How to take the stress out of planning your next tradeshow

Managing tradeshows and events is in every corporate marketer’s job description, whether it’s before, during or after the event. Your marketing team/person manages your company’s communications, brand, social and messaging and will parlay that into a well-integrated print and digital marketing campaign and follow-up strategy – including advertising, social media, lead generstion, press releases and hey – let’s throw in a product launch while we’re at it.  According to The Job Network, event co-ordinators hold the 5th spot as one of the top 10 most stressful jobs in 2018. The only jobs more stressful than being an event co-ordinator are – in order – enlisted military personnel (most stressful), then firefighter, airline pilot and police officer (PR exec came in at number 6, by the way). Tradeshows, events, and exhibitions make up the largest portion of B2B marketing budgets. According to Marketing Charts, exhibitors estimated spending almost half of their marketing budgets on tradeshows.

To minimize stress and maximize ROI for your next tradeshow you need two things: a budget and an event plan. If you have a budget without a plan, then you can’t maximize your ROI. And if you have a plan without a budget, it will negatively impact whatever ROI you get. There’s an old saying credited to Benjamin Franklin: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Nowhere can I think of a better case than a tradeshow. Also, when it comes to tradeshows, what can go wrong – without a shadow of a doubt – will go wrong. Having an event plan ensures that opportunities and deadlines don’t get missed. Your event plan is a comprehensive guide that tells everyone involved with the event where they’re going, why they’re there, and what they can expect. And it includes all the key contacts if the unexpected happens.

A tradeshow event plan lets booth staff, management, sales, marketing and finance know what’s happening, when and where it’s happening and how it’s happening. In order to maximize ROI, you first need to know how you’ll measure success and for the majority of B2B exhibitors. That means knowing how you’ll qualify leads – whether it’s based on the number of scanned badges, the number of quality conversations, the value of a deal, or some other criteria. Your lead gen goal is based on the Number of Exhibit Hours (fixed) x Number of Exhibit Staff (fixed) x Interactions Per Hour (variable). To figure out how much it’s going to cost, take the cost of your booth space and multiply it by 3. Two thirds of your tradeshow budget will go to everything else – including your contingency budget.

These four expenses make up about two-thirds of your tradeshow budget

Your booth. Your booth is more than a couple of banner stands, a tablecloth and some business cards. It’s where you’ll create that critical first impression with new prospects, partners, media and influencers. Graphics, signage, lighting and AV all factor into your booth costs. So does the cost of carpet, underpad (don’t scrimp here), vacuuming, rental furniture, monitors and plants.

Marketing. What are your plans before, during and after the event? Sponsorships, advertising, swag (both the giveaways and the branded booth uniform), digital and print campaigns, social media, lead-generation activities (including lists and scanners) and collateral all go in this bucket.

Show Services/Shipping. This is where most companies kill their ROI. Pay attention to early shipping dates, late fees, drayage charges, set-up and tear-down, electrical diagrams, shipping manifests, insurance and waybills. Work with a trusted broker who can ensure the necessary paperwork to get your cargo where it needs to be with the least amount of stress.

Travel and Accommodations – This can easily suck up 1/3 of the budget and can become contentious if expectations aren’t set. Set a per diem and what it covers. Figure out whose budget covers client meals. Include car rentals and/or cabs in and around the hotel and show venue, as well as transportation to and from the airport.

When you align your budget with your event plan you can really see where your money is going and where the opportunities are to maximize the ROI of your next tradeshow – with as little stress as possible.



Joanne Gore

Joanne Gore is a B2B marketer who’s passionate about print and has spent the last three decades helping companies maximize their marketing and communications efforts. Founder of Joanne Gore Communications, she helps companies tell their story to a new generation of print and business buyers. Email: Follow her on Twitter: @joannegore121