How Trade Shows Work

Managing the Show Schedule & Materials

The most tedious part of any job is usually the paperwork, so if you're involved in managing the company's trade shows -- be prepared! There are forms to be filled out for everything imaginable.

These checklists are in Microsoft Word format, set up as protected forms with no password requirement. To alter the content, go to the Tools menu and select Unprotect Document. To use the file as an online form after you've made your changes, go back to Tools and select Protect Document.
So, where do you start? First, you'll contact the show management for the shows you've planned to attend, and ask for an exhibitor application. You should do this as soon as you know you are attending the show because many show managers require paperwork to be turned in and deposits to be paid months in advance. Plus, some shows base your booth location on a first-come, first-served basis. (Others use a point system based on the number of years you've attended the show. You put down your choices, but if someone with more seniority wants the same spot, then you're out of luck and get the next closest thing.)

The Exhibitor Application Form
Fill out the forms completely and carefully. It is usually with the application forms that you have the opportunity to choose the all-important booth location (if not, it will be in the exhibitor package, which we'll talk about next). Usually, you'll list at least three locations in order of preference, and list any competitors you don't want to be near. When choosing the location, think about the traffic flow into the exhibit hall. Select areas toward the front, near food stands, near restrooms, break areas, etc. -- any area that will naturally have more traffic. Also, try to get a corner location. A corner gives you twice the visibility and usually costs more, but is worth it. You also have a better opportunity for traffic flow through your booth.

At this point, you also need to know how big of a space you need. If it's a large show and you expect a lot of traffic, then you probably want the most space you can afford. Fortunately, there is a formula the help determine the necessary space, as well as the number of booth staffers to send. It goes like this:

    Studies by CEIR have shown that, on average, 16% to 20% of the show attendees will have a special interest in your products/services. Therefore, multiply the number of show attendees by .16 to get your "high interest attendees." Take this number and multiply it by .53 for vertical shows or .37 for horizontal shows, and you get your "potential audience." Divide the potential audience by the total number of show hours and you'll get the number "visitors per hour." Divide the visitors per hour by the number of presentations your booth staffers can do in an hour, and you'll get the number of staff you need. Multiply the number of staff you need by 50 (square feet) and you get the amount of open space you need. Add the space your display and the space your products will take up to this number and you'll get the total space required. Presto!
    [Source: Skyline Displays]

Or, you can assume that since you only have a 10-foot booth, then your booth space only needs to be 10 to 20 feet, and you only need two to four people. But the formula is there if you need it.