The Business Show was my first experience planning for an exhibition, and while it was great fun I also wish I had had a guide to help me. So, here’s what I learned along the way and wish I knew when I started!

If there’s anything missing that you find essential to your trade exhibitions, please post it in the comments below.

Why are you exhibiting

Are you aiming for brand awareness, growing your customer base, testing the waters or something totally different? If you know what you want to get out of the exhibition it will make the following steps even easier.

What do you need

Knowing why you’re exhibiting will help you decide what you need.

We wanted to get the word out about KashFlow and sign up new customers, so we needed branded swag to give away, trained staff to talk about KashFlow and computers with internet connections to demonstrate what KashFlow can do.

So we drew up a list of everything we needed or wanted to bring, such as bags, pens, laptops, big screens, etc. Then we decided which we should buy (such as bags and pens) and what we could rent (large screens to demo KashFlow and a reliable internet connection).

When are your deadlines

Sooner rather than later you’ll need to compile a list of all your deadlines. From lead times on artwork to when the exhibition entry fee needs to be paid. This should all be in one easily accessible list.

I used Basecamp to keep track of our deadlines and keep the rest of the team up-to-date with when things were happening.  Basecamp also lets you assign tasks to team members and can send out daily progress reports via email, so it’s really simple to collaborate and keep track of everything that needs to get done.

Suggestion: Feel welcome to be dishonest with your team and anyone you outsource from about your deadlines, making them a few days earlier just to make sure you get everything you need in good time. This will give you flexibility if someone misses a deadline (such as if your branded pens arrive late) and help you avoid any late payment charges.

Who are your contacts

Make a list of everyone you talk to, what they can help with and how to get in touch with them – even if they’re in the office with you. This way everyone’s details are in one place and you can instantly see who is handling each area of the exhibition and know who to ask when you’ve got questions.

If you’re given a mobile number then save it in your phone – you never know when it will make itself handy. For example, at the exhibition we had trouble with our audio but I had the AV guy’s mobile number in my phone. After sending him a text he immediately sent someone over to help us.

Rinse and repeat

Now that you know why you’re exhibiting, what you need, your deadlines and your contacts it’s time to start the process of reviewing each of these areas regularly. Double check that everything is running to deadline, that artwork has been received, that appropriate copy is being written and everything is delivered on time.

Then go enjoy your exhibition – you’ve earned it!

Keep reading:

Exhibitions are just one aspect of a successful sales strategy. For tips on how best to maximise sales in your business, download our free guide, available now: download your free guide to smart sales now.

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