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All Pro Displays and Graphics | Trade Show and Exhibit Displays and Gaphics

Trade Show Tips

Beat Those Deadlines: Your Guide to Successful Trade Show Planning

A smooth trade show exhibiting experience requires excellent advance planning. Below you’ll find an exhibiting “to-do” list to help you stay ahead of deadlines.

Keep in mind that the time frame is only a suggestion. Your timetable may differ depending on the size and complexity of your project.

Meet your deadlines

One Year before the Show

  • Determine the purpose for your participation in your next succesful trade show or exhibitshow.
  • Plan your budgetSelect an appropriate booth space.
  • Review the show contract carefully: Make sure you understand all terms, space assignment factors (e.g. product type), show rules.
  • Send in application to show organizer and make the initial payment as a confirmation.
  • Check the payment schedule, and incorporate into your calendar.

Six Months in Advance

  • Determine exhibit objectives.
  • Determine a floor plan for your booth.
  • Evaluate and select your primary partners/vendors (exhibit house, transportation company, installation/dismantle (I&D) supplier).
  • Determine what, if any, new exhibit items are required and start the design process.
  • Evaluate how you plan to advertise your show advertising.

Four Months to Go

  • Select your staff (even gender balance is best).
  • Make travel reservations (if necessary).
  • Determine specific exhibit needs.  If repairs or refurbishments are required, start the process.  Evaluate additions and/or modifications that may be required.
  • Select specific display products.
  • Communicate with partners (exhibit house, shipping, I&D regarding specific services needed and exact dates.
  • Finalize new exhibit design.
  • Submit material for free publicity in the exhibitor guide/preview.
  • Execute show-related advertising.

90 Days Out

  • Select portable exhibit supplier (if required).
  • Review exhibit floor plan.  Note target dates and any restrictions.
  • Plan any in-booth demos and/or presentation.
  • Create a list of required services.
  • Communicate show plan to staff.
  • Note any "early-bird" discount deadlines or restrictions.
  • Reserve any additional meeting rooms (if necessary).
  • Plan pre-show meeting.
  • Finalize graphics art/copy.
  • Prepare press kits.

60 days before the Show

  • Order staff badges.
  • Preview new custom exhibit.
  • Send information to any other departments exhibiting in the booth.
  • Create and order lead forms. Finalize inquiry processing procedures.
  • Prepare orders for: drayage, electrical, cleaning, floral, etc. Take advantage of any pre-pay discounts.
  • Follow up on all promotions, making sure everything is ready to ship by target date.
  • Check with staff on airline and hotel reservations and travel dates. Make any necessary changes.
  • Develop briefing packet for booth staff.
  • Schedule training for booth staff at show.
  • Send reminder to upper management about briefing meetings (in office and at show); include agenda.

30 Days before the show

  • Send follow-up reminder to upper management about briefing meeting.  Include agenda.
  • Preview any new portable display product.
  • Follow-up on shipping orders and I&D schedules.
  • Call to reconfirm airline, hotel and car reservations. Make needed changes.
  • Follow up on target dates with all vendors.
  • Confirm availability of display products/literature.
  • Send all needed materials by target shipping date.  Try to avoid express shipping.
  • Distribute briefing packet, including training materials, to all booth staffers.
  • Set up and hold pre-show briefing meeting.
  • Set up in-booth conference room schedule for pre-arranged meetings at show.
  • Determine date and time for briefing staff at the exhibit. Review agenda, purpose of show, demonstrations, rehearsals, show specials, etc.
  • Prepare thank you notes to send to attendees (including postage).
  • Ensure that you have the following items before leaving for the show: phone numbers and addresses of all vendors, engineering certificate for exhibit, credit cards, copies of all orders and checks for services paid in advance, shipping manifests, return shipping labels, and additional badge forms.

Upon Arrival at Show

  • Check on freight arrival.
  • Confirm reservations for staff, as well as any meeting rooms and catering orders.
  • Locate service area. Meet electrician and confirm date and time for electrical installation.
  • Supervise booth setup.
  • Hold pre-show briefing and training for staff the day before the show.

During the Show

  • Reserve space for the next show.
  • Conduct daily meetings with staff.  Determine what is working, and what should be changed.
  • Confirm arrangements for booth dismantle and shipping.
  • Evaluate leads.  Rank as A, B & C.
  • Begin sending thank you notes to attendees.

After the Show

  • Supervise booth dismantle.
  • Process leads – Quickly!
  • Debrief staff.

Keys to Finding Lost Exhibit Components

Problem: To save on drayage costs at a small show in Las Vegas, one client shipped a 10-foot portable and product samples to the convention hotel.  The client figured they would then wheel them to the show themselves.

The client arrived at the hotel the day before the show opened.  The display was there, but the product samples (which had been shipped separately) were nowhere to be found. Since they only had a couple of hours to set up the display, they decided to take care of that first.  In the meantime, the hotel was to keep looking for the product samples.

At the exhibit hall, they began to unpack the display.  Unfortunately, the client found they were missing one key piece, the booth header. This header was the only company ID in the booth, and it was a necessary structural component. Without it, the back-wall graphics wouldn't stay up.

The packing invoice showed that the header had been shipped separate from the rest of the booth. Why? No one seemed to know.

Solution: First, they called us.  We said we would try to track down the missing header in time for the show.  As a backup, I called the exhibit manufacturer's Las Vegas dealer and asked if they had any headers in stock. Unfortunately, the answer was no. But they did say they could mock-up a header that would "do" for the one-day show.  Our client gladly accepted

The hotel also ultimately located the missing product samples.  Since our client has a last name, where a portion sounds like a first name, they were holding the product samples under a wrong name

Bottom line, our client made it through the show unscathed.  The replacement header did the job, and they also had products to give out.
We suggested to our client that they never ship their exhibit to the hotel.  Hotels frequently misplace things.  Also, security issues prohibit some hotels from receiving certain suspicious packages.

Retainable Promotional Products

The promotional products industry is probably one of the most misunderstood industries in the world where billions of dollars are wasted each year.

Fact: "Nothing beats promotional items for having your targeted message reach a designated recipient on a repetitive basis." Unfortunately, manufacturers, distributors, and customers make fundamental mistakes every day when selling and buying promotional items. One of the biggest problems is that buyers too often try to sift through over half a million promotional products available.

Purchase decisions are based on what others use ineffectively or on what they like. We as marketers live by one simple philosophy: "It's not about us it's about you." The reality is that 1% of the products offered make up 70% of the purchases and it is these tried and true items that work for one reason. They get re-used over and over.

Giveaway Means Throw Away

Most "giveaway" items should be re-named "thrown away".  They items are not used and retained. This simple fact decreases your exposure and actually raises your cost per impression.  Our recommended promotional items have the highest retention and re-use rate giving you the most value for your dollars.


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