Note: This article has been adapted from “Step 3: General Preparations” of the WINH Trade Show Success Plan – click here to view additional content (starting with “Step 1: Event Selection”).
When preparing to exhibit, as in most other endeavors, you will choose to proceed in one of two ways: the easy way or the hard way. However, unlike those other endeavors, these options may not correspond with the results you’d expect. Instead of indicating the effort required to prepare for your event, the path you choose dictates how difficult the remaining aspects of your trade show participation (on-site and follow up efforts) have to be.
Let’s evaluate your options:
THE HARD WAY is deceptively easy, at least at first… It allows you to procrastinate your exhibiting efforts (ignoring any potential issues until it’s practically too late to correct them) and it provides you with a built in excuse to complain about trade shows in general (after you don’t achieve your goals).
How to exhibit the hard way –
- Don’t concern yourself with event selection or initial planning.
- In the weeks and months leading up to your event, kick back and relax. “Trade show, what trade show? Oh, that trade show! Everything’s under control…” should be your mantra for as long as possible.
- As your event approaches, gradually become more frantic while decisions about design, printing, and staffing are rushed (pay late/rush fees grudgingly). Delegate whatever you can (when you finally remember it after the deadline) and be openly disappointed when the final work product you present is not perfect.
- During the event and beyond, run around like a chicken with its head cut off. Blame everyone else for your lack of results (lie to your boss/shareholders saying that “trade shows just don’t work” and you were doomed from the start).
In all seriousness, the hard way is hard because once you arrive in the convention city, without proper preparation, it will be very difficult to achieve the results you desire. You’ll pay extra for rushed printing and shipping (that still may not turn out how you’d like), settle for less competent staff (leading to a less productive and enjoyable experience for your visitors), and have to try significantly harder to attract even poorly qualified attendees to your booth, sessions, and other activities (making it difficult to achieve, let alone prove, an appropriate ROI).
On the other hand, THE EASY WAY requires more effort up front, but this makes it possible for your on-site and follow up efforts to unfold easily, as intended, and gives you more time to deal with any challenges presented by Murphy’s Law (because, while exhibiting, it’s not a matter of if something will go wrong, it’s a matter of when).
How to exhibit the easy way –
- Ensure that you have selected the right trade show and completed your initial planning.
- In the weeks and months leading up to your event, gradually implement the plan you created.
a. Focus on completing pre-show marketing, booth display design, literature creation/editing, staff selection and training, as well as follow up planning well before the trade show begins.
- As your event approaches, relax and enjoy a quiet confidence, knowing that you’ve done everything you can to create the success you wanted.
- During the event and beyond, simply continue to implement your plan, handle any issues that come your way professionally, and always be on the look out for new opportunities to take your exhibiting performance to another level.
As illustrated above, the easy way isn’t easy because you get to “do nothing” until your trade show begins; instead, it’s easy because, after putting in the necessary time and effort, you will have enabled your trade show program to unfold as intended without unnecessary drama. Then, you can choose to relax a bit and watch your well-oiled machine (properly prepared trade show program) take care of itself or you can continue putting forth an extra effort (building upon the momentum you’ve created) to improve your processes for even greater results.
Which way will you choose?
Although many professionals default to their tradition of doing things the hard way, it doesn’t make good business sense to burden yourself with problems you can anticipate and correct before arriving in the convention city. After all, making an extra effort now will produce awesome results, not to mention less stress, later.
If you want your trade show participation to be successful, my recommendation is to select the easy way; but, ultimately, the choice is yours. Just remember that general trade show preparations impact your image and reputation (how your company appears to your industry), your potential encounters (the percentage of total attendees who will make time to meet with you), your visitors’ experience (what your target audience feels after coming to your booth), and your return on investment… enough said?
As always, if there’s anything I can do to help with your trade show preparations or something else, please don’t hesitate to contact me at any time. Best wishes for your upcoming fall (and other future) trade show efforts!