Five Planning Tips for Trade Shows

Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Trade shows can be among the most powerful, mutually advantageous events centered on brand awareness. They create large-scale opportunities on all fronts: the brand running the show gains access to a network of potential partners, vendors find a huge selection of prospective clients and attendees can either meet future employers or vendors who are selling exactly what they want to buy.

Of course, even though trade shows are incredibly powerful, a poorly run show can completely destroy your event management company’s reputation, ensuring that few brands and vendors will consider attending any future events you may decide to run. For this reason, take your trade show planning very seriously, every detail – you can’t afford to make any mistakes.

Here are just five broad concepts you need to account for if you want your trade show to get off the ground on the right foot.

Research What Makes A Successful Trade Show

Don’t just dive into the unknown without thorough research. Network with colleagues, industry experts and clients; ask questions and bounce ideas off of them. Research trade show planning guides. Look at itineraries and site layouts of comparable trade shows. Compare every aspect from attendance and engagement to facility size and food services. Trust us, the data gathered early on will help inform decisions you make right up until game day!

Give Yourself A Long Time To Prepare

You need a great deal more time to prepare for a trade show than you would most other events. That’s because there’s a lot more that goes into planning one – you need to nail down all your vendors (your brands), you need more powerful, focused marketing, and you need to spend more time (and money) on construction. On top of that, you need to account for pretty much everything else you’d ordinarily deal with while planning an event – keynotes, service providers, lodging and transportation, entertainment, and sponsors.

Hint: give yourself at least one year to plan. While you could theoretically put together a large trade show in a shorter period of time, avoid trying.

Give Your Vendors A Reason To Attend

Know your value proposition. While soliciting vendors for your event, you’ll want to present them with a general theme, layout, setup, and event plan. Much of their decision to attend has to do with how organized they feel you are and who is attending. Some vendors simply need to a high attendance rate, while for others value a targeted audience. It’s your job to know why each vendor wants to be at your event – and offer that when possible.  So the logic would follow, take great care in the vendors you solicit. You want to invite only reliable vendors that your audience will also appreciate.

Tip: give each vendor an exhibitor’s kit. Include vital information such as setup and takedown times, storage areas, venue restrictions, contact information and hearty thanks for their attendance.

Don’t Forget About Catering And Entertainment

While you run about inviting vendors left and right to attend your event, it’s easy to lose sight of smaller details.  You must make certain there is access to food, water, drinks, etc…for everyone you are inviting to your hoedown! Often food provisions are part of a facility, but don’t ignore the time that goes into planning this aspect of any event.

Tip: consider throwing a few parties over the duration of the show. A hosted event keeps guests entertained and is a terrific opportunity for exposure for any sponsor or brand.

You’re Building A Sales Platform, Not Selling Space

Perhaps the most important piece of advice I’ll give you is that you need to think of your trade show as a sales platform. It’s an arena in which people can build connections, gain new clients, and increase their reputation. Don’t reduce your attendees to a ticket sale, or your vendor to a square footage rental. Think about how everyone adds to the shared community environment and experience you’re creating. You’re providing everyone at your show with a networking opportunity – yourself included. Make use of it.

Keep in mind, a successful trade show almost always will become an annual event. This is the goal. All the hard work put into year one will pay off for years to come!