Category Archives: Planning for exhibiting at a trade show

Tips for Exhibitors on how to compile a Time Line and Check List whilst planning a Tradeshow or Exhibition

 

Having already prepared your strategy and objectives for attending an exhibition as well as completing the Trade Show Marketing Plan, you now need to review the project plan.

It is essential to know the deadline dates for completing key activities. Most importantly you need to ensure that you do not miss the deadlines of the show organisers.

It is vital to highlight all your own organisation logistics on your check list including what needs to be planned, purchased and organised before the exhibition starts. This time line and check list document is an aide memoire that should keep you focused on target and on track to accomplish your goals and objectives.

What is a Trade Show Time Line?

When creating an event time line for a conference or for a trade show and exhibition, start with the event date as the end-goal and work out all the timings backwards from that date. Everything has to be accomplished before the start of the exhibition.

For a trade show you should always check on the exhibition organisers’ website for the deadline dates for ordering services. Fill these dates into your time plan allowing for pre-planning logistics so that you can accomplish the actions by the deadline. Also note any restrictions or conditions of the contract. The more time you have to prepare before an exhibition the better the project should run and the less stress it will cause you.

An example of a timeline

Exhibition name, Place date Location Stand Hall stand #
Build date:
Breakdown times and dates:
Date Action Responsible Comments Completed
Week Ending DD/MM/YY [Start with the nearest to current date] Describe the action Initials of person or persons to accomplish this action Describe what needs to be done, how the action is progressing, any other useful comments usually with a date you have actioned items Date finished
Tends to be a week-ending date rather than an actual date unless its the tradeshow deadline date First add time critical deadlines from the exhibition organisers and then fill in with other check list items according to when they need to be accomplished by
Week Ending DD/MM/YY Show build time
Show date Dates of the exhibition
Week Ending DD/MM/YY Follow up items

What is a Check List?

A check list provides a step by step guide so that you can clearly see organisation and execution of the logistics for the exhibition. This should be incorporated into the time line so that the items covered are actioned with the person responsible within the deadlines required. Items to consider for incorporation into your time line include:

  • Corporate objectives as discussed in the blog titled Tips on How to Plan for an Exhibition , for example the theme of the show, strategy etc.
  • Budget creation (the budget and financial actions will be covered in the next  blog. It is important to note in your time line when the payments are due so you can schedule any deposits for the show or pay for required services.
  • Many trade shows have a conference running in parallel and this can be a good opportunity to promote you company by applying for a speaker slot. Note that the selection for the speakers is normally way in advance of the event so you need to keep an eye on the final date of speaker slot submission

The Logistics:

  • Exhibition space & stand build, or shell scheme, branding, graphics and displays will be covered in tip sheet
  • Ascertaining who is attending from the company, communicating with them the show plan, pre-show meeting and training and any rehearsals required, organising a stand rota for staff
  • Hotel and travel booking
  • Ordering services from the show organisers or your own suppliers such as:
  • Catalogue entry, power supply, Wi-Fi, cleaning, catering, furnishing, equipment, technical equipment, software, badge names, scanner for marketing leads, collateral for show, give-aways
  • Marketing of event – this is very important so that attendees know you are exhibiting and visit your stand. Do not leave this just to the show organisers’ marketing of their exhibition. You need to promote your company to your own contacts or potential clients and prospects. This could include: PR, press packs, advertising, website, on-line promotion, social media, twitter, database use, direct mail, invitations, fliers, promotion at show, sponsorship, email marketing, newsletter, collection of leads, telemarketing, competitions, internal documents and communications
  • Planning of on-stand presentations and demonstrations, organising meetings with prospects or clients beforehand, booking meeting rooms, hosting dinners and corporate hospitality
  • Shipping of exhibition stand, collateral etc. Be sure to check the destination customs and excise as to when road lorries are allowed to travel as certain countries do not allow goods vehicles to travel on a Sunday
  • Organising security and insurance, planning for health and safety considerations

Remember that the time line and check list document is not written in stone. It should be a working document and amended as required.

It is very important to check and re-check the items and progress throughout the pre-planning period, and not just before going on-site, to make sure everything is ready. Sometimes there can be misunderstanding so it is better to be sure all is in order. The main thing to remember everyone wants the show to be a success and the more pre-planning and checking you do beforehand the better prepared you are for the unexpected.

Tips on how your marketing plan can help you succeed in exhibiting

To be successful exhibiting at a trade show one of the most important actions after deciding to exhibit is to prepare a Trade Show Marketing Plan. You need to know what you want to accomplish and how to achieve it. A marketing plan helps you establish the strategy and decide what actions are required for you to exhibit and how to communicate this to others. It helps you to target decisions and it keeps you on track.

What is a Trade Show Marketing Plan?

