Tradeshow and event season is upon us and is only going to get crazier and crazier as the spring and summer months lay out in front of us. Peak seasons for trade shows are Spring and Fall here in the U.S. with things really intensifying in the fall. However, there are still a great many events taking place over the summer, opening a floodgate of brand opportunities for sponsorship, partnering, and general awareness. The time to review your event plan and make any updates to booth materials, marketing collateral, and overall approach is now.

Preparing for events is no easy task. Creating a Master Plan for events, both hosted and attended, is a monstrous feat that even the most seasoned Event Planner can become overwhelmed with at times.

For companies that attend or host multiple trade shows and events, there are several software solutions on the market that can help organize everything from pre-scheduling meetings to job/task assignments to budget management. For companies that only attend a sprinkling of events, the cost of software might not be validated, however, maintaining a checklist or worksheet will keep your budget and efforts aligned almost as smoothly as some of the software solutions.

We’ve put together an event marketing checklist of tasks and ideas to think through when strategizing your event calendar. Keep reading for a comprehensive dive into everything trade show and event based.

Gulf Gas Station trade show booth with booth host smiling.

Step 1

Research Your Market Events: How to Choose Shows You Simply Can’t Miss

Before you can begin strategizing, you’ll need to have a few key brand and event details squared away such as your company KPIs, event budget, target audience, and event details. The following checklist will help you get started pre-planning.  

Determine business objectives both for the year and for the quarter.

Determine marketing objective both annually and quarterly.

Establish event KPIs that support your company’s objectives. For example, if your company needs to bring in 500K of new business, determine a reasonable percentage of that growth that can be achieved at tradeshows and events. Establish KPIs for lead gen, conversions, budget management, cost per lead, ROI, pre-event communications, and post-show follow-ups. These are just suggestions—establish goals that work for your organization.

Define your target audience and craft personas.

Establish an Event budget for the year or know the percentage of Marketing or Sales budget that can be allotted to trade-shows and conferences.

Create a master list of events happening within your company’s market and sort them by priority. Pay attention to events with repeat vendors and sponsors because that’s a sure sign the return is worth the investment.

Obtain estimated attendance for priority events. If that’s not available, request the previous year’s total attendance.

Request attendee information broken down—job title, demographics, industry, and any other segmentation that you’ve identified as vertical segments.

Know the (other) sponsors of the event—especially if your competitors are in attendance.

Look for events with value-driven sponsorship packages. Review details of sponsorship packages as well as the cost. i.e., any baked-in promotions such as PR, web ads, social ads, keynote sponsorships, etc. You’ll also want to know about any exhibitor and attendee portals or apps that gives your brand a chance to introduce itself along with user metrics both historical and predictive.

Share event KPIs with marketing and sales so the mission is clear and developed materials are focused on driving results.

Step 2

Create Booth Envy: Be The Booth Everyone Wants to Visit

Creating a booth that’s the talk of the conference doesn’t always have to cost thousands upon thousands of dollars. Yes, event marketing can be costly. In fact, it’s likely your largest marketing investment. However, brands with conservative budgets can make as big as an impact as those with seemingly endless reservoirs of dollars. Here are some “standout booth” elements to consider

Create an eye-catching booth design, reflective of your brand identity

Interactive displays

Hands-on demos or product samples

Floor graphics

Overhead graphics (sometimes these are only permitted with larger booth sizes.)

Signs, banners, and/or digital displays that drive key messaging almost immediately. You have as much time to grab someone’s attention as you do with OOH advertising. Simple, concise messaging, engaging imagery, stand-out placement.

Seating or networking space that encourages people to stop in and learn more while resting.

Professional event spokespeople or models.

Brand-appropriate, seasonally trending, standout SWAG—everyone has pens, think outside of the norm.

SWAG positioning is important! Map out your booth flow for engagement, not just “grab and go”.

Friendly, mission-driven booth staff with in-depth knowledge of your service or product.

Step 2.5

Be Prepared for the Unknown: Proactive Planning Can Save The Day

It can be heartbreaking to spend endless hours planning an event down to the last minor detail only for a critical box to be delayed, or worse, lost during shipping. It happens to the best of us. That’s where Plan B can save the day! 

