2020 Trade Show Planning Guide-After Covid-19

“Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time”
-Henry Ford

One day in the near future our country will re-open for business, and there will be a pent up demand for folks to get back to work, and continue promoting their brand. While things are on hold, it’s a good idea to put any free time you have to work on careful planning and execution of your events once they start up again.

One key to ensuring your investment in attending these dynamic events pays off: properly planning your trade show approach. By asking crucial questions, creating a strategy, crafting a budget and planning your message, your company will be better positioned to connect attendees, make connections, and convert prospects into customers.

Plan ahead…by looking back

Before you get into the thick of crafting your trade show display for upcoming events, it’s a good idea to analyze what happened in the past. What worked, and what didn’t? What components did visitors respond to enthusiastically—and what left them cold? Based on that look back, you might decide your booth needs some freshening up.  Are all of your branding elements in your booth consistent with your brand guide?  Are all graphics up to date?    If so, then it’s now time to plan on what to look forward to:

Here are three questions for your planning team to ask, to determine how to plan effectively for your return to the show floor after the Covid-19 crisis ends.

  1. Will attendance drop?
    There’s little doubt that when shows gradually ramp back up attendance may be down at first.  There may be hesitancy to travel, or lingering travel restrictions placed upon your attendees.  Advance marketing prior to an event will help drive traffic back to the event.  Hosting a “virtual event” or webinar prior to your show will also create a lasting memory for those about to travel and perhaps put you on their agenda.  Your online hosted event may allow those who aren’t traveling to interact with you.  See more about our outlook in the next topic about attendance.
  2. How will the show organizer help in promoting a newly rescheduled show?
    In an April 3 survey of 1,000 Americans forced to stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic, 83 percent of respondents said they miss attending meetings, conventions, and trade shows. Further, the study, conducted by APCO Insight on behalf of the Meetings Mean Business coalition, reports that 78 percent of respondents plan to attend as many or more business events once the pandemic ends and it is deemed safe to do so. This means business, and your show organizer should be helping boost attendance for you.  There may also be added sponsor incentives that you can cash in on to create a larger brand presence.  Reach out to your organizer and see what they have to offer!
  3. Can we host a “safe” environment?
    There will no doubt be an increased sensitivity to hand-shakes, and close social distance challenges in a busy trade show booth.  Brainstorm with your booth staff team to offer reassurances of a clean, healthy booth space.  Include hand sanitizer stations, wipe down surfaces often, and consider even offering masks for those who would use them.

Getting What You Need

Your trade show display is more than just a collection of walls, tables and graphics. It’s a powerful tool that, executed correctly, can help your company build its brand and increase business. In order to accomplish that, however, your booth needs to hit some key targets.

Business goals
At the onset of event planning, your team should know what your goals are in exhibiting. For example, if you wish to promote your products, make those the star of your trade show exhibit. Are you trying to increase brand awareness? Then put your brand front and center.

Professional audience
Who is your company trying to reach at the event? There might be more than one answer to that question—for example, you might be looking to connect at a healthcare event with corporate leadership as well as medical staff. Make sure your booth speaks to the most important stakeholders and prospects.

Fostering communication
From the initial greeting of a prospect, to sitting down to talk about a possible deal, your booth should facilitate conversations. Think about what types of interactions you want, and work to ensure your booth can handle them.

For more advice and questions to ask your team when planning and evaluating your booth, read here.

Building a budget

Figuring out the financial outlay you will need for your 2020 tradeshows calls for balancing a number of factors—what features you must have, the people you need to effectively run it, how much you can afford, etc. Walking through a few steps will help budget planning for your upcoming trade show exhibits run smoothly.

Set objectives
We talked about business goals above—these will help inform the remainder of your planning efforts. Keep them in mind, and your team will be better equipped to determine what resources you need—type of booth, amount of space required, number of staff, and more.

Estimate a budget
Breaking down the costs is necessary. Expenses essentially will fall into four columns: exhibit-related costs, service costs, promotional costs and staff costs. A good rule of thumb: take the amount you plant to spend on the exhibit space itself, then multiply by 3.

Break it down
Roughly, your allocation for the various trade show expenses you will need should break down like this:

  • Exhibit space: 30%
  • Show services: 20%
  • Booth design: 15%
  • Shipping and drayage: 10%
  • Promotions: 5%
  • Staffing and travel: 15%

That does not add up to 100%, giving your budget planner some wiggle room to add some funds in one area or another if needed. If one area gets too big, though, consider dialing back.  In fact there may be some “left over” budget money due to previously cancelled events.  You can use this to increase sponsorship’s, update your booth, or other marketing incentives to drive business.

Want to learn more about building a trade show budget? Take a look at a simple guide here.

Telling a story with your booth Virtually as well as in person

Once you have set your marketing objectives, your trade show booth planning team is better poised to craft the content. The graphics, technology, marketing pieces, branding strategy—each piece helps tell attendees and prospects who you are, and what your company can help them accomplish. Your trade show booth is an important component of communicating that content. How do you bring your content across? If your event has been outright cancelled you can pivot to a Virtual booth or online hosted event.

Content components

There are several things you can incorporate into your  booth to communicate your story with attendees, both online or in-person. Each component should fit into your company’s overall goals in attending the event.  A good example of promoting your company via a virtual event is to create a “tradeshow” around it.  And you’re the only exhibitor!  A hosted webinar using a virtual booth as the “tour guide” to your company’s products and services.  Here you can highlight:

  • Company Videos
  • Brochures/Literature
  • Video testamonials
  • Live interviews
  • Online Chat
  • Infographics
  • Social media channels
  • Group Q&A.

This tool can also be used as a pre-show marketing tool that you can share via mass email, webinar, or special online event combined with a livestream “from the booth” or from your offices.  You can create a landing page dedicated to the audience from the event you may not be able to attend, and let them do a “self-guided” tour of your “booth” to learn more.

Develop a timeline
Putting together a solid content plan takes time and effort. Make sure to allow time not just for creating messaging, but also for reviewing, sharing with stakeholders, and refining as needed. Here’s how such a timeline might look:

  • 6 months out: create and finalize your overall content strategy
  • 5 months out: outline your whitepaper and landing page, develop a video script and storyboard
  • 4 months out: create the whitepaper, film/edit our video, plan/research blog topics, outline infographic
  • 3 months out: publish gated whitepaper, publish/promote video on social media, create social posts to promote the whitepaper, create/send an email to promote the whitepaper, create the infographic
  • 2 months out: write/post blogs about your trade show offerings, post 1 or 2 blogs weekly until the show, post and share the infographic
  • 1 month out: increase social engagement (following attendees, posting about your booth offerings, include event hashtags), print the infographic and plan its position in the booth
  • Day before: post your final blog, post on social media about booth, email attendees

Ready to get started?

Apogee’s exhibit and event experts would be happy to assist your company in putting together a booth that perfectly matches your company’s goals, messaging and budget. Whether you’re looking for a modular design, a custom exhibit, high-tech features or other components, we will partner with you to create the ideal display. Our specialists have crafted eye-catching booths for clients in all industries, and we would love to create one for you.

Call us at (315) 986-4600 or request a consult online, and we can help your organization finish 2020 strong.