketing Best Practices You Should Know About (And Implement)

Overall…

Events are a lot of work. There’s no doubt about that.  While there are numerous details and deadlines, if done correctly, trade shows can provide some of the best ROI for your marketing budget. Conserve your budget by submitting your tasks on time. Carefully consider what, how, and when you are sending supplies to an event. Assess your booth messaging from a third party’s point of view, and ask the question: “When the attendee walks by, will they be able to tell who you are and what you do after 8 seconds?” Provide your sales team the information they need for a strong lead follow up post event.

We’re here to help where you need it!

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