More and more conferences now have an exhibitor trade show. A trade show is a great addition to a conference as it provides an opportunity for your delegates to network and also provides additional sponsorship and revenue opportunities for the conference. However, as an event manager this adds another level of complexity to the conference. You already have venue logistics, menu choices, speakers and registration to deal with, so how do you successfully incorporate a trade show into your planning?

Determine the Space and Build the Layout

Before you start connecting with potential exhibitors, you need to determine the location of the trade show and build the floor plan. This will tell you how many exhibitors your conference can accommodate. Start by connecting with your venue to determine the space they have available (if not already included in your contract).

One thing to keep in mind when choosing a space is that it is important to place your exhibitors in a high traffic area, as this will help to create value. It is also common to have the exhibitor trade show in the same space where you are serving your break or buffet food. Work with your venue coordinator to choose a space that will best suit your needs.

Once you have chosen a space, the venue will work with you to build the floorplan. At this stage be sure to take note of the size of the tables and exhibit space as you will require this for the exhibitor registration form. You will also need to inquire about what the venue is willing to provide; tables, chairs, linens, shipping, Wi-Fi, electricity etc.

In most cases it is to your advantage to hire a tradeshow display company who can provide the pipe, drape, linens, tables, chairs and act as the receiver of exhibitor materials. Connect with each supplier to request a quote for their services. Your quote should be for the basic booth set up which is typically pipe, drape, a table and two chairs. Some of your exhibitors may require additional display items (outside of what you are providing in your booth price) and assistance setting-up complex booths, so be sure to ask if they are willing to offer these services. The tradeshow company can also act as the receiver of all exhibitor materials, as it can be very costly to ship materials directly to the hotel. Also discuss set-up and take down time as this is something that will need to be communicated to the venue and worked into your timeline for the event. It is also important to inquire about their familiarity with the venue, this can be a big asset especially if you are not familiar with the space yourself. In the end working with a tradeshow display company can help to make your exhibitor trade show a big success as they are the experts in creating a functional space for exhibitors and delegates.

Developing the Exhibitor Registration Form

Whether you or your client are developing the Exhibitor Registration Form, be sure that it includes the following elements as it will serve as a contract with the exhibitor for the space:

Determine a booth price: First, be sure to take into account your costs; room rental, food and beverage costs and booth equipment rentals. Often booth prices are the same for every exhibitor but you could also offer not for profit price discounts or higher fees for more desirable booths.

Exhibitor Hours: Determine your exhibitor hours of operation. Exhibitor hours are typically during the busiest hours of your conference, if your conference runs from 8:00 am- 4:00 pm, your exhibitors will be available during those times. Exhibitors appreciate being where the action is, so if possible place them in a room where breaks will be served.

It is also helpful to give the exhibitors a preliminary schedule so they know when their peak times will be. Exhibitor hours should include ingress and egress times.

Booth Space: Communicate the size of the booth, this is important for their set up and any signage they may bring. A typical booth space is an 8’ x 10’ space, butthis will differ from event to event depending on the size of the room you are using. Also, let them know what is included with their booth; chairs, tables, skirting for tables, electrical, Wi-Fi etc. This information will help them prepare for the conference

Booth Placement: Often exhibitors are given a choice of their top three booth preferences, however this is not always appropriate. Think about the type of exhibitors you will have at your conference and if preferred booth placement is important to them. If it is, include a note on the registration form indicating that booth placement is on a first come first serve basis.

Payment Information: Be sure to include payment deadlines, method of payment available, an address to send payment to, and contact information for any inquiries

Start Booth Placement

You have approached potential exhibitors, booth purchases start to roll in and the phone starts ringing, your exhibitor list is filling up quickly.

Depending on your event you may have exhibitors who purchase more than one booth, if that is the case it is easier to place those exhibitors first. Also, if sponsors receive an exhibitor booth as part of their sponsor benefits, these booths should be reserved early on as they should be given preferred locations.

It is easier to conceptualize something when you have a visual image right in front of you. It is helpful to print a large scale version of the floor plan to put on a bulletin board in your office. This is extremely helpful when selling booths. When you receive calls from potential exhibitors you can immediately see the available booths in front of you. Once a booth is sold you can mark it sold on your map.

The visual is a great tool for you, but to ensure that no errors occur, it is also important to keep a spreadsheet of exhibitors and booth numbers. This will ensure that you are communicating the correct booth numbers to exhibitors and will avoid any duplicate booth placements.

Communicate With Your Exhibitors

The last step to creating a great trade show at your conference is communicating with your exhibitors. The first communication is the confirmation of their booth purchase, in this communication they can also be reminded of what is included in their booth purchase and any outstanding information you require from them. The next communication should be a reminder sent at least 7-10 days in advance of the conference. This is a reminder of the information they already received, but you would also include the final program, a list of registered delegates with contact information (with their permission), and the final exhibitor floor plan. This is most efficiently done through an email, but make sure to include your contact information on site in case any questions arise.

Solid Planning Will Help Your Trade Show Sell Itself for Next Year

To conclude, planning and preparation will help to create an amazing experience for your exhibitors. They will notice your efforts and be sure to come back year after year. If you are looking for more ways to create a great experience for your exhibitors, check out the article “Keep Your Exhibitors Happy”.