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How to plan a trade show and not lose your mind

Showtime. The doors are about to open and the exhibition floor is about to be swarmed by hundreds of eager visitors. They’re ready, but have you done enough to make the most of the event?

If you’re thinking about this moments before the first person walks through the door, or even in the month leading up to the show, the answer is probably no.

But when should you start to think about marketing your show and how do you plan all that work without losing your mind?

In this post we offer some honest advice and practical tips on how to best organise tasks when planning for a trade show.

how to best organise your tasks when planning for a trade show.

Planning a trade show will take blood, sweat and tears

The first step in organising your event is to appreciate that it is a lot of work. This will take blood, sweat and tears to pull it off! Regular exhibition managers will preach that  organising an event is akin to organising a wedding.  Visitors won’t see that you turned into a ‘show-zilla’ in the weeks running up to the event.  They won’t know that you woke in the middle of the night with nightmares about the show going terribly wrong.

Visitors won’t sense that you’re overwhelmed by it all.  What they will see is the outcome – the stunning stand, the fantastically trained sales team.  The trick in making all the work that goes into a show manageable, is to note down everything that you need to do and to schedule it in advance.

Use goals to drive what you need to do

But where do you start? The simple answer is at the top.  You know what you want to achieve from the show – your objectives – so break them down, then down again into bitesize tasks.

Do you have a goal of driving 20% more sales than the last show? Don’t just sit on your hands and hope for the best. Think about how you’re going to do this. What can you change that can drive this goal?

  • Could you drive more traffic to the stand through pre-event marketing?
  • Could you increase the conversion of people visiting your stand to a lead or sale?
  • Could you even train your staff in upselling?

Knowing what you want to achieve and HOW you can do that is really important to make sure that you meet your goals.  Keep asking yourself “How are we going to do that?” until you get to an actionable task.

Here’s an example of task list that could come from just one line of questioning.  Just one answer of ‘drive more traffic’ can be addressed by many marketing channels – with each of those (in this example website awareness) driving many individual tasks.

Each of your goals, should have a long list tasks that you’ve carefully thought about using the above process.

Doing this activity makes sure that you’re not wasting your time on activities that won’t help you to reach your exhibiting objectives.

Use your goals to drive what you need to do

For every group of tasks, such as ‘website awareness’, you’re going to need to know how you’re going to measure the success of the task.  How will you know if website awareness drove more traffic to the stand?

Whether that’s website visits, click throughs, sign ups for appointments, you’ll need to know whether that marketing channel has been leveraged effectively in order to have had an impact on the goal you’re trying to achieve.

Knowing how you’re going to measure it in advance also helps to make sure you set it as a task and make sure it’s being monitored at the right time.

Write down every task that needs to be done

Once you’ve decided what the tasks are, the next thing you need to do is write them down in one place with the deadlines. If Gant charts are your thing, go for it.

Display it in a way that makes the most sense to you and the people you work with.

Just be prepared for an epic list!

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