Are you responsible for your exhibition plan?
Our exhibition planning tool will ensure you stay on track, prompting you to take action when necessary, ensuring a hassle-free experience, from booking your space to the finished exhibition stand.
FREE EXHIBITION PROJECT PLANNER DOWNLOAD
We know it’s not easy keeping on top of everything that goes into your live marketing strategy.
But don’t let planning get you down! We’ve created this free trade show checklist template to help you organise your exhibition stand and make sure all of your trade shows run smoothly.
The exhibition planning template has been compiled by our Senior Project Managers who have over 20 years in the industry, giving you the most accurate and realistic planning tool possible.
The Seven Stage Process
There is nothing worse than diving into something headfirst, with absolutely no plan in place.
Unfortunately, that is the approach that most businesses take when it comes to their exhibiting.
The result? Chaos! Let’s look at ways to avoid this…
If you’re a seasoned exhibitor then we can let you off. You probably know about the deadlines and timelines that we’re going to go over in this guide. However, if you’ve only done a handful of exhibitions with your business then you are going to want to have a look at this exhibition planning template.
A lot of people that we work with represent small businesses and SME’s who have decided trade shows are the way forward. We are strong believers that this is true. In fact, here are 9 reasons that your business must exhibit. The problem is, event marketing isn’t as straight forward as other strategies.
Using radio advertising as an example, the process is very linear and straightforward. You choose a station, buy some airtime, get an advert made and send it over. There is a lot more work required when we’re talking about live marketing.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Planning is key to hosting a successful exhibit. This exhibition plan will make planning your event easier. All you have to do is:
Follow the steps laid out in this guide:
ADVICE FROM AN EXHIBITION PROJECT MANAGER
We design, manufacture and build over 600 exhibition stands a year and we run a pretty tight ship. Each of our projects is fully managed in-house by a project manager. To get this many exhibition stands out the door and at different venues all over the world they have to meet strict deadlines. Who better to put a planning schedule together than an exhibition project manager with over twenty years’ experience in this role?
Everything in this exhibition plan comes from a credible source with plenty of experience. The step-by-step guide is accompanied by two free resources for you to download. You should download the trade show planning tools at the top of this page and not let them out of your sight until the show is over.
Without further ado, let’s learn how to plan your exhibition.
EXHIBITION PLANNING GUIDE
The exhibition planning process can be broken down into seven stages. It’s not a linear process like the radio example above. You will likely have multiple tasks on the go at once. The seven stages of exhibition planning are:
- Booking the show
- Designing your exhibition stand
- Event preparation
- Venue arrangements
- Accommodation and transport
- Pre-show marketing activity
- Before you go last minute checks
We’ve allocated a four-month time scale to complete these stages. This is just a guide to give you an idea of deadlines. The more time you allocate the better. Trust us, the closer you get to the event the more stressful things will seem. We wouldn’t recommend trying to plan an exhibition with less than four months to go – but it is not impossible.
EXHIBITION PLANNING STAGE ONE: BOOKING THE SHOW
This stage of the exhibition planning process involves a lot of desk work. Before you decide to do anything, you have to research the trade shows. There are lots of industry-specific events. You might think you’ve hit the jackpot when your first page of Google results show up, but think again.
Choosing the wrong show could cost you your event. Avoid fatal errors by carrying out plenty of research and attending a show if you can. For more helpful tips on choosing the right trade show to exhibit at, read this exhibiting guide.
Once you have decided on which trade show you’d like to exhibit at, you need to define your budget.
We recommend spending a quarter of your total budget on your floor space. Just over half of your budget will go on your exhibition stand, and the rest will cover costs such as electricity and furniture hire. For more information on your exhibition budget breakdown, read this exhibiting guide.
Stage one of the exhibition plan should take an estimated two to three weeks. In an ideal world you would spend much longer researching, attending shows and understanding the target audience.
EXHIBITION PLANNING STAGE TWO: DESIGNING YOUR EXHIBITION STAND
First things first, do you know your pull-up banners from your custom modular exhibition stands? If you answered no then you’re going to need to do more research. Luckily we’ve got this handy exhibiting guide that gives you an overview of all the different types of exhibition stands.
