3 Tips to Take Your Trade Show Planning to the Next Level

December 10, 2019

Yarkin Sakucoglu

Yarkin Sakucoglu is CEO and co-founder of Socio, an event software company that helps organizations of all sizes optimize their events for authentic connections and personalized experiences.

Wondering how to improve your trade show planning? Use these three tips to throw an event that drives interaction between exhibitors and attendees.

On the surface, trade show planning looks easier to do than organizing other types of events. Take SpinGo’s “20 Powerful Stats on the Value of Trade Shows and Expos.” The numbers make it look like exhibitors and attendees can’t wait to meet each other:

  • 88% of exhibitors want to raise brand awareness.
  • 72% of exhibitors want new sales leads.
  • 92% of attendees want to see new products (81% have buying authority).

But two troubling stats haunt those numbers:

  • Only 6% of marketers say their company does “extremely well” at turning trade show activity into business. 
  • Only 34% of attendees say they’re “very satisfied” with their exhibitor experiences.

Why the disconnect when each side has plenty of motivation to show up? There are plenty of reasons, but one of the biggest is pressure. 

Sponsors and exhibitors feel pressure to fill their sales pipelines with leads. That creates mounting expectations for you, the event organizer. It also creates uncomfortable booth experiences. Remember, attendees want to learn, not be sold to.

Trade show planning, then, should make each side feel like their needs are being met. When that happens, exhibitor-attendee interactions start going from sales pitches to genuine connections. These three tips will help you get there.

1. Align Vision, Brand, and Audience

IMEX America 2019 resulted in 76,000 individual and group appointments booked, a 3% increase from the previous year. The event had a one-word theme: imagination.

Why did it work? Because IMEX has fantastic alignment between its vision and core values. That gives the company strong brand identity. There’s no mystery around what IMEX stands for, or what to expect from them.

To create a high-trust environment like that for your trade show, ask questions like:

  1. What about our brand resonates with our customers and partners?
  2. How does that shape the experience our exhibitors, sponsors and attendees will expect from us?
  3. What vision, concept or theme can connect those answers in an exciting way?

2. Streamline Your Trade Show Planning With Event Software

Event technology can bring massive efficiency gains to your trade show and convention planning. However, it can take some time to get there. You need to research, test and implement all that tech. 

To speed up and simplify the process, focus on event software that:

  1. Captures data over broad segments of your event.
  2. Integrates with your preferred marketing and event technology. 

mobile lead retrieval system is a great example. Old systems rely on pricey rental hardware, which has to be shipped back for data extraction. But mobile lead retrieval:

  • Replaces rental hardware with a scanning app.
  • Creates lead profiles using attendees’ rich data.
  • Lets teams collaborate on personalized lead journeys.
  • Visualizes data in real-time on a dashboard.
  • Exports lead to an exhibitor’s CRM instantly.

3. Make Attendee Engagement a Big Deal

Too many organizers overlook attendee engagement in their trade show planning. Yes, 92% of attendees want to learn about new products. But that ignores the main reason they go to any event in the first place.

If we shift perspective and look at EventMB’s “Advanced Corporate Event Planning Guide,” we see that 82% of attendees prioritize networking, followed at 71% by learning. Yes, a lot changes between corporate events and trade shows, but attendees don’t suddenly stop caring about networking.

What does that mean for your trade show management? It means you have a huge opportunity in front of you. If you make engagement a priority, your attendees will reward you by relaxing and engaging back—exactly what your exhibitors and sponsors want.

Some easy ways to do this:

  • Book a few top-notch speakers that address your attendees’ biggest pain points.
  • Gamify your trade show through an event app or live display to drive handshakes and booth visits.
  • Throw a reception or after-party where attendees can relax and network.

On the last point, remember many attendees can only make it to one or two events a year. If you provide a pressure-free space where event professionals can connect, you’ll improve your chances of being the one trade show they visit year after year. 


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