7 Do’s and Dont’s for Trade Show Event Marketing in 2017

The live experience is still a powerful marketing tool in our increasingly digital world. While one-to-one digital marketing techniques are effective, there is nothing like being face-to-face your prospects and having a real conversation.

Here are 7 of my favorite “do’s and don’ts” for planning your next show. Number 6 is simultaneously the most challenging and the most fun!

 1. Do start planning early.
You are the herder of cats and it will take time to wrangle all the schedules and opinions of your team. Make sure that product, sales and marketing and are all aligned on messaging before you ask your graphic team to work on the booth designs. This will save you time in the long run and give everyone a north star to shoot for.

In a perfect world I’d want to start planning 8 months out. But that usually requires a far more ordered universe than the one I actually inhabit. In general, I shoot for having booth graphics done a month before the deadline, printed material designed 2 months before the deadline (that gives you 2 weeks to get them printed, and another two to get them sent to advanced*).

And who knows? You may get great ideas for show swag when you have a focused message, and you’ll look amazingly aligned when your giveaways, booth, landing pages and advertisements are all trumpeting the same message!

* assuming there is an advanced warehouse and your material handling forms are all in order. Confused? Then see #2!

2. Don’t ignore the exhibit manual
Make sure you know all the important submission due dates and work backwards with your team to schedule internal deadlines. I suggest leaving at least 5 working days of buffer for deliverables from other teams. Double check your exhibit requirements (like hanging sign height, booth graphic specs, etc.) and what’s included with your package to make sure you’re not wasting money on items that will not be approved by show management.

3. Do reach out to show management
Really want that gorgeous hanging sign that violates the exhibit manual? You can always ask management for a waiver if you want to have something that violates the show rules.

No guarantees that they’ll grant the waiver, but it never hurts to ask! Make sure you reach out for any questions you have that are not covered in the exhibitor manual. Do not wait until you’re at the show to get your issues resolved.

The folks at Freeman and GES (who run the majority of trade shows) are kind and helpful people, work with them!

4. Don’t pay too much for I&D
Installation and Dismantle is important and worth every penny, but don’t get gouged. Make sure you understand the complexity (or not) of your booth and have a reasonable idea of the hours required for set-up.

A basic 10×10 or 10×20 inline should be about 2 hours of labor per worker. A basic tower with kiosks on a 20×20 island will run about 8 hours per worker for 3 workers. If you have a custom booth, build times can vary widely so ask your exhibit builder for a time estimate.

Keep in mind that I&D teams have a 4 hour/day minimum, so even if your booth only takes 2 hours to set, you’ll still be charged for 4. Take notes of the actual I&D time at the show and check your bill for accuracy!

5. Do hire your own I&D team…
… If you are bringing your own exhibit and it’s complicated (or has lots of custom elements). You can absolutely use labor from the General Contractor but bringing in your own people gives you more control and they will have more time to dedicate to your booth (should you need it). Also, you’ll be able to coordinate more closely with your team’s City Manager (and sometimes even your head installer!) prior to installation and make sure they have all the instructions ahead of time*.

I have worked with Coastal and Momentum for years – they’re great! But before you do any of that, you must check the show’s exhibitor manual to confirm if you’re allowed to bring in outside teams!

*of course you’ll be bringing the instructions with you to the install as well. I’ve have set-up plans vanish into the void of the crate too many times to trust everything to packing!

6. Do explore new advertising channels
Technology marches on, and even though we may have Clint Eastwood-esque “damn kids, get off my lawn!” moments when facing the latest tech or social media craze, it’s vital that event marketers stay on top of platforms with the highest engagement.

So let’s talk about Snapchat.

I’m an older millennial who had to have my younger sister explain the basics of Snapchat to me, and while I’m still bad at it (though their IPO filing had a manual that was very helpful) I recognize that this is where my future colleagues and clients hang out now. To that end, we’re experimenting with Snapchat’s custom business geofilters and to see how much engagement we can get and testing if we’re approaching the platform correctly. More on that in a later post!

7. Don’t rent a booth…
… If you’re planning on using it for multiple shows!

A booth purchase will pay for itself after two to three uses. You can always switch up the graphics if/when your messaging changes.

Owning a booth will allow your team to get used to the design, set-up and installation which will save you time in the long run. Make sure you factor in your storage and shipping costs when weighing your options. A note to the wise, the lighter your booth, the less shipping/drayage costs!

Plan in advance* and tell your exhibit house that you want to reuse your booth “x times a year” and ask for modular options or booth elements that are easily swapped out. I’ve seen 40 x 40 booths become 10 x 10 inlines when cleverly designed.

*If you only take away one thing, let it be this!

To those about to event plan. I salute you!
Have you tried any of these tactics before? Found any Best Practices? Have you mastered Snapchat? Tweet at us (@treasuredata) and share your thoughts!

Best of luck in 2017 and may your ROI reach new heights!

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Laura Grandi-Hill
Laura Grandi-Hill
Laura is the Event Marketing Specialist and Social Media Manager for Treasure Data. She grew up working in trade shows and events and loves creating memorable experiences. A theater nerd at heart, Laura enjoys sci-fi and fantasy novels, stand-up comedy, and really good seafood.
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