How to Plan an Expo Like a Pro

Marilena De Niear

April 14, 2022

    Event planners have the monumental challenge of providing engaging, effective, and value-driven experiences for their organizations. Where does one start when faced with these challenges? Unsurprisingly, the answer is preparation. It is never too early to begin planning, and there is no such thing as being too prepared. However, how to plan an expo may not be so intuitive.  

    If you are wondering how to plan an expo like a pro, this guide is for you. Below you will find tips and tricks that will assist you throughout the expo planning journey, from pre- to post-event processes, to ensure no stone is left unturned. In addition to the planning resources, you will also find trade show booth ideas to help get your trade show floor plan started. Whether this is your first expo or your twenty-first, brushing up on new or trending concepts will benefit your planning experience.   

     

    Pre-event planning 

    The pre-event planning stage is all about brainstorming. Envision your event from start to finish and make notes of your needs and desires for the perfect event. How long does it take to plan an expo? Most timelines account for about twelve months of preparation leading to the event. This allows proper time management for everything from securing (and paying for) the venue, booking speakers and arranging session content, selling sponsorships, and more. 

    Moreover, you want to give yourself time for troubleshooting any issues that arise. Cases can be as minor as re-printing signs to booking a replacement venue. Don’t get caught without enough time to both plan and correct. In conclusion, here are some vital points to consider during the pre-event planning stage: 

    Set your goals 

    Choose your venue location 

    • Consider the time of year, climate, and nearby accommodations 
    • Review venue’s included equipment, services, and staff capabilities 

    Create your online registration website 

    • Build this using your event management platform for seamless data integration 
    • Offer tiered ticketing options including premium, presale, and even group discounts 
    • Begin communicating with potential attendees 
    • Brainstorm social media and marketing strategies 

    Secure sponsorships and exhibitors 

    Content and interactivity 

    • Create event agenda and key topic areas 
    • Select and reach out to guest speakers to begin the booking process 
    • Envision your event’s interactivity and decide on gamification options 

    Develop a health and safety plan 

    • Have a contingency plan in place for any positive COVID-19 cases 

     

    These planning tips will prepare you for the rest of your event’s journey. Of course, the next step of the planning process is executed. Your team will have plenty of tasks to keep track of during your event. The next section will cover all your day-of bases. 

    Online Event Registration Screenshot

     

    Event execution 

    After all that preparation, it is time to execute your show-stopping expo. Naturally, planning these tasks ahead of time will ensure a smoother process for you and your attendees. But before diving into the checklist for event execution, it is essential to note that the key to success at this stage is communication. Your event’s success depends on how effectively you communicate with your teams.

     Your communication methods matter whether you coordinate with vendors, delegate staff, or oversee attendees’ questions. Event management software streamlines where you communicate but be sure your team knows how to express issues, needs, solutions, and more effectively. To learn more, read this article which explains different communication styles, specifically in events and trade shows.    

    Event set-up 

    • Place all marketing materials, signage, and decorations in respective areas 
    • Check on all vendor statuses (caterers, staff, AV crew, speakers etc) 

    Onsite check-in 

    onsite check in

    Floor plan management and crowd control 

    • Use attendee tracking software to prevent sessions from overcrowding 
    • Guide attendees safely through the venue by providing an interactive floor plan 
    • Make room for social distancing 

    Gamification and exhibitor management 

    • Link your exhibitors and gamification to incentivize engagement amongst attendees 
    • Have exhibitors register staff through exhibitor management software 
    • Connect exhibitors to lead retrieval software to streamline leads and tracking capabilities 

    Event security 

    • Arrange for security to guard exhibits after hours 

    Social media marketing 

    • Provide attendees with hashtags for your event 
    • Encourage social posting and shares across various platforms 
    • Promote your event and share live stories of different moments throughout the expo 

    Offer contactless options for your event 

    • Offer cashless transactions by supporting online payments throughout the expo 
    • Use catered pre-packaged foods to eliminate cross-contamination risks 

    You are well on your way to completing your event! This quick checklist will guide you towards a smoother, more efficient execution of your expo. Continue for tips on how to approach your expo after the event ends.  

    Discover the latest event technology trends!

    Learn what technology you can apply to your next event to increase attendee safety, engagement, and more.

