Trade shows are great for businesses because they offer an opportunity to meet hundreds of potential customers.
However, planning a trade show is not easy, and you need plenty of time to organize the perfect show. You need to have a budget, plan the venue, the advertisements, and many other aspects that must be put in place before the actual trade show day.
So, to do this, we have organized this guide on how to plan a trade show.
A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Plan a Trade Show
- Identify your goals
The objectives and goals are the first points to consider when planning a trade show, and goals can help you define your primary needs. When the goals do not align with the company’s needs, it will be impossible to proceed with the plans.
The top three primary goals for any trade show exhibitor would be lead generation, brand awareness, and relationship creation.
- Plan it in advance
Planning a trade show at least a year in advance will help you schedule everything in time. It’s never too early to start the planning process. Ensure to inform your team of the travel dates to book the flights while the costs are low.
Secure hotel rooms and book advertisement slots for the show. You can do this six months in, so people do not forget, and then ensure it is a comprehensive marketing strategy to reach as many people as possible.
Next, deal with all of the event logistics, such as a pre-show campaign. If you plan to launch a new product during the event, make sure it is ready in time.
Printing sheets and ordering items for giveaways must be done very early. Planning for the trade show should take center stage for your company so things can be extremely easy when the actual day comes around.
Also, start preparing the emails for the show at least six to four weeks before the event. This will inform your audience about your intentions to have a trade show, and it is in good time to keep it in their heads. Sending emails too early will be risky as most of them will likely forget all about the trade show before the day comes around.
- Create a budget
A budget gives you boundaries and targets. As we have mentioned, a trade show is a considerable investment that requires you to meet your goals and receive a return on your investment. Draw a budget. Without one, your costs are likely to spiral out of control quickly, which will defeat your plans.
Identify the cost of space rentals, trade show displays, the cost of staffing, the cost of shipping, the cost of promotional expenses, the cost of follow-up, and at-show services.
- Design an exhibit that’s focused on your goals
Your trade show booth must reflect your thought process, goals, and objectives. For example, if your primary goal is to increase your brand awareness, you should deliver the message to the crowds of people who turn up through an in-booth presentation.
Therefore, this means that your booth should be able to accommodate a presentation with a stage and lots of seating space.
Or, perhaps you would want to have several small areas that demonstrate your products and technology? Then, this means that you need to incorporate some space for demos and presentations so you can have enough space for this.
Again, if the goal is to increase your leads, you will need to have some kiosks and stations for lead generation. If relationships building is your goal, then the design for your booth should include a refreshment and lounge area that has plenty of meeting space. Have a good exhibit and consultant at the station to ensure that the design facilitates all of your goals.
- Prepare the executive and sales teams
This is an effective tool in planning a trade show because it fosters good communication early in advance.
Many different teams will attend the trade show, which includes sales, marketing, and executive teams. Ensure that everyone understands what needs to be done and has all of the relevant information before the event comes around.
So, this will include constant meetings and strategy sessions. Everyone’s calendars must be in sync, and a logistics document shouldn’t be left out. All communications and expectations should be communicated.
You should also have their phone numbers and other contact information to reach them as quickly as possible and when needed.
Your staff’s behavior and qualities will influence the visitors greatly more than anything else. Therefore, you must train them on customer service way before the trade show date.
The lasting image of the customers will be as a result of how they interact with your staff. They should be attentive, helpful, knowledgeable, and friendly. They must listen to the customers and have a helpful chat that will probably lead to a sale.
Do not overlook booth training. Create some pre-shows for the staff and set aside time to train them on the company products and services and the goals of the booth. This will be valuable information for them to learn before the trade show date comes around.
- Promote your presence
Trade shows are no good if no one knows about them. So, when planning a trade show, you must ensure to put your presence out there. Let the visitors know about you in advance. This is what you do;
Use social media, consider email campaigns, create a landing page, conduct press conferences, and work the phones. This will generate a buzz for your trade show.
- Schedule the pre-show meetings
For your trade show to be successful, you will need to conduct several trade show meetings, including a pre-scheduled booth meeting with some prospective partners and customers. Set some realistic goals for them to meet a benchmark number.
Additionally, it would be best if you shared the calendar with all the stakeholders and sales team, so they are a part of the process of planning a trade show. Also, be sure to set realistic goals for all the team members, including pre-scheduling and meeting the benchmark.
- Be very active on social media
Post photos of the event on all of your social media channels before, during, and even after the event. Invite people to comment and tell you what they would like to see at the booths and ask them to stop by to interact with you.
- Provide some giveaways
These are incentives when planning a trade show that will add traffic to your booth. You have to invest in giveaways highly, and do not worry about it; it is sure to pay back. Provide raffles and cash prizes which the attendees will participate in and win.
In the end, most people will come for the raffles and end up gaining knowledge about your company, and who knows, they could end up with excellent customers.
- Prepare your team accordingly
On the Trade show open day, be sure to have a meeting with the team at least an hour before the doors open and ensure they follow the complete layout of the booth plus, all activities should be ready with giveaways prepared.
Demonstrate to them how to scan their badges and how they should treat the customers. You will be surprised at how scanners are likely to vary the information.
Ensure everyone scans their badge before getting into the trade show. This is a great security feature.
- Engage and attract customers
When planning a trade show, you are spending money and time, and the last thing you want to imagine ending up with an empty booth. You only have a few seconds to grab the attention of your potential customers and the attendees.
Therefore, immerse your experience in the planning so you can catch their attention. You could do the following;
- Use interactive media
- Use product demos
- Have an in-booth presentation.
- Have guided tours
- Have a prize wheel.
- Organize a contest or game
- Have some infotainers such as magicians.
- Set up a charging station
- Have a refreshment lounge.
After giving people a considerable reason to come to your booth, your exhibition will be in full potential for new customers and buyers. Ensure that the staff is well-trained and that they are ready to capture any new leads. Take full advantage of the opportunity.
- Follow up
There are so many ways of capturing the attendees’ attention during the tradeshow. Therefore, when planning a tradeshow, the follow-up procedures must also be planned well in advance.
Do this probably days after the trade show, so it can still be in their minds, as leads are time-sensitive. Converting the leads into sales is one of the determining factors for a Return on your investment.
The longer you leave the leads to sit and stall, the easier it is to lose them.
- Debrief your team
When all is done and the trade show has wrapped up, it’s not over yet, and you need to schedule another meeting to debrief everyone.
Go through what you have achieved through the tradeshow, and be sure to look at the areas you may have gone wrong, so you do not end up repeating the same mistakes the following year.
The post-follow-up debrief is crucial and will make you a better team, and any subsequent trade shows will be planned much better.
All the best as you plan your next trade show.
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