How To Throw A Great Trade Show After Party

Last Updated on October 7, 2021

For many attendees, the best part of a trade show is the after parties. Although as the event organizer, you want your vendors and sponsor partners to host shindigs of their own, what if your company wants to have a bit of fun and exposure for a job well done? Should you organize an awesome party?

Go for it. You’re an event manager, pieces of cake. That said there are a few things to take into account when hosting a trade show party.

The Party Theme Suits The Audience (and is in good taste!)

Now, this example is off to a terrible start in that it lacks good taste, but it highlights another major mistake. Our example involves the International Game Developers Association party at the Annual Game Developers Conference in 2013. Some brain-dead oaf decided to – in spite of the fact that the IGDA had long championed gender rights and equal representation in the games industry – hire a cadre of female exotic dancers for the after-party. The planners never considered hiring male dancers as well, systematically excluding and alienating many of the guests.

Developers resigned from the IGDA in droves, with many highly respected personalities voicing their displeasure and disgust. Arguably the organization’s reputation still hasn’t recovered over a year later.

Someone at the IGDA completely misunderstood what sort of celebration guests were looking for.

Details Keeping With Your Theme

You’ve planned every last detail of the event; don’t stop short of the after-party. This is your chance to say thank you and remind everyone that your event company is responsible for the experience they’ve just had. Your goal is to make a big impression, and by making sure that even the smallest details are handled well, you’ll be able to do just that.

Keep in mind, details aren’t always just about food and beer and venue. I was at a conference last Monday and a World Cup game started at the same time as the after-party. The hosts set up huge screens for the game. They covered an important detail that if overlooked would have disappointed many. They played the hero!

The Venue Creates A Unique Experience

You can simply move from one end of a conference hall to the other and set up a bar, but that’s boring and doesn’t give your guests a new experience. If your doing a dinner, a ballroom might be right, but we suggest seeing what options are out there. Maybe host a VIP cocktail party in an executive suite on the 35th floor of a Five-star hotel, or a roof deck pool party, consider a bowling ally beer fest. Transportation needs to be considered, of course, but see what the area has to offer that may be a little outside the box.

Hint: your entertainment could be built into the unique venue you choose – such as a water park, bowling ally or pool hall. 

Awesome Food Makes People Happy

Proper catering at an event is important. If your event is at the end of a long conference day, it’s safe to assume guests are hungry. They may not need lavish offerings, but something hearty and easy. If they’ve been well feed and it’s a cocktail party pass around interesting appetizers. You can often get support with food, potential sponsorship from catering companies, local restaurants or breweries that want exposure.

And Entertainment

These parties are usually at the end of a long day of networking, walking, talking, listening, working, demos, etc… The party is about letting loose and having unscripted interactions and relaxing. Consider unique entertainment like a dunk tank, live music or a photo booth with costumes. Tailor entertainment to your guests – older professionals may not be particularly interested in a nightclub scene, while younger attendees might be bored simply standing around a bar.

Hint: don’t be shy; entertainment that may seem silly often turns out to be the hit of the night. 

Make Sure You Have Fun, Too

This is the most important piece of advice. You’ve worked hard to get here. This is your moment to relax and connect with your guests. If you’re going to host a party, you need to enjoy it. A host who is miserable puts a damper everyone’s spirits. Have your details sorted out long before, have your backup plans as you would for any other event. Set yourself up for success and enjoy yourself along with everyone else.