Managing and setting up a trade show can be a bit of logistical nightmare if you don’t come at it with the right resources and mindset.
So how do you set up a trade show so that it goes off without a hitch?
Read on for our best tips when it comes to how best to manage your trade show to ensure success, plus a list of some of the best trade show management companies out there.
9. Plan In Advance
When it comes to planning your trade show, the best thing you can do is to make sure that you plan your event well in advance.
This means that you want to start planning your event at least a year to a year and half in advance -- especially if it’s your first event of this type.
If you’re an old hand at this, you can cut yourself a little more slack: in fact, that’s what a lot of the experienced shows do -- they start planning for next year’s event as soon as this year’s event ends.
What does planning this far out in advance get you?
Fact: the more time you have, the easier it is to nail down the following:
- Your trade show objectives
- Your budget
- Your venue
- Speakers, entertainment and more
With effective trade show planning, you can ensure that the event is not only lucrative for exhibitors, but the sponsors as well.
This is one of the key things for ensuring that you have people who want to come back again and again.
If you don’t give your attendees, vendors and sponsors a reason to keep coming back to your show, they won’t.
8. Decide The Best Location
Once you have the basic planning of your trade show done, it’s time to figure out where exactly you’re going to host this thing.
There are a number of things to take into account when it comes to picking a convention center or event hall to host your trade show at.
Here are some of the biggest:
- What city do you think would attract the most people? Common cities for trade shows and events are Chicago and Las Vegas.
- Weather. Is it going to be sunny and 75 degrees the entire time? If not, it’s probably something you need to let your exhibitors and attendees know about.
- Transportation. Does the city have a solid road network? If not, does it have adequate public transportation? These are definitely things to keep in mind -- no one’s going to exhibit on your show floor if they can’t get to your show floor.
- “City appeal” -- what else is there to do in the city? If all your attendees can do is go to your show and then go right back to their hotel rooms, they don’t really have a reason to go to your show in the first place.
7. Pick A Good Date
When it comes to picking the date and time for your trade show, you have to be mindful of scheduling.
Not just when you can schedule the show -- summer is usually the time of year that’s chosen most often, so it’s usually packed -- but also the schedules of your vendors and attendees.
So that means a couple things:
- Don’t schedule your event around a holiday. This is why you see most December trade shows scheduled during the first two weeks of the month -- no one wants to be halfway across the country from their family on Christmas Eve.
- Keep other trade shows in mind. While you might think you can leverage traffic from those other shows, in practice that almost never happens. People go to a trade show because they want to go to that specific event. They’re not going to come to yours if they’ve already planned for and bought tickets for another event.
6. Design a Good Floor Plan
One of the things that can make or break a trade show is how you set up the floor plan for the show.
People are going to come to your show with big displays, small displays, medium displays -- displays of sizes..
And outside a few of the bigger companies, you have to ensure that it’s possible for them to get roughly the same amount of attention.
A good way to do this is to put most of the displays in equal-sized booths, running in a snake shape through the length of the exhibit hall.
Then you can put the larger displays on the ends of each row to cap them off.
If you set your show up this way, it gives your attendees a natural walking progression as they move through the show.
It also means that it’s harder for them to miss displays as they walk the length of the show.
Setting the larger displays as endcaps means that you don’t have to try to squeeze them in with the other displays -- they can take up as much space as they need on the ends.
5. Offer Logistics Solutions
Your attendees already have a ton of things on their plate -- they don’t need another in the form of trade show logistics.
So how can you help?
The simplest way is to offer some kind of logistics solutions -- give them a way to offload the chore of setting up and taking down their trade show booth.
Not only does it take a load off your attendees’ minds, but it gives them more time to socialize with each other and your sponsors, meaning that they’re more likely to have a good time -- and thus more likely to come back.
4. Handle All Freight
If your attendees are shipping huge custom booths, they don’t want to have it shipped to their location and then on to you.
