Top Five Ways to Prepare for Trade Shows

Shows and events are back. Here are five things you need to do to get the most value out of them.

After more than two years, “real” trade shows, conferences and events are making a full return. Yes, many returned in 2021, but none were at a level we considered actually “back to normal.” Despite the burnout from virtual meetings – and a clear interest in returning to in-person interaction – attendance and participation were down, and many exhibitors and attendees lacked the energy and purpose they had prior to the pandemic.

The initial pandemic lockdown in 2020 caused marketers to drastically rethink how to promote their brand or products to customers, and the return to trade shows and in-person events has caused a similar adjustment. While many marketers went fully virtual, they realized that tactile and human interaction with their products, and more, their people, are essential to brand and relationship-building.

From targeted industry events and conferences to full-scale national and global trade shows, the calendar for the rest of 2022 and early 2023 is packed. It is possible to exhibit at a show every month, if you chose, which we wouldn’t recommend.

So, how do you maximize budget and choose the most important and relevant events to attend? What should you do before and during the show with so many virtual, digital, and in-person options?

1. Think Strategically 

Are you launching a new product or breaking into a new market? Are you targeting a specific type of customer or some media attention? Is the show product or industry-specific? Asking these questions – early, like, nine months early – will help establish anchor points on your calendar and enable proper planning and a clear vision for your approach to the event.

2. Customer First

Target the events that will ensure you get consistent and relevant contact with your customers. Make sure they know you’re there and that your message to them is clear. Think about a promotional plan well in advance of the event, utilizing social media, eblasts, digital marketing and more to make your presence known.

3. Get Interactive

The booths with the biggest crowds and consistent traffic often have something cool for people to see and do. Gone are the days of simple static displays. People want to touch and experience. Incorporate VR or AR, apps, video and compelling design to get people to understand why your brand, product or company is relevant – and matters to them. Then figure out an engaging way to get that message across.

4. Start Early

We cannot stress this enough. If you need animations, apps, or interactive displays, you need plenty of lead time. Producing high-end animations (think: Pixar, CGI, vector animations, AR or VR) can take at least 45 days to complete, minimum. For example, rendering one second of animation for use on-screen can take upwards of forty-five minutes, meaning a :30-second animation could take up to 24 hours to render for one round of edits and review.

5. Add More Time

The trade show and digital world are experiencing labor shortages. If you need that booth design and layout for an event in September, you should be planning it in June. Nearly everything related to booth builds and trade show assets is taking twice as long. And, don’t forget shipping. If that booth needs to go from Detroit to Las Vegas, you should plan for at least one extra week, given current challenges in long-haul transport.

The biggest difference between the pre-2020 shows and today is that the shows themselves have changed. Many have worked aggressively to evolve with the market and make the attendee experience paramount.

The Las Vegas Convention Center opened a massive, 1.2-million square-foot facility to support its largest events including CES and SEMA, which not only expands available floor space, but also makes it easier for attendees to get around the show with the new underground “Loop”, using electric vehicles to transport show attendees from one hall to another.

The Detroit Auto Show moved its dates to September with the intent of establishing a full indoor-outdoor event, where attendees can ride along in vehicles from several automakers on at least five different types of tracks.

MBE Group works with clients around the world, supporting them through trade shows big and small. We’ve seen it all, and can partner with you on everything from strategy to execution. If you have shows on the schedule for the fall and winter, the time to start planning is now.

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