A Guide for Event Managers: How to Stay Sane While Preparing an Offline Event
One and a half years after the start of the pandemic, countries are getting their citizens vaccinated, and event managers are dusting off their business cards and starting to receive the first invitations from offline event organizers. We decided to share with you the experience we had gained before online events went mainstream.
Preparing for an offline event (participation in a professional exhibition) is fascinating but also troublesome and quite stressful. It includes several steps: the basic one, the preparation for the event, event participation, and follow-up activities.
It is better to start preparing at least a couple of months in advance, ideally three months before the event. This way, you will have enough time to make layouts, order handouts, and reorder promotional gifts if something goes wrong :)
Step One. The Basics
1. Decide on the concept and draw up a budget. Firstly, you need to decide on the event participation format (whether you need a trade show booth, a branded car, etc.).
Trade Show Booth
It can be a standard booth or a customized one. Trade show organizers usually offer rental of standard modular exhibition booths whose square footage depends on their cost. You might also opt for a custom-built exhibition booth, which will stand out and attract more attention from the attendees. But in this case, the price will be different from what you would pay for a standard one. And you might need a special building vendor to build a custom booth.
Trade Show Display Table
In fact, it’s just a table and two chairs. Such a participation format does not imply any extra activities (product demonstrations, prize drawings), but it’s pretty suitable for handing out promotional materials and communicating with prospective customers. However, due to the minimal square footage of the rented space, you won’t reach a big audience.
Some trade show organizers offer additional options for attracting more attention at the event. Typically, these options include sponsorship of the registration, coffee break or gala dinner, Delegate Bag Sponsorship, Lanyard Sponsorship, and others.
There are exclusive offers for sponsors. For example, you might place a branded car at the entrance. This is a great way to attract the attention of attendees to the brand. You may also hire trade show models. They will bring more visitors into your booth by standing next to the branded car and giving out promo materials.
Another non-standard participation option is to become the sponsor of the main prize, which will be raffled off among the trade show attendees and participants. Such activities incur additional expenses, but they help increase brand awareness and get a free mention in guests and organizers’ media or social networks.
2. Establish the budget. Here’s what you’ll need to get approved by the stakeholders:
- the cost and format of participation (booth and additional expenses)
- gifts and handouts
- travel expenses for onsite trade show employees
- services of a photographer and models (promo girls)
- extra activities (a drawing for a prize at the booth, etc.)
3. Define your goals and create a general booth design and handouts concept. You should arrange a meeting with a creative team.
It is best to create a channel/chat in the corporate messenger, where all the involved employees could get information on the preparation for the event. And the first thing you need to do is to post an introductory announcement with the information about the event’s name, dates, location, and the team members responsible for different aspects of preparation.
Step Two. Preparing for the Event
1. Gifts, handouts.
Determine the list of the handouts (printed materials and gifts). A standard promotional merchandise pack includes leaflets, T-shirts, pens, and mugs.
Practical promotional items like mugs, power banks, backpacks, or T-shirts are in demand at trade shows. But such products are rather expensive, and the company must have some cost-effective gift options so that each visitor of your booth could receive a memento.
It is also important to consider the cultural and weather conditions of the country where the event is held. In the rainy season, branded umbrellas and raincoats may come in handy. If it’s hot, attendees will be happy to get some branded bottles of water, fans, and sunglasses.
For example, there is a demand for branded water bottles in Vietnam because of the hot weather. Fridge magnets that will remind attendees of the sites of the city where the event takes place are also a nice promotional option.
Choose your manufacturing vendor, appoint the responsible employees, and set the deadlines.
You can cooperate with proven vendors, but shipping the promotional materials to the country where the trade show is held will cost you extra money.
When ordering promotional products onsite, there should be some remote employee who will control the quality of the merchandise. Problems with product quality often occur, so your vendor should produce a test sample first.
Here is a list of the handouts you might order and their characteristics you should consider:
- Corporate business cards (the color palette, paper, the number of copies).
- Corporate booklets (the language, size, number of pages, color palette, paper thickness of the inner pages and cover, the number of copies).
- Branded pens (the material, color, place, and size of the logo, the number of items).
- Non-standard souvenirs, for example, bright T-shirts and funny hats, are always in demand. Trade show attendees will post photos of them on their social media and attract greater customer attention. If you have the time and desire to go bigger, you can order some unusual and funny items from AliExpress.com and brand them. This way, you will definitely stand out among the competitors giving out practical gifts. But it takes time (it might take a very long time to get your stuff shipped from AliExpress) and courage! :)
The main thing to remember is that the perfect merchandise is the one that visitors will keenly post on Instagram.
- Create tasks to prepare texts for the booth and printed materials.
- Create tasks to prepare the booth layouts. As a rule, event organizers use these layouts to build booths (make sure you specify the deadlines). When preparing the layout, it is essential to consider the location of the trade show furniture so that a brochure rack will not block the key message.
- Create tasks to prepare printed and memento product layouts and manage the deadlines.
2. Housekeeping issues (interaction with the organizers, the photographer, and promo girls)
- Plan offline activities (a drawing for valuable prizes, speaker’s line-up, etc.) according to the budget and get the stakeholders’ approval.
- Book a photographer for the event, prepare the brief and determine the terms of payment.
- Choose your trade show team and create a task to organize a business trip.
- Prepare a checklist for the booth team and hold a training event.
A checklist sample
You can download and print pictures
- Arrange a meeting with the communication team to discuss the timing and channels of communication and the stages of the campaign (announcement, event coverage, post-event releases).
- Set the goal for your event communication campaign.
As a rule, a communication campaign includes:
- Email announcements (Communications).
- Posts on the brand’s official social media and blog. They can include announcements and a post with exhibition results, a photo report (SMM).
- A media press release to announce the trade show and a post-event press release (PR).
- Sharing the information with the customer teams (Support). The support staff should have at least some information about the company’s participation in the exhibition (including the participation format) to answer the users’ questions if they arise.
Step Three. Trade Show Participation
This stage includes working at the trade show and holding extra activities (the speaker’s speech, drawing of the prizes, receiving awards, etc.).
The booth team should arrive at least one hour before the beginning of the trade show. You will need this time to:
- receive the exhibitor badges
- connect the equipment
- prepare the handouts
- spread out the demo copies on the table
- check the availability of promotional materials in the exhibitors’ bags.
During the trade show, it is necessary to ensure that there are enough handouts on the table and add them whenever needed.
Working with the exhibition attendees requires increased attention. The brand representative should be friendly, helpful, attentive to the attendees’ problems and questions. He/she should also have a good knowledge of the product. There should be at least one expert on specific complex issues (technical, legal, partnership) who can answer difficult questions.
At least two representatives should work in the booth at the same time. This requirement should also be met during lunchtime. If there is a group of four people working onsite, they should have lunch in shifts, two people at a time.
Step Four. Post Event Activities
This step includes:
- Getting information from participants and organizers (general information on the trade show, the number of participants, guests, etc., photos from the organizers, articles in partner media).
- Making a report on the event’s results (the number of leads or contracts gained depending on the objectives of participation).
- Preparing a video clip using the event footage (you need to get materials from the photographer and create a task to prepare a video).
- Posting post-event releases, blog articles, photos from the event on social media.