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Trade Show Management Tips – Part 1

September 14, 2016 // Tools

How to Tame the Trade Show Circus – Part 1

By Emily Griesser, Director of Conferences & Meetings

It’s well known in this industry that planners need to be skilled at juggling a variety of tasks when it comes to events, conferences and meetings. Trade shows, however, take that to the next level. To continue with the imagery of a juggler, picture someone adding flaming batons to their routine, and now you have a trade show manager! How can they possibly keep things running smoothly with so many factors to focus on? In part one of this two-part series, learn trade show management tips, including the role of a trade show manager, important first steps of the planning process and how to prep exhibitors for the big day.

Enter the Ringmaster

With all the little details that go into managing the logistics of a trade show, an organizer is well served to bring a meeting manager on board to handle the internal aspects that are hard to outsource, such as selling sponsorships and space, reaching out to secure exhibitors, and focusing on the rest of the meeting’s content. Bringing in someone to take care of the details allows the organizer to focus on other important tasks, plus it creates a single point of contact for all parties involved—the client, the vendors and the exhibitors—making communication more efficient.

Built to Amaze

Before the planning process even begins, a trade show manager needs to nail down the type of program it will be. Is the trade show part of a larger conference? What is the goal of the trade show? Is it going to be a smaller event, with exhibitors situated at a skirted table and chair, but no pipe and drapes? Does the client want a standard set-up with 10’x10’ or 8’x10’ booths for each exhibitor? Or perhaps they are going all-out with larger booth sizes, some in the range of 20’x20’? Once the goals and scope of the trade show are determined, a manager can jump in and get to work.

The next step in the process is selecting a drayage company—a decorator—who can help determine the floor plan for the space, including obtaining fire marshal approval and ensuring everything is up to code. There are some key items to discuss with the decorator, including (but definitely not limited to):

  • Set-up time: How long will they need the exhibit hall space prior to exhibitors moving in? When can the exhibitors begin to set up their booths?
  • Shipping and receiving: Will an advanced warehouse (where shipped items are stored prior to the trade show) be used? When can shipped items from exhibitors begin arriving?
  • Pipe and drape: What colors will be used?
  • Duration: How long is the trade show?
  • Teardown time: How long do you have to move out of the venue?
  • What will be included in the booth space? Tables, chairs and wastebaskets are standard, but are carpets or power and internet connections?

It’s absolutely crucial to work with the decorator and property ahead of time to ensure all fire codes are met with your floor plan. Depending on the city, fire marshals will stop by your trade show and have no qualms asking you to rearrange it all if it doesn’t fit the code.

Come One, Come All

Unlike other events and meetings, a trade show planner often interacts with the attendees—or, in this case, exhibitors. Determine the plan for how to manage the exhibitors, including how they will go about purchasing booth space and whether or not there are sponsorship packages that come with exhibit space. Once that is settled and the applications start pouring in, send each exhibitor the following information:

  • Confirmation of their exhibit space, including a floor plan and booth number
  • What is included in the booth space as well as ordering information for any additional items they would like (furniture, power, AV, carpet, foliage, catering, etc.)
  • How they will receive the exhibitor service kit (will it be provided on a website or via email?)
  • Set-up and teardown times
  • Exhibit show hours
  • Shipping information (where they can send their items to and where they can pick them up)

Also, consider providing lead retrieval services for exhibitors or offering them the option to purchase it as an add-on. This allows exhibitors to gather attendee information for easy follow-up after the trade show.
You’re now well-equipped for the planning and preparation process of a trade show, but that’s not all you need to know! Look for part two of this blog next month to learn how to get through the hectic set-up and teardown stages, how to manage exhibitors and visitors on the big day, and the three keys to a successful trade show.

Emily Griesser joined metroConnections in 2012 as a program manager and now serves as director of conferences and meetings. In her role, she provides leadership to account managers and coordinators as well as managing several key accounts and programs throughout the year. Emily graduated from the University of Wisconsin—La Crosse with a B.S. in Organizational Communication and Public Relations and holds a certificate in Non-Profit Management from St. Thomas University.

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