How to Host Your First Trade Show Event

Posted on November 29, 2018 | Updated on June 28, 2022

Hosting your first trade show event is both exciting and scary. You’ll juggle many different elements throughout the event and have to find a venue, seek out caterers, locate entertainment, find vendors, plan activities and keep everything organized and running smoothly.

Trade shows are one of the most popular revenue streams for businesses, generating around $12.8 billion a year. A trade show event is still one of the best ways to get the word out about new products or find new leads who haven’t yet heard of your product or service. Vendors look for trade shows to exhibit their products at, but you also must consider the customer base and figure out how to reach those who might want to attend the event and entice them there with special features.

Get the most out of your trade show event by keeping the following things in mind:

1. Choose a Theme

Your first step in planning a trade show event is figuring out what the theme is. Think about some of the large trade shows you’ve attended and that have been around for year after year, such as outdoor sports and leisure or home and garden shows. What is the theme for your trade show? Does it tie into a specific industry?

Once you have a theme, think about the businesses that are on the outer edges of the industry and make a decision about what to include and what goes too far out of the circle of interest.

2. Hire Staff

The staff you hire to run your trade show is vital. In one study, researchers found that about 85 percent of an exhibitor’s success relates to the performance of the staff, but the overall event needs to run smoothly as well. The team you choose and how well you train them reflect directly back on you and make a difference in how many vendors sign up to attend your event next year.

Think through the different skill sets needed to run an event. You’ll need designers, laborers and customer service personnel.

3. Pick Lighting Types

The overhead lights may already be in place if you rent space for the event, but there are many other types of lighting you must consider when planning a trade show event. For example, you might have a stage that needs some theatrical lighting that highlights presentations and draws focus to the stage. You might also want additional lighting for a registration booth, so it grabs the attention of attendees when they enter the venue.

Other lighting to consider includes outdoor lighting for nighttime events and additional lighting for classrooms or other presentation areas. Typically, those who rent a vendor booth will bring their own accent lights for their displays.

4. Team Up with Influencers

One of the most difficult aspects of starting a new event is getting the word out to people who might like to rent booth space and attend. One key way to generate some buzz is to team up with another company by taking on a sponsor.

A sponsor gives you a set amount to help you secure space and cover some of the costs of the event. In turn, you display their banners at the event and highlight their company in any marketing material.

The best influencer to team up with is a larger company within the industry you’re targeting. Ideally, they will have a wide reach among social media and their own customer base. Remember that you’re looking for someone who will come alongside you and support you. You also have to believe in the brand as you’ll promote them widely as the sponsor of your event.

5. Collect Registrations

Allow people to register early for the event at a discounted rate. Early registration gives attendees a break on the cost of admission, but also gives you an idea of how many people might attend the event.

You’ll also get people who arrive the day of the event, but pre-registration saves you time and effort and allows you to customize the event for those who register early with goodie bags, name tags and a personalized experience.

6. Plan the Layout

Figuring out your layout for your trade show floor is a complicated task. You must factor in the safety of attendees, access to booths halfway down the aisle and even the best places to locate dining or stage areas. Some booth locations will be more desirable to vendors because of the high traffic, but as the planner, you must also factor in where traffic is most likely to pile up and how to route people around busy booths in key locations.

When in doubt, consult with electricians about the positioning of electrical outlets and the fire marshal about good traffic flow and safety for event visitors.

7. Look Up

Once you’ve laid out the floor plan, look up. What banners and signs do visitors see as they gaze down an aisle? Is it clear where different things are located, such as food, the bathrooms or various events? The signage you use makes a big impact on the overall experience attendees have at your event, so offer clear signage and direction to make the entire event run smoothly.

Pay Attention to Details

Little details make a difference in the overall impression of your event. Collect information on attendees, such as an email and follow-up after to get feedback. Keeping the lines of communication open also gives you an edge for the next event. If attendees and vendors know you care about the experience they had, they’re more likely to return.



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