2020 Trade Show Planning Guide

The conference and exhibition calendar this year is absolutely packed with potentially powerful events. If your company wants to take advantage of all of these amazing shows, you have to be prepared for success.

One key to ensuring your investment in attending these dynamic events pays off: properly planning your trade show booth. 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.

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.

Here are three questions for your planning team to ask, to determine if it’s time for a trade show booth makeover.

  1. Did attendees pass us by?
    If no one is stopping, you might wish to upgrade to a more appealing trade show exhibit. Your booth should encourage an initial connection with attendees, or you won’t be able to connect with your prospects on a deeper level.
  2. Was the booth too cramped?
    A crammed, noisy space isn’t conducive to doing business. What’s more, attendees that wanted to stop might see the ears-to-elbows crowd and think again. Give your prospects room to breathe with a larger booth.
  3. Can our booth handle tech?
    Video displays, laptops, interactive kiosks and other technology features serve a number of important features, including boosting visitor engagement and facilitating data collection. If your space isn’t prepped to incorporate these features, consider a change to one that is.

If you answered “yes” to even one of these questions, your booth needs a change—new graphics, updated furniture, tweaked layout, high-tech features or other upgrades could help.

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.

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

Telling a story

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.

Content components
How do you bring your content across? There are several things you can incorporate into your booth to communicate your story with attendees. Each component should fit into your company’s overall goals in attending the event.

  • Copywriting
  • Booth and material design
  • Video displays
  • Live interviews
  • Whitepapers
  • Infographics
  • Social media
  • Blogs

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 make 2020 your best trade show year yet.