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Trade Show Management Tips – Part 2

September 26, 2016 // Tools

How to Tame the Trade Show Circus – Part 2

By Emily Griesser, Director of Conferences & Meetings

In part one, we covered what goes into the pre-trade show planning process, including determining the size and scope of the program, the logistics of the layout and schedule, and what needs to be communicated to exhibitors in order to give them a positive experience. In part two, we’ll explore how to calmly navigate the chaos of set-up and teardown, how to keep traffic flowing on the big day, and the three keys to success: organization, patience and creativity.

Three-Ring Circus

The most hectic part of any trade show is the set-up, and a manager needs to be on the floor making sure all is well. Exhibitors might have questions about ordering additional items on-site, where to collect their shipped items or where they can find their booth, and oftentimes these exhibitors aren’t the same person who ordered and arranged everything for the show, so it can be especially confusing for them! Be patient, but also be prepared for a couple of bumps in the plan. If an exhibitor is a no-show, try to contact them to see where they are and if they still plan on coming; if there’s no answer, or if they’re not going to make it in time for the doors to open, tuck their boxes away or under the table.

Step Right Up

Once the trade show is underway, there is little a manager can do on the spot to increase traffic through exhibitor space; that’s why it’s vital to plan ahead to keep a steady flow of attendees making their way to each booth. Consider incentives to keep people in the exhibition hall, like a passport program, raffles and giveaways, or strategically schedule breaks or meal service inside the space to entice people in. There’s nothing less satisfying to an exhibitor than zero traffic at their booth!

One of the most amazing things about a huge trade show is how quickly teardown can occur once the show has ended. Exhibitors pack up and get out quicker than you can imagine, and it’s important to have the decorator on site to answer any shipping questions. Generally, the last few hours of the show are the quietest, and it’s not uncommon to see exhibitors start to pack up so they can get on the road early.

You and your client need to decide if this is okay—if not, make sure it’s clearly communicated to exhibitors that there will be no teardown ahead of time. Incentives or penalties can be applied for future years to help curb this behavior from your antsier exhibitors. After the exhibit space is cleared out and everyone has gone home, a manager’s job isn’t done quite yet. Sending out a survey to exhibitors is a great way to help plan for future trade shows. How was their experience? What did they like or dislike?

Make it the Greatest Show on Earth

Managing a trade show seems like an incredibly big responsibility—and it is—but there are certain things you can do to make sure everything goes off without a hitch. Being well organized is essential; with so many moving parts, make sure that you’re on top of everything and have all the information you need readily available. You will get questions, and plenty of them, so being able to promptly provide answers prevents a logjam and frustration on their part. Speaking of questions, you will probably hear the same ones over and over again, so do your best to keep your patience! Remember that you’re a figurative life preserver for someone who feels lost and overwhelmed. Lastly, you sometimes have to be creative in order to make things work in the space you have available. Being flexible is a great asset!

Combining your organization skills, patience and creativity will make for a successful trade show, but don’t forget to have fun with it! Trade shows can go above and beyond your standard show, and though there’s a lot to remember when planning one, using the resources you have will ensure happy exhibitors, attendees and clients.

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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