Being a trade show manager can be a very challenging position. This is always amplified when you are tasked with the selection and attending a series of shows. If you are new to the position, it can be difficult to get the ball rolling, and even more difficult if this is your first show representing your company. Let us assume this is indeed your first show and you need a few pointers.
First thing first – getting started.
Get in the right mindset and take the time to get focused. For me, that involves a good nights sleep, a solid breakfast, and a nice cup of joe. Now go to the events web site. This is also referred to as the trade show prospectus. Many events and trade shows are under a trade association’s web site. Make sure you have the selected shows you are going to attend approved by the VP of marketing so there are no surprises when you start submitting your proposals to attend.
Discovery and gathering the critical details pre-show.
Look over all show demographics, what the show is about and start to have a sound understanding of the event. Even if this is just a refresher, it is always a good idea to keep up with what has changed over the last few years.
Sit down with your marketing team and understand what they perceive the goals to be. How do they see the company exhibiting? What size of space will be needed? How will you occupy the space and with whom? Solid understanding of these items is important to budget and the overall size and scope of the exhibit.
Let us assume for the sake of argument that your company is in a rebranding cycle, you are also introducing some fabulous new products and excellent services. You will utilize marketing staff and some tech/engineer types as well within your space.
It has been made clear that the business wants an island location for the trade show exhibit. Another focus is that it has distance from the immediate competition. The budget you have been allocated falls within a 30×30 to 40 x40 range. This gives you a good idea of booth space to start looking for and the ideal location for island exhibits.
Analyzing the collected data so far.
Let us take a look look at the trade show again. Pull up the exhibitor list that is typically listed on the website. Write down all of your competitors you know will be attending the show as an exhibitor and their booth space and locations. It is always a prudent plan to take the show floor map and have it enlarged at your local copy center so you can clearly mark locations of the competition. This will make it easier to find a location that fits your exhibiting criteria.
The bigger picture.
Let us take a look at what we have gathered so far. We have direction, we know where competitors’ are and which of them are attending with an exhibit, and what size booth. These details are going to help us with the next group of choices and ideally position the business at the perfect exhibiting location on the show floor.
The importance to be focused on what your trade show exhibiting goals are at the show -before- selecting your location is paramount. In our fictitious scenario, your business is in the process of re-branding itself and this is a crucial and pivotal moment for everyone involved. Now is the time to hone all the details into an ideal situation.
As mentioned in the discovery process, you are also introducing new products and services, which will also reflect your new brand. So, position your company not too far away from your peers in business. If you believe you have a strong offering you should be close enough for a comparison.
Understanding the bigger picture and your place within the shows microcosm is important. The next step is to position your exhibit for maximum conversion. Now it is time to get familiar with the importance of traffic flow within the show floor and how you can use it to your benefit.
Traffic flow and maximizing it for visibility on the show floor.
Generally speaking – traffic at many shows tends to flow from center to right and then disperse. It also tends to gravitate to larger more unique appearing exhibits speaks mostly to human curiosity.
The event or show management tends to lay out floor plans with groupings of large exhibits and also dispersing them among seas of smaller exhibits to help drive traffic throughout the hall.
Many studies have actually been done on this particular subject and you can do a bit of research on what works best within your exhibit space in conjunction with your exhibits design.
It never hurts to contact your exhibit builder as well. Their service and exhibiting experts have seen what works and what does not. They can also help you to avoid mistakes that cause congestion in your exhibiting space but still directs a natural flow of visitors into your trade show booth floor plan.
Location, location, location.
That tired real estate mantra is correct – location, location, location. There is more to consider, however, when deciding where to place your rebranded Island exhibit.
Questions to ask yourself and the marketing team – are there known exhibitors in the show who historically draw attendees? Are they potentially a firm that may augment your offering? Getting close to these companies may help how many qualified event attendees you can drive into your space.
Now that you have taken all this into consideration, look at your floor plan and identify three to four spaces that will allow you to stand out yet be within reach of your competitors, that have good traffic flow and in the prime areas towards the entrance of your exhibiting hall.
Keep in mind that people have a limited attention span and tire out when walking distances while gathering information, so the front of the hall is really the best. It is also on the way out as well so you get more visibility for that location than one that is in the back of the hall.
Taking all these factors into account and being prepared to choose the best available space for your first show will have a large impact on your visibility and overall success. Taking the steps from discovery to location will without a doubt, put you on the path to a successful event!
Matt Smith has been a professional Graphic and User Experience designer for over 28 years who works closely with trade show and event companies in the San Francisco Bay Area and Denver Colorado.