Planning isn’t the most thrilling part of an exhibit program.
For most, it’s the part we dread the the most.
With days filled with meetings, inbox domination and let’s be honest… your socials…
There’s hardly time for mapping out the perfect plan.
When did exhibitions become about proving to your competitors that you’re still in business?
Something you have to do to keep your boss happy?
What I really don’t get is…
Why people hate them so much?
You get to shake hands with people at a rate that puts sales calls to shame. (Without dialing a single phone number).
I get that they are hard work.
Take you away from your normal routine. Boy, do we love routine.
BUT, the gains you can get when they are working well are phenomenal.
The trick is to PLAN how you’re going to dominate.
Lack of adequate planning really is the single biggest mistake people make when organising their exhibition stands.
I know what you’re thinking…
“I’ve already got no time and you’re telling me I need to spend MORE time and do more work?”
Kinda, but it’s more time on the RIGHT things.
I’m going to share the ideal timeline with you, but it’s quite a personal thing that’s largely dependent on what your goals are.
If you’re able to spare 20 minutes, I can personalise a plan with you to recommend priorities that will give you the biggest bang for your buck.
A beautiful thing happens once the priorities are straightened out.
The rest kind of falls into place
You can actually DELEGATE a large portion of it. (Who doesn’t love that?)
I hate seeing the blind panic that engulfs so many.
They madly organise graphics and giveaways in the lead up to a show.
These same people anticipate the days leading up to a conference or exhibition with the same dread that most of us have sorting through our box of crummy receipts at tax time.
It’s usually because they work through a standard check list of expected tasks.
From top to bottom without challenging anything to suit their objectives or today’s changing market.
On the flip side, if you’re a little crazy (like moi) planning time is fun.
The world is your oyster!
You get to make exciting decisions. You’re the one they send in to devise the battle plan!
You have a huge choice in what you say and how you want to say it.
To me, exhibitions are about building relationships and making sales.
They’re about opportunity, excitement and my favourite… PROCESS.
You get to be in the driver’s seat.
To decide exactly how you want to go about achieving what you want. (Unashamedly, manipulative girl talk right there!).
You might be surprised to learn that we regularly get calls for people wanting us to design (and build) an exhibition stand 1 month out from a show.
You could eat a bowl of chilli… Just because something is possible, it doesn’t mean you should do it…
The greater majority leave things to chance – Either by choice (not a priority)
Or because their team aren’t pulling in the same direction. There is no clarity so nothing shifts.
You’re just left managing logistics.
Nuts and bolts.
This is partially because they don’t know what they COULD be doing, but also because they don’t believe it’s going to make much or a difference.
So there’s always something more pressing to deal with.
What most people’s exhibition “planning” looks like:
- Pick show
- Select stand size and position on floor plan
- Decide what to display
- Design (1 month)
- Get construction underway (3 – 4 weeks)
- Send a pre-show email inviting people to stand (1 week)
What your trade show planning SHOULD look like:
- Review last exhibiting efforts.
- Goals –What do you want to achieve through your exhibiting? Opportunities? How does it fit in the marketing calendar? KPI’s. What’s important to track? (Even the good old SWOT analysis would do the trick). Select shows that align with your strategies
- Determine your strategy – Link with goals. Key message, Customer Experience, Map out communications (including post show), How will you integrate ways to achieve your objectives? Stand activities (are they helping or hindering?)
- Staffing – On board with strategy? What training will you implement?
- Decide what you will display to compliment your objectives. How much space to you actually need? (this is where you should talk to your stand builder)
- Book stand space
- 3-4 months – Design – Leave plenty of time. It isn’t just about agreeing on a design. You want to integrate your strategy and allow time for changes, creating artwork, construction and transport.
- 2 months – Communications
- 1 month – Construction
- Week of the show – Transport, Pre-show prep
- Post Show – Continue the conversation, work segments – Close the loop on any sales and implement nurture programs for others.
My proposed timeline might seem a little arduous,
But if you don’t really chunk down what your trying to achieve
You can’t see if you’re overcapitalising or missing opportunities.
Be cool with the fact that there’s always a little wriggle room.
Each show is different and your timeline might change between events, but there is still a FORMULA.
You really can’t skip any steps!
The most frustrating part of my job is seeing people who DESPERATELY NEED TO GET RESULTS from their exhibitions
They usually aren’t taking their exhibit planning seriously.
Either they think they already have a plan or don’t put a high enough value on producing one.
I find this ironic because they are the ones that really need it the most…
Making changes can be hard.
But there are people (LIKE ME) here to support you.
Normally because there are so many things we want to change, we get overwhelmed and do nothing.
But be brave and slowly work on one aspect at a time. Tweak one thing and soldier on.
Always remind yourself that it’s a balancing act.
You’re bound to feel a little out of your depth each time you deviate from what you used to do.
Persist and you’ll find the formula that works for you.
And when you do, it will be like seeing the Matrix for the first time!
You’ll never ever leave things until the last minute again.
There’s too much at stake.
Want help devising the perfect plan for your next exhibition?
Get in touch with me for some free advice.
I live for this stuff but also really want to see you succeed 🙂
Yours in Exhibiting,
P 02 8093 3806 | M 0417 468 487