How to Maximise Trade Show ROI

The success of trade shows, conferences and exhibitions requires more than girls and giveaways and isn’t measured by how many email addresses you collect.  Events like these have only one meaningful metric – ROI. This checklist shows you how to plan to maximise ROI – long before you pay a cent – and know for sure if it will be worth attending next time.

1. Know your objectives

Why are you attending, is it to:

  • Increase market share with existing users?
  • Introduce new products/services into existing markets ?
  • Promote new products/services into new markets?
  • Increase visibility with potential partners?
  • Or just to be seen (you feel you must be there)?

How will you measure success?

  • What will you measure?
  • Who needs a hard copy of objectives and measures?

What’s the budget?

  • How much can you spend and
  • What is your projected or acceptable ROI?

2. Collate everything

  • Do you have a master checklist that covers everything – event deadlines (artwork, sponsorship, equipment delivery, bump-in and bump-out, event promotion), sponsorship opportunities, company attendees at the show, dinner or related events, flights and accommodation, contact names and numbers, gifts, estimates, quotes and actual costs etc? 

3. Define your message

What’s the one key message?

  • What is new/topical/relevant to this market?
  • What is the key message this year/this event?
  • How does it support your strategic objectives/core messaging?
  • How can you use few words to ensure it’s clear, concise and compelling?
  • How can you use it in all trade show marketing, communications, booth graphics, banners, brochures, sponsorship message?
  • Who is handling the artwork (for stand, collateral and communications)?
  • Who is overseeing consistency and budgets? 

3. Plan your stand 

What equipment do you need to support the message?

  • What space do you need to accommodate equipment (shelves, cupboards, tables etc)
  • What special requirements (security, power, lighting, laptops, big screens)?
  • How can you also ensure maximum wall/ promotional space for your message?

What’s the attraction, ’wow’ factor, differentiator?

  • How will you draw people in?
  • How will you stand out from competitors?
  • Will you have an attraction (gift, raffle, game, guest, entertainment)?
  • How can yours be different, more intelligent or relevant?
  • What can you give away as a reminder (for those who don’t win)?
  • What movement/animation/interest will you use (Video, TV etc)?

What materials are needed? 

  • Registration of interest forms?
  • Brochures (a few to show)?
  • Fliers (many more to give away; linked to theme, prize and brochures)?
  • Giveaways (memorable and portable)?
  • Prize (to be collected later, if large)?
  • Raffle, competition forms?
  • How will you prioritise leads (to differentiate for staged follow up)?

NB: Avoid having a lot of portable material that would be useful for competitors.

How much space do you have?

  • How will you avoid congestion, barriers?
  • How can you make the booth linear or with several entry points (not just one in middle of front)?
  • Will visitors be entertained there or elsewhere?
  • How many people do you expect on the stand?
  • What furniture will be needed?
  • What space is left for key messages (take into account where your staff will sit or stand)?
  • How can booth be arranged to maximize impact yet minimise clutter? 

4. Choose attendees

  • Who are best suited to this event and its delegates (sales, technical, customer service)?
  • When do they need to be there?
  • Do they all need to be there all the time?
  • Do you want to reward another staff member with attendance at the event?
  • How will you handle breaks, overload?
  • Has the travel been organized?
  • Who will organize it and by when?

What security/access is needed?

  • For the booth and equipment
  • For access for your staff?
  • For guests (passes etc)?

6. Ensure promotion

  • Who needs to know that you’re attending?
  • How will you let them know (email, ads, social media etc)?
  • What incentives will you give attendees to visit your booth (link to wow factor)?
  • When will you promote it?
  • How many times will you promote it, finishing when?

7. Follow up 

  • What will you send out afterwards?
  • How quickly can you follow up?
  • How will you follow up (and avoid being in the avalanche of competing messages)?
  • Who will do it?

8. Review objectively 

  • Who will evaluate the event afterwards (more than one is best)?
  • What are the evaluation criteria (see 1. Objectives)?
  • Were the objectives met?
  • What was the total event cost (include everything)?
  • What was the value of genuine leads? 
  • What was the ROI?
  • Will you attend next year?

Share this and/or download the listicle to keep: 8 Steps to Maximise Trade show ROI.


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