This is an important part of the exhibition plan because you’ll need to know what type of stand you want before you can start researching contractors. Choosing the right contractor is just as vital as choosing the right show, so make sure you gather free design proposals and quotes from several sources before you make your final decision. As a final measure, make sure that your chosen exhibition contractor can say ‘yes’ to all of these points before you agree to work with them.
After you’ve chosen your exhibition stand contractor, things get much easier for you in the design stage. For about a month you will be going back and forth with a CAD team to finalise the 3D design and the integrated features. Once this is signed off you’ll be going back and forth with a graphic designer to complete the artwork on your stand. And then all you have to do is sign it off.
The whole process of designing your exhibition stand should take just under two months, but there is plenty more for you to be getting on with.
EXHIBITION PLANNING STAGE THREE: EVENT PREPARATION
Now is the time in the exhibition plan to select which staff you want to work on the booth. You need to bring enough staff to man your booth, cover breaks and give presentations.
Once this decision is made you can also get the accommodation and transport arrangements sorted. (I did tell you that this was going to get complicated. Don’t worry, there’s a free planning tool to make it easier at the bottom!)
Start training your staff as early as possible. They need to be able to identify and qualify a potential lead in under five minutes so that no time is wasted talking to irrelevant delegates.
With just over two months before the exhibition takes place you want to get into the nitty-gritty of your show. Plan any games, competitions or activities that you want to run on your stand. It’s a good idea to let your contractors know about this because they might be able to do something special with the design.
This is also a good time to start researching lead capture software. Automating the lead taking process will save you a lot of time and effort during and after the trade show.
Exhibiting isn’t just about generating leads and meeting new prospects. You can use industry events to meet your customers and strengthen relationships. Throughout the exhibition planning process you should be reaching out to your customers and letting them know you’ll be there – that’s where pre-show marketing comes in. But you can also use the opportunity to schedule meetings with important clients.
As part of your exhibition plan arrange times and places to meet your clients. Some people may be happy to meet you at your exhibition stand whereas others may prefer to have a chat at a networking event or an evening meal. Keep in mind that restaurants tend to book up quickly, so try to get your meetings scheduled and tables booked two to three weeks before the show.
By this point, your exhibition stand will be complete so you can arrange any stand dressing that you need such as flowers or catering requirements. You also know your exhibiting team and have made travel and accommodation arrangements so you can book parking and/or transfers to and from the venue.
You can see that there are a lot of things for you to take care of. Our advice is to use the planning tool we’ve provided with this guide and choose an exhibition stand contractor that offers an in-house project management service.
EXHIBITION PLANNING STAGE FOUR: VENUE ARRANGEMENTS
As we said, exhibition planning is not a linear process. Several steps and entire stages overlap for the final three months before the event. To keep on track of everything you simply download and use the trade show checklist plan located at the top of this page.
The venue arrangements are where a lot of exhibitors start to get lost. Booking your floor space was the easy part, around three months before your show you are going to want to start completing the venue requirements.
The first thing to do is to check the ‘early bird deadlines’. If you’re conscious about your budget then you should be keen to get these dates as early as possible.
There will also be documents that the venue and organisers will require you to sign and submit. The amount of paperwork you’ll have to complete will vary depending on the show and location.
While you are dealing with the venue and the event organisers, you should book your exhibitor passes, complete your show catalogue entry and organise onsite services such as electricity, internet and furniture. Don’t forget these important parts of the exhibition plan.
Get these booked in a minimum of two months before the event takes place, or before the early bird discount rate deadline.
EXHIBITION PLANNING STAGE FIVE: ACCOMMODATION AND TRANSPORT
Trade show planning stages four, five and six will all overlap. And you’ll still be wrapping things up from stages two and three. This is why we recommend getting a head start on your exhibition planning and using our free exhibition planning tool.
You can save a lot of money by booking accommodation and transport early. It’s one of our exhibition budgeting tips. That’s why as soon as you’ve chosen your team you should start shopping around for the best deals.
