It’s summer planning season for trade show managers. The business cycle for many industries is such that summer is a slower time with fewer conferences on the calendar. Of course, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do. Whenever there’s an open window of time, some housekeeping and advance planning are in order. We asked two trade show managers for their perspective on planning – and added a checklist of our own.
Kathy, Conventions Manager for Baxter International’s Renal Systems, has a busy summer, with a large global conference in late June, and the month of July spent in preparation for the annual budget process that begins August 1. Baxter’s corporate push to reduce expenses and boost ROI has led the trade show team to reduce their footprint overall by some 10 to 20 percent, which has required rethinking the entire year’s schedule. Their U.S. calendar usually includes three large shows requiring a 40x50 foot exhibit and ten smaller regional shows, where 10x10 or 10x20 booths can be used.
In keeping with budget pressures, their scaled-down exhibit uses a more generic structure, where they can try new ideas, such as floor-to-ceiling graphics and relaxation “pods” where guests can view videos in privacy and comfort. She says summer is a good time for strategic planning, including market research, such as checking in with sales representatives and marketing managers on what worked and what didn’t in previous shows, as well as what’s being planned in the product line that will impact exhibits in the future. And as rules for trade show giveaways have changed in the healthcare field, she has had to work with a creative agency to find new ways to attract attention.
At Optimum Nutrition, Trade Show Manager Bob has “zero breathing room” in his consumer-driven schedule, with 39 shows per year, including shows all summer long and four in international locales. His best piece of advice is “plan, plan, plan. Everything has to get done way in advance.” He books hotels a year ahead and keeps track of a raft of deadlines all year long. He has created his own multicolored Excel file for his trade show calendar, which highlights key items such as hotels and flights, product samples and goodie bags, as well as a multitude of deadlines for every show.
He uses the online tradeshow management system provided by The Tradeshow Network Marketing Group, which handles display storage and exhibit management for Optimum Nutrition’s largest booth, which can flex from 80 to 100 feet as required for their larger-than-life bodybuilding blockbusters. One big change he has seen is the use of more multimedia every year. He is moving from stand-alone, static graphics to ever-changing graphics on video screens throughout the exhibit.
While every season may be a busy season, don’t forget to take time for planning – and let The Tradeshow Network Marketing Group know if we can help!
Trade Show Planning Checklist
Display and exhibit inventory:
- Review your inventory of exhibits and displays and consider whether you need a new exhibit or add-ons to existing displays.
- Determine if any booth structures have been broken or damaged and have the booth refurbished if needed.
- Take a look at the costs to store your booth inventory. Is it cheaper to store it yourself or have someone else store and manage your exhibits?
- Check your graphic panels, throw away old ones and start designing new graphics.
- Review your marketing materials. Is your brand being revised? Are you planning new product launches? Is it time for a new video or PowerPoint presentation? Get started early.
- Visit the associations’ websites of which you are a member to obtain 2015 dates for shows and conferences.
- Start updating the list of shows you plan to attend next year and begin a calendar of key deadlines.
- Submit any “call for paper” you want to present.