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Planning for a trade show doesn’t mean that you have to become a nervous wreck for months. Even if you’re new to the industry, you can have a successful, scare-free show experience. As a consultant for hundreds of newbie and veteran trade show exhibitors, I hear myself giving certain suggestions quite often. Here’s a short list of simple, yet very important tips that you may want to consider during your trade show planning.

1.       Be aware of show form deadlines. Double check deadlines just to be safe that you do not miss anything.  Missing a deadline can sometimes double certain costs!


2.       Pay attention to show rules and regulations. Make sure that you not only read the rules and regulations carefully, but that you also understand them. Is your exhibit breaking height or self setup regulations?  Remember, these can change with the city, venue, show contractor, as well as booth size.


3.       Properly train your booth staff. Just because they are seasoned sales representatives, doesn’t mean they are going to be efficient and effective selling at a trade show. Keep in mind that speaking with prospects and clients during a trade show is going to require a different process than day to day sales encounters due to the drastic change of environment (number of people, time available, space, additional pressures). Since 85% of what people remember is their interaction with the booth staffer, ensure that everyone has an appropriate technique to promote your business!


4.       Make sure your crates stand out. Decorating your crates makes them easier to find if misplaced. (Yes this can happen even when you do everything correctly!) You can paint your crates, add colored tape, or sometimes a simple piece of ribbon might save you hours of searching for a big dark crate among thousands of other big dark crates.


5.       Remember to consolidate your shipments. With each shipment, most trade show contractors will charge minimums on drayage. With an average rate of $78/100lbs, and minimum weight per shipment at 200 pounds, that’s over $150 just to bring in one shipment! By consolidating your shipments you will minimize unnecessary drayage costs.


6.       Ship to the advanced warehouse. Shipping to the advanced warehouse will give you piece of mind that your exhibit will be in your booth space the first day for set-up. Shipping direct to the show site can have you waiting during valuable set up hours and nervous about your shipment’s location. It’s also a good idea to keep tabs on your shipments with tracking numbers and piece counts.


7.       Prepare backup and duplicates for all Audio Visual presentations. When you have already spent the time and money on your electronic equipment, cases, shipping, drayage, and set up, the last thing you want to do is end up with a blank screen. That space that was strategically integrated into the exhibit layout now is empty and the well planned reformatted sales process now must be altered last minute! There may be a person back at the office to send the presentation. But, if it’s not a small file, uploading or overnight mailing is only going to add stress to an already hectic day. Be smart, load up your flash drive and relax.


8.       Bring confirmation of all show form orders should a mistake occur.  It’s also smart to send your I&D team copies of show forms. Most good I&D companies will check them to make sure that all requests have been met. If something is incomplete, they will know where to go and how to get it done quickly.


9.       Do not tear down your booth early. Not only will some shows penalize you for doing this, but you could also lose out on the opportunity to talk with prospects or other exhibitors at the show.




1.  We spend money on ads, money on direct mail, money sending our reps into the field…all in the hope that we can get face time with the people who matter.  At a trade show, all of our best prospects are in one place at one time.

2.  At a trade show, we get to see all of our existing clients in one place, at one time.  We can use the opportunity to ascertain their future needs and their current satisfaction with our products and services.

3.  At a trade show, the industry press comes to us.  They are actively seeking what’s new.  We can easily make you and the rest of the senior management team available for quotes.  And we can add to your stature by having you present a paper, participate in a panel, or play golf with our three biggest customers all in one foursome.

4.  Whether it’s the trade press, a current customer, a future prospect or even some company that may be interested in a strategic partnership, we get to control the environment in which they evaluate us.  We get to position our messages in their minds.

5.  Also, Mr. Boss, you are always concerned the staff doesn’t keep abreast of the latest developments in our industry and is too self-focused.  At a trade show we can spy on the competition, we can attend seminars by thought leaders and industry titans, we can get a pulse of what is on our customers minds just by hanging out at the hotel bar.

6.  Mr. Boss, do you remember that great idea you thought you had a few years back?  We spent low-six figures pitching the thing in half the country only to find out our ‘whatchamacallit’ was being offered when the industry was clamoring for a ‘thigamajig.’  Had we only used the time at the annual trade show to survey the marketplace we’d have saved face, saved six figures and saved a season’s worth of product development time!

And when the boss says, “But all these expenses add up…” That’s when you agree they add up — to a very efficient use of valuable company resources.

Also, see this blog featured on Skyline Trade Show Tips– the blog of Skyline Exhibits, our corporate office in Minnesota!

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July 2018
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