    Post-event actions 

    Congratulations on hosting an expo! Indeed, this is no small feat. However, just because the venue doors have closed does not mean you’re finished. There are plenty of communications to manage, metrics to analyze, and stakeholders to inform. Here are essential post-event action items to keep in mind after your expo closes: 

    Hold an internal debrief of the event 

    • Review the pros and cons of the event. Be sure to consider all perspectives here including attendees, exhibitors, and vendors 
    • Gather event data and measure KPIs and goals 

    Conduct post-event surveys 

    • Surveys should be sent out to attendees, sponsors, and vendors to gain insights into what went right and where improvements can be made 

    Provide leads and attendee data to exhibitors 

    • This is a terrific way to secure returning sponsors for future events 

    Send out gamification and contest prizes to winners 

    Create a sizzle reel of event content 

    • Use this video for post-event marketing and a teaser for your next event 

    Send out thank you’s 

    • Follow up your event with thank you emails to attendees, sponsors, vendors, and staff 
    • Include your sizzle reel in the email for added value 

    Update your event website to reflect that the expo has closed 

    Disclose ROI to stakeholders 

    • Utilize your analytics dashboard to extract as much data as possible 
    • Be sure to include what sessions/content garnered the most attention and which exhibitors earned the most leads 

    leads list

     

    Extra consideration for exhibitors 

    While you want to focus your expo efforts on attendees, do not forget to put equal emphasis on your exhibitors and sponsors. After all, they play a vital role in funding your expo in the first place. Just as you want to establish customer loyalty amongst attendees, strive for the same loyal relationships with sponsors. The best way to do this is by providing them with a convenient, data-driven approach to operating within your expo. Providing a lead retrieval and exhibitor management platform will streamline sponsors’ efforts and improve their overall experience.

    For instance, exhibitor software can manage digital floor plans, communication methods, booth assignments, payments, and more. Digital lead retrieval can seamlessly connect attendees’ contact info with an exhibitor in seconds without wasting time with clunky business cards. Again, your sponsors and exhibitors play a significant role in your expo, so be sure to give their experience extra consideration when planning your event.   

     

    Trade show booth ideas 

    Indeed, a trade show booth is to attract and inform visitors. Therefore, you should stay far from setting up the same tired folding tables full of pamphlets and free pens. These booths are not going to drive traffic! It is time to give your trade show booths a makeover and prove how practical creativity can be on the trade show floor.  

    The basics of driving traffic to your trade show booth are simple. Keep it creative, leverage social media and technology, make it interactive, give out great swag, and employ friendly booth personnel. 

    Creativity 

    • Take advantage of the expo’s theme. Can you incorporate a play on words? Does the theme directly apply to your organization? Consider theming your booth based on the venue location.  

    Tech-savviness  

    • Utilize QR codes throughout your booth for a sleek paperless experience. Host a social media contest or share a live feed of tagged posts at your booth to keep guests involved 

    Interactivity 

    • Speaking of getting involved, give your guests something to do! Host an activity, encourage networking or create an eye-catching photo-op spot.  

    Swag 

    • Think beyond pens and stress-relieving balls. Give out swag that guests will love and use repeatedly, long after the event ends.  

    Booth personnel 

    • Make sure your booth is hosted by staff that is not only knowledgeable but also friendly and inviting. 

     

    For more in-depth information on driving traffic to your trade show booth, check out our blog here.  Without further ado, here are five trade show booth ideas that will inspire some creativity.  

    #1: Construct your booth with non-traditional materials.

    While your budget is of consequence, don’t think a creative booth must be expensive. Think of interesting upcycled materials like furniture to replace folding tables or chairs. You could utilize cardboard boxes, milk crates or a material that somehow applies to the expo’s theme.  

    #2: Make it a destination, not a pit stop.

    Make your booth inviting by re-thinking how your guests will interact with the space. Think of places that excel at keeping visitors for extended periods: coffee shops, libraries, music stores, parks, etc. These locations have a common theme of making guests feel comfortable and inviting them to stay. Use this approach and style your booth like your favorite bookstore! Imagine cozy lounges, phone chargers, soft music and more.  

    #3: Connect your booth to a charitable cause.

    Educate guests on what the charity is and whom it benefits and enables them to contribute in some way. Can you involve the charity in your booth somehow? If your charity benefits shelter dogs, consider the possibility of hosting some adoptable dogs at your booth! Similarly, if your charity benefits children, arrange to have something they designed on display like artwork or crafts.

    #4: Host a gameshow-style competition.

    It is trivia night at your trade show booth! This is a memorable way to attract visitors and keep them talking about your brand during and after the expo. Other game show ideas include “Family Feud” style surveys, a short obstacle course, or a “Survivor” challenge. It can also be as simple as Pictionary or charades!  

    #5: Set up a DIY (do it yourself) activity.

    Attendees will be delighted to sit down and complete a unique project under the fun, guided instruction. For example, a “paint & sip” tutorial where guests can learn how to paint a whimsical scene on canvas, they can take home. It could also be a resin craft, tile mosaic, or even a tiny woodworking craft. Furthermore, take advantage of sponsorship space by including your logo on the back of their take-home item. Think of it as a customizable piece of swag! 

     

    Conclusion  

    This guide will keep you on the path toward planning a successful expo with the ease of a seasoned professional. Preparing for each phase of your expo will provide all guests with a more efficient and valuable experience. It also saves you the stress that comes with being underprepared. Equip yourself with the tools you need to plan your next event successfully.   

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