planning-trade-show-exhibitsIn Part 1 of this article, we focused mainly on planning, budgeting, and other pre-show subjects. In Part 2, we shift the emphasis to actual display issues, just before the show, at show opening, and post-show. Again I remind you that there is a lot of material to be explored on each of these considerations when you search the internet; the intent of this article is to provide an overview.

Exhibit Purchase or Rental: This is a good question. There are several matters to consider on this subject. Renting a display has grown exponentially in the trade show industry, although many are content to own their display.

In general, if you are just getting started with trade shows or trade fairs and you do very few shows per year your best bet is probably to rent your trade show exhibit and invest in the graphics. If, however, you are a larger company that does multiple shows per year and not necessarily the same shows every year you might prefer to own the exhibit. Renting an exhibit means:

  • You can display a new look at each show especially if you exhibit at the same shows regularly
  • You can focus your investment more strongly on graphics concentrating on your message
  • You can save on storage costs because you don t need to store your display
  • You ll save money on maintenance such as adding accessories to keep the exhibit fresh

Purchasing an exhibit means:

  • You can save time because you are not negotiating a display rental each time
  • You know exactly what to expect from your exhibit; there s no guesswork involved
  • You can simply change your graphics for a fresh look every time out
  • The exhibit pays for itself in just two or three shows

Exhibit Transport/Shipping: This is a critical aspect of a successful show, but it can be easily put off until late in the game, or somehow neglected. The best idea is to add this to the overall plan and schedule of tasks. Even then when you think it is all set you must double check your trade show exhibit shipping and stay on top of it.

  • Much of what you will need to know can be found in the sponsor s exhibitor handbook or kit.
  • There are several options for shipping, as well as delivery do your research, or due diligence
  • It s always nice to locate a transport professional that specializes in trade show shipping

Exhibitor Survival Kit: If you are a veteran trade show exhibitor, you probably have an exhibitor s trade show survival kit. If you are a new or relatively new exhibitor, you will find that creating a survival kit is essential. A good kit will have at the very least the following:

o Small First-Aid kit especially for small cuts and other minor injuries
o Aspirin or Tylenol for that splitting headache from the tradeshow lighting and noise, as well as other aches and pains
o Antacid tablets for the fast food and unhealthy diet during the show
o Needle and thread for any quick repairs
o Wet wipes are so versatile to have around
o Nail polish and emery board to repair finger nails (which can harm graphics), or to repair a run in nylons
o Breath mints but NOT chewing gum, because it looks unprofessional
o Stain stick just in case you spill something on your clothing
o Spare shirt/blouse/necktie again, just in case
o Small tool kit (including):

  • Packing tape
  • Velcro
  • Small hammer
  • Pliers
  • Screwdrivers
  • Small screws
  • Glue
  • Flashlight/batteries
  • Spare light bulbs
  • Twist ties
  • Plastic wrap

o Felt-tip pens for touch-ups to graphics or to make a quick sign
o Paper towels always a good thing to have
o Spray cleaner to keep counters, tables, kiosks, and chairs clean and appealing
o General office supplies

  • Logo pens (or inexpensive pens) and paper
  • Stapler
  • Paper clips

Staffing Training: An integral aspect of your overall show plan is staffing of your trade show exhibit and proper training. Although staffing and training should be decided well in advance of the show, training is nonetheless a task that should continue right up to show time.

  • Make sure that staffing understands personality types and can think on their feet, being flexible
  • Ensure that presentations are created and fine-tuned
  • Role-play with staff consistently, before the show, and again, immediately before the show opens
  • It is an excellent idea especially if your exhibit is large to give each staff member a specific role

Display Setup: Some elect to hire people to set up their exhibit, while others take on this responsibility themselves. There are all sorts of tricks and tips available on the internet. In any case:

  • Know the exact schedule for setting up (and taking down) the exhibit
  • Check the space out carefully before setup: do the outlets or phone jacks work properly?
  • Make sure that your booth and location are exactly as promised before setup of the exhibit
  • Take enough time to set up the display carefully, so that it looks stunning
  • Don t use plastic table covers and don t use hand-written signs
  • If you are using TVs or monitors, make sure they are at eye level (5 to 6 feet from the ground)

Exhibit Opening: Remember that new lifetime clients or customers are the goal, so seek to create the foundation for long-term relationships, as opposed to making a sale right now.

  • Never be pushy with anyone
  • Be prepared with food and water.
  • Continually monitor your exhibit and the staff to keep the exhibit fresh and professional.
  • Keep your display clean and neat at all times
  • Try not to let one potential customer use up too much time with staff
  • Ride the show out to the end; don t pack up early, especially if the show lasts for days

Giveaways Prizes: These work very well at trade shows, if done thoughtfully and carefully.

  • Give away items that people will keep, and likely use many times
  • Provide free water but don t spend the extra money for custom labels; this is a throw away
  • Avoid giving out wrapped candy or mints; avoid scented items; avoid stickers, and avoid gag-gifts
  • Avoid giveaways that are not functional (useful) and have no lasting value
  • One large prize raffle or drawing is an excellent idea in addition to giveaways

Post-show Follow-up: Again, this is a most crucial facet of a successful trade show. After all, the goal is to build long-term relationships. Send letters and emails; make phone calls; set appointments; provide further incentives; make special offers; invite for tours; entertain potential clients, etc.

In closing, I reiterate that there is a lot to be gained by doing much more research on the topics of this 2-part article. This article is intended to be a starting point, and provide a sort of useful outline of items to think about. If you select a top-quality trade show display expert, they should be able to help you out with this information. There are only a select few outstanding exhibit vendors that are dedicated to helping you succeed. Becoming a lifetime client of a first-rate trade show provider is the best way to help ensure successful shows, and earn a handsome return on your investment.