How many times have you purchased an item – a board game, an unassembled piece of furniture, etc. – and received an instruction manual? Did you tediously read every line to effectively comprehend the entire process of constructing that item? Of course you didn’t. Chances are, you skipped around, found the subheadings that seemed relevant, and picked out pieces of information necessary for completing the job. Granted, this method of learning is appropriate because even if you misinterpret the information and get the job done wrong, the outcome is nothing near detrimental (unless you are very serious about your board games).
But, what about when the outcome IS detrimental? When choosing to exhibit your company at a trade show, it is essential to know what is spelled out in the thick, time-consuming show manual. Taking the time to read, as well as knowing what to look for, can both save time and eliminate mistakes before the show, on the show floor, and after the show ends. Listed below in this trade show training are tips to mastering the art of tackling the exhibitor manual:
HIGHLIGHT AND RECORD ALL DEADLINES ASAP.
The trade show manual provides an explicit schedule of when paperwork is due, the location of your booth, the move-in and move-out critical dates for your booth location/category, and most importantly, the consequences faced when those deadlines are not met. The day your company has access to the manual is the day you must find and mark your established dates and deadlines.
SIT DOWN AND READ THROUGH IT AT LEAST ONCE.
We understand how time-consuming and uninteresting it can be to read through an entire user guide. Even the most avid of readers find this to be unappealing. But, the truth is, it is absolutely necessary, for both veteran and rookie exhibitors. To be, at the very least, familiar with the structure of the manual as well as the general location of each section makes the planning process nearly seamless. As you read, add tabs or bookmarks to pages of great interest, company benefit, or relevancy.
SKIM THE MANUAL THROUGHOUT THE EXHIBITING PROCESS.
Once you have read the whole booklet, skim it often. Make sticky notes, highlight, and ensure all requirements are met. Common discrepancies between the exhibitor and the show contractor include:
- Booth size. Does the show provide spaces that fit the dimensions of your booth? Are there any height restrictions?
- Booth orientation. