Business cards. Check. Breath mints. Check. Anything in my teeth? All clear!

These might be the final items on my check list just before hitting the exhibit hall floor this conference season, but truth is my check list began months ago. Absolutely nailing a trade show appearance requires a looooong check list and extreme attention to the details.

If you have worked with me even once during my time at dRC, you probably know I’m a check list girl. So when the creative team and I sat down to discuss our game plan for this year’s trade shows I naturally pulled out my legal pad and got to work on “The List”. Admittedly your check list will vary depending on your strategic goals of the show (see Joe’s blog for great questions to ask yourself as you consider attending a show), but they all should consist of two main categories: 1.) logistical arrangements and 2.) communication campaign.

So what does our check list look like? Here is a high-level peek for 2015:

Logistical Arrangements

  • Travel
    • Airfare
    • Car rental
    • Directions to and from everywhere: airport, hotel, conference, appointments, restaurants.
    • Any other events happening in the conference city?
    • Weather forecast
  • Accommodations
    • Hotel rooms
      • How many
      • In or near where the conference is hosted
      • Any special needs?
  • Agenda
    • Travel agenda – every detail
    • Exhibit hall agenda – when is it open for traffic?
    • Exhibit schedule – peak traffic hours, break times, set up and tear down deadlines
    • Speaker agenda – take note of any “breakouts” or talks you’d like to attend and build it into your schedule
  • General show information
    • Hotel/conference site location
    • Register employees attending
    • Dress code for your event staff
    • Conduct code/schedule for booth staff
    • Contact information for show representative
    • Exhibit hall and breakout rooms floor plan
    • Schedule of events
    • Internet access
  • Sponsorship
    • Fill out company profile on exhibit hall website/virtual floor plan
    • Booth number
    • Booth size
    • Order booth hardware
    • Quote booth artwork & collateral
    • Speech
      • What room will you be in?
      • What is the capacity of the space?
      • What a/v equipment is available?
      • What do you have to bring?
      • Can you do a run-through in the room prior to your talk?
    • Place ads
    • Access to registrants list
      • How far in advance of the show will you get access?
      • What type of information will be provided (physical address, email, etc.)?
  • Evening events
    • Schedule lunch/coffee/dinner/cocktail meetings with clients or strategic partners
    • Make reservations for restaurants or meeting rooms
    • Schedule evening time to write thank you notes to people we met during the show that day
  • Expenses
    • Establish method for tracking expenses pre-, during, and post-show

Communication Campaign (design & content)

  • Pre-show
    • Establish goals
    • Tighten up show messaging
    • Develop Email
    • Direct mail
    • Script for calls
    • Determine all show promotions
  • During show
    • Booth artwork
    • Business cards
    • Brochures or other print collateral
    • iPad presentation
    • Speech presentation materials & script
    • Signage
    • Booth giveaway
    • Raffle item
  • Post-show
    • Add new contacts to our system
    • Thank you cards
    • Email
    • Direct mail
    • Script for calls

Once I have the check list established I put together a timeline for each item. Keep in mind when things are due if you are a sponsor. If your speech needs to be pre-approved, allow for time for revisions. Take into consideration lead times for printing and mailing. Will you be following up post-show? Trick question – its always YES! How many times will you follow up and how often? Having a detailed timeline and weekly huddles about your “List” status will help to ensure there are no surprises during show season.