A Trade Show Marketing Plan is the end result of a process. It gives you a format to follow and allow you to be consistent. The Plan should include:

  • An analysis of the market environment
  • The development of the exhibition plan
  • Writing an executive summary

 Market Analysis

Marketing analysis forms the basis for creating the goals, strategies and tactics used to develop the plan. This consists of your understanding of:

  • The market environment
  • The customers
  • The competition
  • The company

Information for a market analysis can be found on the internet, in trade journals and company reports, through direct customer research, by speaking to internal managers and sales people within your company, and by compiling a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis report.

 Market Environment

  • Look at the market as a whole and seek to understand the dynamics that can impact the company and its products
  • Examine the company’s market share and get a statistical evaluation of the market

 Understand your Customers

You need to understand why customers buy your products or services so that you can create an environment that encourages the behaviour outcome you would like from the exhibition.

This can include:

  • Demographics – the statistical characteristics of your customers
  • Psychographics – understanding the lifestyle and personalities of your customers
  • Buying patterns and preferences
  • Environmental influences

 Competitive Analysis

Consideration should be given to your own company as well as its competition. Use a SWOT analysis, speak to the sales personnel of your company and use post-show evaluations.

In the competitive analysis include all the questions you need to have answered regarding the exhibition such as:

  • Current exhibition strategy and trend
  • Size of space occupied
  • Style and theme of exhibit
  • Graphic message
  • Staffing levels
  • Lead capture and follow up
  • Pre & post show promotions

You also need to examine competitive positions outside the trade show environment.

After collecting and understanding the market analysis you then need to set the strategy and decide how you will accomplish your goals.

The Trade Show Marketing Plan should include

  • Market analysis – include the key findings from your study
  • Marketing objectives for the trade show. You can link the trade show programme to wider corporate marketing objectives. These need to be measurable and can include:
    • Who will be attending
    • What is the purpose of the exhibition
    • When are the dates of the exhibition
    • Where is the location of the exhibition
    • Why – define the objectives and purpose for attending
  • Marketing strategies – how you are going to accomplish your goals
  • Action plans – what are the tactics you will undertake to carry out your strategies
  • Resources and timings – what do you need to carry out the plan in the timescale
  • Executive summary – summarise the above elements as a distillation of your plan so that you can communicate it to senior management

Once you have written the Trade Show Marketing Plan, check that it is in line with your other marketing mix plans. Ensure you refer back to the Plan to make sure that you are fulfilling your strategy, objectives and actions. The Plan can be used at the end of the exhibition to review your return on investment.

Reference: Jim Burch, How to Write a Trade Show Marketing Plan You Can Actually Use

Tips on How to Plan for an Exhibition

Pre-Plan All the Elements to Exhibiting for a Successful Outcome

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Many of the following bullet points will be covered in more detail in future Exhibition Tip blogs:

  • Set strategy, objectives and goals. You need to know why you are exhibiting and what you want to achieve that is measurable. Participation in trade show should always be reviewed against measurable objectives. This allows return on investment (ROI)to be analysed in order to understand the degree of success of attending that tradeshow
  • Confirm buy-in from other company departments. Discuss with departments their participation and the need for their support resource and staff, both in the pre- planning and on-site stages, for the exhibition to be successful
  • Clarify budget available for the exhibition. You need to know what your budget is before embarking on the stand build, marketing and all the other items that will need to be included in in your plan
  • Start the planning process in plenty of time. The longer you have, the better prepared you will be. Create a timeline document with schedules of what needs to be done when, showing deadlines both from the show organisers and your own. This is a vital document to keep everything on time for payments, tradeshow catalogue entry and planning logistics. The date of the show cannot be put back like a product release: it is happening on the date publicized and everything needs to be ready
  • Keep an updated check list to run in conjunction with the timeline
  • Decide on the promotion and marketing of the exhibition both on-line and with traditional media, using invitations, sales initiatives, website, social media, advertising, signage, PR, and sponsorship. At the start of the planning process for exhibiting the theme of the company exhibition needs to be decided. All marketing and promotional material and communications about the exhibition should be of the same look and feel so that there is consistency in the show’s marketing and the branding of products
  • Select stand location: consult floor plans, traffic patterns and audience make up
  • Consider the design of the exhibition stand. Have you booked a shell scheme or space only? Are you using a previous stand or designing a new one? This needs to be incorporated into the timeline. You may need to allow additional time for briefing design companies to quote and present concepts for a new or bespoke stand
  • Plan the logistics. You may need to consider:
    • Reserved hotel accommodation for staff
    • Selecting and briefing speakers if a speaking slot is confirmed at the show
    • Shipping of goods to show, as well as transportation of staff
    • Selecting suppliers for food and beverage, hospitality, stand furniture
    • Ordering literature and give-aways for use on the stand
    • Reviewing technology to be used on the stand
    • Ordering utility services required for the stand
    • Creation of signage and graphics for stand
    • Products to be displayed
    • The process of lead collection and follow up
    • Press Packs
    • Creating an exhibition handbook for staff attending
  • Review internal communication and staff training. Having the right staff who are properly briefed and trained for the show is vital to make sure all the pre planning is a success and they know their roles on-site