Here is a design and marketing checklist to help keep you on track in your tradeshow preparation.

Solar Power International is three months away. While that may seem like a while out, in reality it isn’t. Yes, this is the solar show to be at in the U.S. While not as giant as shows in other industries, it’s pretty large. Standing out for the right reasons can be tough. Being remembered for having a fun, competitive ping pong tournament is a good thing. Being remembered for objectifying women in literal catsuits behind bars is not such a good thing. What is your show plan? Are you attending the show? Are you exhibiting at the show?

We’ve put together a checklist to help you have a great show. While this list is meant for exhibitors, many of these steps, if taken, will give you a better experience if just walking the show.

By now, three months out, you’ve reserved your booth space, determined if you are sponsoring any part of the show, and determined if you are going to be an event sponsor. If you are hosting an event, that space is booked, and speaking engagements you are involved in are booked, and finally, your technical posters are submitted.

Three Months Out

Strategic
  • Determine how you will gauge if this show was a success. What metrics will you use? There are many different ways to measure success. Determine this before your get out onto the floor.
    • Overall number of leads? Number of quality leads?
    • Press coverage if you’re doing something new?
    • Looking to hire? Leads for quality applicants?
    • Taking orders on the show floor? How many?
  • Finalize your campaign theme. Are you focusing on a new product? Are you unveiling a new service offering? Even if your company is not introducing a product or service at the show, you can have a campaign theme for the show. A theme will help lead creative development for digital and physical assets, will help your team with messaging and to stay on point, and will help attract the attention of your targeted audience using the right story. Consider:
    • Theme focus
    • Theme messaging
    • Theme audience
    • Theme execution
  • Spend time understanding who will be at the show and who you will be targeting for outreach.
Tactical
  • Verify that you have all the pieces you need for your booth setup and that everything is in working order: the booth itself, products, furniture, tablecloths, literature stands, supplemental display pieces, etc. Considerations:
    • How easy is it to set up and take down the booth? Are you paying someone to do so? Or, is your staff setting it up?
    • Think about how open and inviting your booth is. How easy is it for someone to step in and ask a question? Is your booth setup like an Abercrombie & Fitch store – your audiences has no idea what they’re getting into until they step in? At three months out, it is likely too late for a complete booth redesign, but note this for next year if you find it an issue.
  • Collateral: Determine what marketing pieces you will need, do you have enough, and do you need to design new pieces? Considerations:
    • What pieces will fit with your campaign theme?
    • What pieces make the most sense to have at the show? Many people don’t want to carry a lot of items around with them.
    • If you are promoting a new product/service do you have pieces covering that?
  • Say Hello Campaign AllEarth image 01

    T-shirts from AllEarth

    Clothing: Ensure booth staff has the correct clothing for the show and understands what the “uniform” will be. There is still time to order shirts, etc. if needed.

  • Advertising: Finalize any advertising your company will do around the show – print and digital. Be sure to include your booth number in ads if the are going into trade publications.
  • Video or slide show: There is still time to get a new video made or create a slide show to go with your campaign theme. In addition to attracting attention (the good kind!) a video or slide show can answer basic questions for visitors if your sales staff if busy talking to others. Remember that sound can be tough at shows. Don’t rely on the audio track to answer questions, do it with visuals.
  • Giveaways: If you have not already ordered any giveaways, do so now. Considerations:
    • Think of items that fit in a suitcase and are easy to travel with, i.e. hats, shirts, quality water bottles/hot mugs.
    • Think of items that would be good to have on a show floor: lip balm, gum/mints, snacks like trail mix, granola bars, candy bars, etc.
    • Prize drawings for larger items you can ship after the show or experiences are also excellent ideas.

Two Months Out

Strategic
  • Communication strategies: You’ve developed a campaign theme, now roll that into other forms of communication to determine messaging for:
    • Press releases
    • Emails
    • Talking point for booth staff
Tactical
  • Business cards: Check with all show attending staff that they have enough business cards for the show. If not, order them.
  • Scheduling: Now is the time to schedule booth coverage, breaks, show events, etc. Considerations:
    • Block time out for staff to schedule meetings. i.e. Sally is covering the booth in the morning, but can schedule meetings after lunch. George is covering the booth in the afternoon, and can schedule meetings before lunch.
    • Include arrivals and departure times into the schedule, especially for staff who will not be at the event the whole time.
    • Publish the schedule so everyone is aware of who will be needed where. It also makes for an easier time to schedule more than one person in a meeting.
  • Email signature: Design a custom, temporary email signature advertising your show presence, or add to existing email signatures. This should be used on all staff signatures, not just those attending. Remember to include your booth number.

Six Weeks Out

This close to the show, we’re focusing on tactical items.
  • Start sending the emails you planned a couple of weeks ago to your email list to generate buzz and to let people know what to expect and where to find you.
  • Use the newly designed email signature.
  • Schedule meetings with your target list.

One Month Out

  • Social media: Build excitement for the show with your followers by posting on social media. Start at a month out and keep posting right up until the show. Integrate posts into your campaign theme. Remember:
    • Use show hashtags correctly: SPI’s official hashtag is #SPIcon
    • Include any hashtags you have developed for your company/campaign.
    • Include your booth number.
  • Meet with your team: Assign tasks, communicate messaging, wardrobe, answer any questions they might have. We recommend putting together a cheat sheet for your team with high level team schedules, booth information, show information, campaign messages, etc. Be clear with expectations:
    • Will you have badge scanners or collect business cards?
    • What type of reporting will you expect a the end of the show?
  • Make a final confirmation that all the boxes are checked and everything is ready to be shipped.

At the Show

  • Give your staff time so that they can take turns walking the floor to get an idea what others are doing.
  • Make sure that at least one staff member is “on”. There is nothing so unwelcoming as walking by a booth and all of the staff are intently staring at their phones. Checking email is necessary when on the show floor, but take turns.
  • Plan on sharing via social media during the show. If your social media person is not attending the show, be sure to assign someone with the task of taking pictures throughout the show and sending them to your social media person.

After the Show

Follow up: So many companies spend a lot of time and effort on the show itself; their staff comes back tired, and they let following up with potential customer fall through the cracks. Follow up with contacts right after the show, ideally no more than three days after the show. For SPI that ends on a Thursday, follow up by the following Wednesday at the latest. Remember:

  • Add contacts to your email newsletter list.
  • Connect via social media as well as email follow up.

This is a lot to add to your list, but it will help your company’s investment in attending a tradeshow pay off. If you would like assistance in developing a campaign strategy for SPI or Intersolar NA next February, please reach out. The Corbae team would love to help. See you at SPI!