It’s a good idea to clear your cookies before you make any final decisions. Travel companies often use your browsing data to identify your need and offer you a price based off of that.
As soon as the accommodation is booked you should organise transport to and from the airport or train station. Again, the earlier you do this the cheaper it will be.
EXHIBITION PLANNING STAGE SIX: PRE-SHOW MARKETING
Pre-show marketing should be one of your highest priorities. Without the other stages in this planning guide, you will have no trade show to exhibit at or no exhibition stand to take with you. Without the pre-show marketing stage, you will have no interest in your exhibition and risk coming home empty-handed.
That being said, you don’t want to bore people with endless social media and email campaigning. We suggest starting your pre-show marketing about three months before the event. Follow the free exhibition plan we have provided to see how often you should be sending emails, uploading blog posts and updating social media about your upcoming show.
Although we recommend three months to complete this stage, free scheduling software means that you can get everything organised much quicker. If you’re savvy, you can have three months’ worth of social media posts, website updates and email campaigns scheduled in a couple of days – giving you nothing to worry about.
You don’t have to be a marketing guru to get started with pre-show marketing. We’ve laid it all out for you in this free planning tool. That being said, if you want to go above and beyond then there are additional tactics you can utilise.
Have you thought about writing and distributing a press release? This is an easy way to spread the word about your upcoming event to other people in your industry and local area. It’s easy to do this on your own, at no cost – but you may prefer to outsource this task.
Quadrant2Design offer free content writing and press release distribution to our new clients. If you’ve got a newsworthy story such as a product launch or rebrand we’d love to work with you. Get in touch with our design team to find out more.
Other options worth exploring if you have a budget for your pre-show marketing include:
- Traditional advertising such as local radio, industry-specific press
- Digital retargeting campaigns
- Paid social media campaigns
Raising awareness of your presence at a show is just as important as raising awareness of your brand. In this example, if you build it they won’t just come. You have to scream and shout about it first.
EXHIBITION PLANNING STAGE SEVEN: BEFORE YOU GO
The last two weeks before your show are always the most hectic. A lot of the things you’ve been doing up until this point will still be running. You’ll still be training staff, speaking to important clients and running your pre-show marketing campaign. But now you’ve got to double-check everything in the exhibition plan and finalise the last few bits and pieces.
You know what it’s like the day before you go on holiday. Well, now you’re responsible for a team of people, an exhibition stand, and your businesses ROI. It’s a pretty big deal. No wonder it’s so stressful.
The trade show checklist previously mentioned will help you deal with this. As long as you’ve done everything else in time by following this planning tool. If you don’t use our planning tool and find yourself struggling towards the end then we’ll have no sympathy I’m afraid.
Around this time you should be double-checking your travel and accommodation bookings and your stand and show arrangements. You may have added additional staff members or changed your team around, which would require you to change the bookings.
Once you’ve got everything confirmed you should start putting your sales team to the test. Run through the product demos and sales pitches one more time and make sure that everybody understands how to qualify a lead.
One thing that we see a lot on the trade show floor is booth staff not knowing how to use their lead capture software. Not familiarising yourself and your team with your chosen system before you go will cost you time, data and valuable leads.
Finally, pack your bags. You might think you know how to do this without a guide. Everyone can pack a bag, right? Packing for a trade show is different. You are packing for 2 – 4 days on your feet, business dinners and networking events.
EXHIBITION PLAN: FINAL THOUGHTS
After reading this exhibition planning guide, I’m sure you’re far from excited about your upcoming exhibition. But don’t worry. With the time scale we’ve suggested it’s easy to complete all of these tasks and still have plenty of time for a coffee in between.
If you choose to work with us on your exhibition stand, our dedicated project management team will be able to walk you through these steps. We’ve been to a fair amount of trade shows so you can trust us when it comes to planning your event.
Have you already booked your space at an exhibition? Speak to us today to get your free design concept, including free animation of your exhibition stand design! Give our design team an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01202 723 500. Alternatively, you can fill in the form at the top of this page.