Trade shows are an invaluable opportunity to connect with your audience, build new relationships, drive growth, and expand your reach in the market. One of the critical aspects of trade show success is a well-organized approach to planning and managing your on-site team and vendors. Below are steps that I have found helpful in my experience as Client Services Manager. Ensuring your team is prepared and knowledgeable is vital to a successful trade show experience.
1. Take Advantage of Discount Deadlines
Trade show organizers and general contractors provide discount deadlines for various items and services including furniture and equipment rental, Wi-Fi, electricity, and utilities. Understanding these costs upfront and taking advantage of early discounts allows you to save money, manage your budget more effectively, and avoid unexpected expenses with last-minute bookings or on-site purchases.
2. Organize Financial Information
Trade shows involve financial transactions with vendors for expenses such as freight, audio-visual equipment, digital technology, exhibit services, and more. Before the show, organize and verify your financial and credit card information. Establish credit limits for billing purposes and ensure that your credit cards have adequate limits to accommodate unexpected expenses. This will help avoid payment issues and delays.
3. Prepare Your Team
Prior to your trade show, plan weekly meetings with your team to outline roles, expectations, logistics, and your daily show schedule. Define each team member’s role in supporting your trade show objectives, such as creating brand awareness, qualifying leads, or meeting with clients. Ensure each member of your on-site team understands how they will support and contribute to your objectives. Establish communication protocol and regularly check in with your team to address any issues and review daily results to develop an action plan for improvement throughout the show.
4. Understand Exhibit Services
Whether you rent or purchase your exhibit, understand the responsibilities of your exhibit vendor and any additional services they offer, such as pre-show planning, shipping, and asset management. Knowing these details beforehand will prevent overlooked details and help your team collaborate.
5. Track Your Freight
When transporting your exhibit materials to the trade show venue, be sure to track your freight, know what it looks like (include pictures for reference), and stay informed of the shipment’s status and expected arrival time to avoid delays and missing items. Maintain a detailed piece count of your freight to ensure nothing is lost during transit or on-site. Correctly completing the Material Handling Agreement (MHA) is essential to avoid outbound shipping issues. The MHA informs the show organizer of your shipping carrier and the destination for your freight after the show. If the MHA is not filled out correctly or your credit card is declined, it can result in forced freight, meaning the show can delay shipment or charge additional carrier fees.
6. Identify Your On-Site Support Teams
- Audio-Visual and Digital: Your digital technology and audio-visual setup can significantly impact the overall success of your exhibit. Before the trade show, communicate with your digital and AV teams to ensure all equipment has been tested and is functioning properly. Create a contact list of your team or vendors who are available for troubleshooting in case any technical issues arise during the show. Being proactive with technology preparations can save you from potential setbacks and downtime.
- Installation and Dismantle: Get to know your on-site I&D team and show decorators. Knowing who is responsible for setting up your exhibit and having direct communication with on-site support will save time and reduce stress.
- Create Comprehensive Contact Sheet: Compile a detailed contact sheet with all the essential contact information for your team members, vendors, and on-site support including electricians, rigging crew, show management and decorator, service coordinator, and sales or account representative. Include name, role, phone number, and email address, and the best way to reach them in an emergency. Distribute this contact sheet to your team, so your resources are readily available.
7. Prepare a Trade Show Care Kit
Create a trade show care kit with essential emergency supplies and items your exhibit team and booth staff may need. This kit can include snacks, water, mints, pain relievers, band-aids, portable phone chargers, notepads, pens, tape, hand sanitizer, and any other items that could come in handy during the event. Having a well-stocked care kit ensures that minor inconveniences don’t become setbacks during the trade show.
Careful planning and organization will significantly improve your on-site trade show experience. With a knowledgeable team and communication strategies, you’ll be well-prepared to make the most of your trade show, address any obstacles that arise, and focus on connecting with your attendees.
If you’re looking for support to enhance your exhibit program and give you peace of mind at your next trade show, Skyline Entourage is here to help! Our team is dedicated to providing comprehensive support and expert services, making your exhibiting journey efficient and successful.
Our pre-show planning team manages all the details so you can rest assured that everything will be in place and ready for your event. With our centralized freight department and transportation management system, you gain direct visibility into your exhibit materials and carriers’ systems, ensuring a smooth and hassle-free shipping process. We work with a network of expert I&D professionals, who have mastered a streamlined and reliable process to ensure your exhibit is show-ready, dismantled, stored, and shipped quickly and safely.
Reach out to us today to get started!
By: Sonja Stricklin, August 2023