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Your Own Trade Show? 13 Actionable Trade Show Planning Tasks to Launch Your Event

Are you in the process of planning your first trade show? If so, you have the right idea!

99% of marketers say trade shows provide a unique value that no other marketing method offers. There’s also a trade show for just about every industry and trade shows are hosted globally.

But planning a trade show isn’t easy. Most trade show experts plan their exhibit a whole year prior!

If you’re interested in hosting a trade show, it’s best to start preparing for the required tasks. This ensures your first trade show will be a success.

If you’re unsure about trade show planning, here are 13 tasks you should handle in advanced.

1. Set Your Overall Strategy for Your Vendors

To ensure you receive sales for years to come, you need to first set the overall strategy for your vendors.

This includes creating your trade show blueprint, knowing the different booth sizes, knowing which special guests you want to book, and deciding the other features for your event.

You also need to define your trade show purpose. Some trade shows are held as a B2B marketing event for companies of a certain niche, such as a corporate trade show.

Others are open to the public and the vendors’ goals are to try to increase sales and brand awareness.

Lastly, know the intended size of your trade show. You should settle on a smaller size trade show for your first year and work your way up as you gain more success.

2. Know Where You Want to Book the Trade Show

Once you have the basic trade show idea and trade show details, you’ll want to know where to host it. Hosting the trade show in your hometown is convenient for you. But is your hometown really going to draw in the guests you want?

The best way to decide this is by studying your niche. Is there one city, state, or country many companies and consumers live? This could be your hometown, but you may have to travel to accommodate your market.

If your market is scattered around the country or the world, you can take a look at the most popular trade show cities to get a better idea of where people are willing to travel to.

3. Choose the Hotel or Event Space

From here, choose the hotel or event space you’re hosting the trade show. Many hotels accommodate large spaces for trade shows.

This is also convenient if you suspect many guests will travel to your trade show; some hotels offer discount rates for those staying at the same hotel.

The hotel may even allow you to host a free hotel room giveaway, as a way to draw in more customers.

However, many hotel spaces are small and lack design flexibility. If you’re expecting a larger trade show, it’s best to find a larger event space such as a convention center.

4. Decide the Interactive Design Elements

If your trade show looks like a standard room, it’s not going to captivate your vendors and guests. After you choose the hotel or event space, visit the space consistently and decide what unique or interactive design elements to implement.

This can include hanging items, such as signs or décor. You may be able to adjust the flooring or walls to accommodate to the larger and more interactive booths.

For simpler and smaller events, changing up the lighting is the easiest way to create a unique space.

5. Book Special Guests

Special guests are what will really draw vendors and customers to your event.

Special guests are usually influencers in your industry. These influencers will give a presentation or hold a meeting.

Not sure which influencers to book? Don’t underestimate entertainment. Book music artists, painters, and even a special appearance from a famous person such as a movie star.

Keep in mind, you need to pay for accommodations for your guests. This includes flights, hotel rooms, and supplying catering or money so they can eat.

6. Promote Your Event

Once you decide these basics, it’s time to promote your event! The right marketing strategies will help raise awareness so vendors will reserve booths and customers will buy tickets.

How do you promote your event? Use a combination of digital and print marketing strategies. Print flyers and distribute them at non-competitor events in your niche. Create a website and social media pages.

Keep in mind, you need to do this early — six months at the very least. Your guests need plenty of time to book their flights and schedule hotel accommodations.

7. Monitor Ticket and Booth Sales

As you begin promoting your event, the sales will start coming in. Keep a close eye on how many sales you receive. That’s because certain event spaces only accommodate a certain capacity.

Receiving more sales than you expected is great! But what happens if you’re above capacity or you sell out? You’ll make people very unhappy — especially the vendors who spent lots of money to promote their brand.

Take the next few weeks to monitor ticket and booth sales. When spots start to decrease, ensure you post about it on your website and social media pages. Once you fully sold out, close your ticket purchasing platform.

8. Build Your Team

You already handled this on your own, but you can’t be the only person running the show. The right team will help ensure your trade show runs smoothly.

Here are some people you should hire:

  • Event planner
  • Project manager
  • Sales
  • Marketing manager

Keep in mind, you’ll need to hire more than one professional for certain positions.

While you may only need one project manager, you’ll probably need multiple sales professionals.

9. Know Your ROI

At this point, you probably gained a decent amount of money with sales. But you also spent a decent amount of money renting your space, hiring a staff, booking entertainment, and on all marketing materials.

To ensure you can afford to book the event next year, keep tabs on your ROI. You should be doing this consistently, until your event date.

What if you end up losing money? This doesn’t mean you can’t book the event next year. Take a look at what you did wrong and improve on this for next year.

10. Know Your Necessities

Another task to do in advanced is knowing your necessities. This is all of the minor operational factors that can easily make or break your trade show.

Examples include parking, WiFi, technology (and ensuring there’s enough electricity to accommodate any other tech).

All trade shows differ with this category. But every trade show will at least have these basic necessities.

This also varies per trade show. For example, a trade show dedicated to drones should have an area with enough space to fly the drones. A film convention will probably not worry about this.

11. Find Sponsors

You’ll quickly learn your sponsors will benefit you greatly. Your sponsors help you get the word out there. They may even supply you with their products or services.

All you have to do is publish their logo on your marketing materials and give them a space to display their booth.

Who should you choose as your sponsor? Find a popular brand in your niche. If you have no luck, find a brand you know your audience will probably support.

Common examples include alcohol companies, clothing designers, and car manufacturers.

12. Sell Booths Earlier — and Faster

As you start marketing your trade show, you’ll notice you may not get sales immediately. But the closer you get to the event date, the more sales you receive.

That’s because people wait until the last minute to reserve their booths or buy their tickets.

Try to sell your booths and tickets as early as you can. Sales tactics include early bird specials. You can also add urgent sales messages to your marketing posts, such as “limited space available” and “booths and tickets are selling fast!”

13. Schedule Catering, Beverages, and Alcohol

The last step is scheduling all necessary sustenance. Most trade shows schedule food trucks.

All your guests and vendors have to do is exit the trade show and buy food from one of the food trucks. Find a beverage company that will set up many beverage booths throughout the event.

Do you plan on selling alcohol at your event space? First, ensure you’re allowed (you may need a liquor license). From here, find an alcohol company and see if they can bartend at your event.

To save hospitality costs, ensure you book your event in an area with plenty of restaurants and bars. This also gives your guests more options.

Trade Show Planning Is Easy

If you’re creating a trade show, you need to get started with trade show planning. Use this advice to create the most successful trade show in your niche.

Is it almost time for your trade show and you’re starting to sweat a little bit?

Take a deep breath and read our event management section for more helpful event advice.