Give them the option to ship it straight to event site or to a warehouse that is close by.
If you offer shipping services to a close-by warehouse, see if you can also offer booth pickup and delivery services.
The more pieces of the freight puzzle that you slot into place for your attendees, the easier their lives will be.
For bonus points, consider offering both freight and logistics services together in one package.
3. Offer Security Services
Event security is the one perk that all your attendees want, but no one will want to pay extra for.
So how can you come up with great event security without breaking your attendees bank accounts?
First, assess your event security risks up front. Figure out who’s coming, who’s presenting and who’s sponsoring.
A show with hundreds or thousands of people showing up presents a whole different set of risks compared to your daughter’s birthday party.
Once you know what your security risks are, create a response plan.
How are you going to remove unruly or disruptive attendees?
What if a sponsor has a meltdown?
You have to know how you’re going to handle not only these sorts of events but also your “standard” disasters -- floods, fires, hurricanes and earthquakes.
After you’ve got all of this well-in-hand, the best thing you can do is to build a nice, visible security group.
Have everyone who’s working security wear black shirts with “SECURITY” on the front and back -- perfectly visible from far away if someone’s looking for a security officer.
2. Take Trade Show Management Courses
A lot of what we covered above is covered in much more depth in a trade show management course.
There are tons of different certifications, designations and programs for learning how to manage a trade show -- and many of them are offered by the who’s who of trade show management services.
Some great courses to take if you’re looking to broaden your trade show management knowledge include:
- The International School of Hospitality’s Exhibition & Trade Show Management Certificate. This certificate is offered in online or classroom sessions that span 12 weeks, covering topics like the history of trade shows, budgeting, marketing, project management, site selection and more.
- Certification in Exhibition Management from the International Association of Exhibits and Events. The blueprint for the certification includes event marketing, facilities and site selection, floor plan selection, security and risk management and strategic planning.
- Certified Trade Show Marketer, offered by Exhibitor Magazine. While not strictly about trade show management, it overlaps on a lot of the same concepts, including: planning and execution, marketing and sales, global exhibit marketing and how to build exhibits, experiences and events for your customers and attendees.
If you can’t take any of those, there are also one-off courses from places like Udemy, which offers a “Successful B2B Trade Show Management and Marketing” class, among others.
You can look for similar courses under the “Management Skills” section of the Udemy site.
1. Hire A Trade Show Manager
If you can’t do any of the above on your own, but still want to get your trade show, event or exhibition up and running, consider hiring a trade show manager or a company that handles trade show management services.
What does a trade show manager do?
A trade show manager manages trade shows.
While that might sound simple on paper, it’s really not.
Trade show management companies take everything in hand so that you don’t have to.
Floor plans? Covered.
Site selection. Covered.
Logistics and freight handling? Covered.
If you’re looking for good trade show management companies to help take the weight of planning and setup off of your shoulders, there’s two companies that we always recommend to people looking to get their first trade shows off the ground:
- Everest Trade Show Management. Everest has a full line of trade show management services, including floor planning, site selection, logistics, rental furnishing, floor management and security.
- Hargrove, Inc. Hargrove offers a full range of exhibition management services, such as planning, site visits and selection, show design, labor coordination, and move-out oversight.
- Trade Show Management Tips: https://www.trade-show-advisor.com/trade-show-management.html
- Floor Plan Fundamentals -- EXHIBITOR Magazine: https://www.exhibitoronline.com/topics/article.asp?ID=906
- 9 Event Security Tips That Can Save You From Disaster: https://blog.planningpod.com/2017/02/09/9-event-security-tips-that-can-save-you-from-disaster/
- Exhibition & Tradeshow Management Certificate | TISOH: http://tisoh.edu/programs/conferences-events-planning/etm/
- Certified in Event Management (CEM) Learning Program - IEEE: https://www.iaee.com/cem/
- CTSM - Certified Trade Show Marketer: