When it comes to planning a trade show, what differentiates this kind of event from others of the same size and complexity is that there are two categories of “public” we need to satisfy. As event planners, this means our efforts will always be two-sided: on one hand, there are the exhibitors. We need to attract the right ones, sell them booth space, and make sure they draw as much benefit as possible from their participation at the trade show. On the other hand, there’s the grand public, the attendees. So where do we start in such a complex endeavor, and how do we find balance and coordination when there’s so much at stake?
Here are the steps that we identified to make sure you organize a successful trade show.
- Set your timing. As with any kind of large scale event, timing is the starting point of the planning process. Consider starting the works one year in advance.
- Recruit your team. Ideally you will have separate people occupying these basic functions: project manager/main event planner, assistant event planner, marketing manager, and a sales person. Outsource as many operational tasks as possible, including graphic design and web design (or, you could choose Metooo as your event platform, and you won’t even need web design in the first place, because it comes with an easy to build integrated event web page, invoicing system, and ticket sales tool).
- Pick a venue. Apart from the size and layout, that should accommodate various types of exhibitor booths, catering, reception, and lounge space, an important aspect you need to consider is that the type of venue must fit the industry which the event is part of. Sure, expo centers and convention centers fit most industries, but consider these other options as well: a villa or hotel with large ballroom and/or reception halls, for a wedding fair; a refurbished old factory for a design expo.
- Draft your budget. You can use our event budget template to make it easier. Based on the budget, create the booth sale prices and ticket prices.
- Find a main partner/ sponsor. If the venue is related to the industry of your event, your main sponsor can be the venue itself, and you can negotiate a reduced cost or even a gratuity of the rental fee in exchange for mutual promotion of the event.
- Set up your marketing campaigns. You will have two separate strategies: one for attracting vendors and one for the grand public. So we’re talking business to business marketing in the first case, and business to consumer in the second case. To market your show to potential vendors, you could use: cold calls, email marketing, social media (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are your immediate choices), Google ads and display on industry websites, industry magazines, etc. To market your show to attendees, focus on industry publications (both online and print), social media (the above, but also include Instagram and Pinterest if your industry has a strong visual component, like design, weddings and fashion), and join forces with your vendors. Vendors themselves have a high interest in bringing as many attendees as possible, so make sure they will promote the trade show on their own platforms and with their own client base.
- Book, plan and set in place logistics (i.e. booth features such as lighting and power supplies, floor plans, reception point) catering (if the venue is not offering it), and entertainment (a cocktail party or two, even a music show, are nice touches to trade shows in most industries).
- Produce on site marketing materials (flyers, leaflets, brochures, catalogs, gift bags, press kits)
- Get ready to welcome your guests! And if you set up the event on Metooo, this step has never been easier. You have all ticket sales tools in one place, and when the time of the opening comes, you can easily check-in all attendees using Metooo Event Plan, our event management app that allows you (among other things) to streamline admissions at the door, because all you need to do for each guest is to scan a QR code from the ticket (or have them tell you their name, and they’re in in no-time). Even more: you don’t even have to worry about guest badges, because, if you choose Metooo PRO, you can create them directly on our platform, with customized graphic design options, and then print them for each guest.
These were our tips, and we hope they were helpful. Have you ever organized a trade show? What would you add to our list?
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