If you subscribe to the theory that having a Plan B is setting Plan A immediately up for failure, we’re here to confirm that there are exceptions to every rule and surely this is one of those exceptional moments. Be prepared for the unknown!

Make sure your marketing materials are printed in advance and quality checked prior to arrival at the venue.

Have a backup plan for last-minute items or replacements for damaged items—electronic files, QR codes to key landing pages, some extras tucked into your personal luggage, laptop or personal electronic device with permissions to access assets, etc.

Step 3

Pre-Event Power Moves: Generate Hype Beforehand for Guaranteed Booth Traffic

Generating pre-show hype is part of the recipe for steering people toward your booth. Regardless of your competitor’s attendance or absence, don’t be afraid to make your presence known and your intentions clear. Have a new product reveal? Get people excited! Have an amazing give-away? Get people excited! Planning on leading lectures or demos? You get the idea, get people excited!   

Use social media, e-marketing, your website, and even direct mail to attendee lists if available to promote your booth presence.

Create an event hashtag for others to use in posts and online discussions. Be sure to also use the event hashtag alongside yours in your posts to bring extra attention to your brand, presence, and incentives.

Tease (or announce) incentives and promotions to attract visitors to your booth.

Send personal invites to clients and prospects you think (or know) will be attending to stop by your booth. If you’re business is meeting-based such as insurance or consulting, schedule times for people to meet with you to discuss account details, company insights, or whatever areas of interest that are better addressed in person than via online meeting or electronic communication.

Take advantage of any baked-in event communications. Submit messaging and brand assets that correlate to your event strategy.

Update company email signatures with event details—booth number, dates, hashtag—for added exposure.

Step 4

Post-Show Enthusiasm: Keep The Good Vibes Going

The show is over, the booth is broken down and packed away, boxes of materials are ready to make the next leg of your event trail journey, lead lists are securely resting atop your inbox (even a few that have been scribbled on paper tucked away in your personal bag), now what happens? This is a critical moment for all vendors. Keeping event leads warm and nurturing them to the final moment of conversion is an artform.   

Have an action plan alongside Marketing to nurture leads identified as cold, warm, and hot with various touch points. Drip-campaigns, e-marketing, direct mail, welcome kits, white papers, retargeting ads through social media platforms as well as Google … there are endless ways to further engage trade show leads.

Invite new contacts to connect with you via LinkedIn.

Tease (or announce) incentives and promotions to attract visitors to your booth.

Include a human element in your post-show communications. Assigning leads to automated Marketing campaigns is proven to be highly effective, however, don’t forget to reach out personally to those hot and warm leads you personally connected with at the event. Tie in some highlights of your conversation, send additional literature, and make yourself available to continue the conversation when they’re ready for next steps.

Don’t delay! If it takes you two to three weeks to circle back to leads, they could be cold or worse, have found another company to satisfy their need. Even if you’re on the road, find time to reconnect with priority leads.

Don’t be over-eager! Just as important as it is to not wait weeks before reaching out, it’s critical to respect your potential client’s lines of communication. Don’t flood their email and phones immediately following an event. Wait at least 48 to 72 hours before contacting.

Stay positive. Stay humble. Stay amazing. Not every great conversation is going to lead to a sale, a client, or a conversion. That’s OK! Learn from what is working and what isn’t and make changes for the next show.

Looking Ahead

Face-to-face conversations remain a powerful tool for generating leads and boosting sales, even in today’s digital era. Trade shows attract a significant number of potential buyers, with half of attendees planning to make a purchase within a year. On average, one out of every seven booth visitors can be converted into a lead. While the effectiveness may vary slightly based on the brand category, integrating events into your marketing strategy proves highly impactful.

Managing multiple vendors, synchronizing deadlines, and orchestrating all the moving pieces that successful event plans entail, is a master juggling role. Finding a valued partner who can assist with multiple projects—banners, floor graphics, collateral, swag, kitting, shipping, etc.—can certainly lift some of the organizational burden, leaving more mental bandwidth for innovation from your team.

If you’re curious about how AI can enhance your event management, we’d love to set a time to discuss your event strategy. Alternatively, if you’re already partnered with a reliable vendor, explore additional services they offer to streamline planning and consolidate billing processes.

We’ll leave you with one final and critical checkbox,

Have fun!

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