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Where To Begin With Trade Show Planning

tradeshow planningCongratulations!  You have landed the job as the one in charge of your company’s trade show program!  When you started you thought it would be fun; you’d get to travel, you’d meet interesting people, and you’d finally have an opportunity to show off your (borderline OCD) organizational skills.

Then you receive your first Exhibitor Manual; the documents!  The deadlines! The new vocabulary words!  What is a Trade Show Coordinator/Manager/Assistant to do? Let’s begin with breathing.  We don’t want you to be lightheaded when writing your corporate card number on your 46 order forms, it just causes confusion and delay as Sir Topham Hat would say.

Beginning The Journey To Opening Day

Most show decorators provide a short list of ‘Quick Facts” or “General Guidelines” at the beginning of the manual.  It provides information like the show name, date and location right at the top of the first page.  Highlight that information so, for those of you planning for multiple shows at the same time, you can know at a glance if you’re working on the right one.  This document is key to keeping you on budget.  Take note of the early bird deadlines.  Make sure you know when the advance warehouse closes and read all of the useful tips and cost saving information, your boss will appreciate it.  Don’t forget to send a copy to your account rep at your favorite exhibit house.

If you used an exhibit house to produce your trade show exhibit, chances are they also have a full service department that can help you with the exhibitor manual.  Even if you purchased your exhibit on eBay or out of the trunk of some guy’s car in the supermarket parking lot, you’re not doomed to work through the documents alone, make a few calls and find out the cost to have an exhibit house near you help you out.  It really is worth whatever the fee is for this service; and they know the terminology without the need for a pocket glossary of trade show terms.

What The Drayage Is An EAC? 

Ok, so you have this great trade show display.  It’s either very large and you can’t possibly set it up yourself, or it’s a 10’ pop-up but you would rather spend your time doing other things; like setting up meetings with prospects or finding your lost case of brochures.  Do you use the show labor, or the people who created and built your exhibit to do the install and dismantle (I&D)?  Call your account rep and get a quote.  Find out the details:  Are there overtime fees?  How are they assessed?  How many techs will it take to set up your exhibit?  What is their responsibility for damages? Do they have insurance?  If you’re happy with those answers, sign the quote, send it back to your exhibit house and attach the EAC.  This is the “Exhibitor Appointed Contractor” form (most will fill it out for you).  It’s the only way your guys will be allowed into the hall for the move-in and move-out days.  You are now free to return to scheduling your booth staffers.

How are you with logistics?  Know much about material handling or drayage, as it’s called in the industry?  Ever have your freight forced?  What does it all mean?

Listen, you can be one of those people who wants to do it all, and that’s great as long as you don’t mind having large patches of your hair fall out during the busy season.  It grows back.  But there is a group of people out there who do this very thing for a living.  They are the show kit people, known around the industry by various titles, none of which covers the scope of what they actually do.  They sleep with their cell phones because your install is beginning at 9 am London time (Oh, we haven’t even talked about international exhibiting).  They are the ones who will fill out ALL your show kit forms, even the carpet and garbage can order!  Does it get any better than that?

Get Help When You Need It

At my office we have various levels of service; using your credit card, using our credit card, ordering of show services, I&D and logistics, or just the I&D or just the logistics.  Our project coordinators are available help you just make sense of the documents, if you really do prefer to handle it all yourself.

Make the call, ask the question but don’t let it overwhelm you.  Eventually you’ll be the old timer in the office watching the newbie searching their online Webster’s Dictionary for the definition of “Cubic Content” and a warm feeling will come over you as you giggle to yourself while texting the name of your designated Project Coordinator to them.

What's Working In ExhibitingGet more trade show exhibiting tips and tricks for successful shows and planning in the What’s Working In Exhibiting white paper.  Get your free copy of the 32-page book by clicking here

About the Author

Lisa Maniaci is a Senior Account Representative with Skyline Exhibits NJ.

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