Since I spent the last couple of weeks dealing with all the logistics of an educational conference and tradeshow, I thought this might be a good time to jot the joys of managing some of the details. This list is in no way complete but shares some of the behind the scenes snapshots.
Deciding on the number of rooms to block for a first time meeting is especially tricky because there could be large penalties if you guess too high or too low … start conservative and do several pulse checks 30-60 and 90 days prior. We were fortunate to have more than double our conservative block and the hotel was able to accommodate our needs.
Planning the educational portion of the conference is a little less complex as you are only dealing with a few speakers and their needs. Some of the components include:
- Finding a great key note speaker to warm and inspire the crowd
- Select stimulating topics that have an appeal to the general audience
- Finding the best authority to speak on that topic and a professional speaker that can mix medians to hold the interest and engage the audience
- Securing transportation and accommodations if necessary
- Getting the Bio and summary script to market their topic
- Securing all audio-visual equipment and technical expertise to support their presentation
- Preparing their introduction
- Keeping them on time
Try to offer a few topics of interest and be sure to repeat the most popular topics so folks get a chance to mix and match.
The educational portion of the meeting has several expense line items where the tradeshow portion can not only cover the expense of the tradeshow itself but also the expense of the educational forum. The goal when hosting a tradeshow is to MAKE money when it is all said and done. The exhibitors should have a great value proposition that would make doing the show more cost effective than doing independent sales calls.
- First look at the maximum number of booths you can accommodate … you may get more booths in the room by offering 8 x 10 than 10 x 10 but be sure you keep your buyer and supplier ratios at no less than 50 – 50 … you can charge a little more if your buyer ratio is 65 – 75% of the audience.
- Do a diagram of the space that shows where electrical and internet access will be and leave room for the crowds to stop and talk to the exhibitors.
- State upfront if you are allowing individual booths to have prize drawings or if those things are donated for raffle ticket sales and advertised by the emcee of the tradeshow.
- Be sure to block ample time for the tradeshow floor to be set up with pipe/drape tables and chairs and get those set up times spelled out in your contract with the venue as well as the decorator.
- The exhibit service company should send information to the exhibitors regarding shipping, handling, weight and size restrictions and prices for booth enhancements. They should also specify set up and tear down times for the exhibitors. Many tradeshows will have penalties if exhibitor begin to disassemble their before the show is officially closed.
- Special requests for placement near one another, oversized booths or shared booths need to be clear no less than 2 weeks prior. Special requests are usually highlighted and handled first filling in the other booths around them. This in no way ensures preferred placement and could actually be used to draw buyers to the back of the room. Sponsors ALWAYS get the preferred placement based on the larger financial investments.
- I try to keep good distance between competitive booths as the support of booth vendors is equally important. If there are “sister companies” and you want to be together don’t assume the logistics chair knows this is the “way it has ALWAYS been done”. If you want to ensure a special request has been met, ask for a diagram with your booth numbers in advance.
- If you arrive 30 minutes prior to the show opening, don’t expect the world to stop and cater to your assumed needs. Request your needs in a kind and professional manner and it is likely that the organizer will turn the world upside down to assist in resolving your issue.
- Having a great photographer and Hollywood props was a BONUS!
The show we just completed had 66 booths sold and 5 food and lounge stations throughout the room. It was a 3 hour show with over 250 participants. I was amazed when 1 exhibitor signed up 2 days BEFORE the show and shocked when the last available booth sold 15 hours before the show … talk about last minute!
As the organizer, wear comfortable shoes and know that after 7 hours on an unpadded floor every inch of your body will ache! Tradeshows are great networking and educational opportunities and an awesome way to see a maximum number of buyers in a very condensed timeframe.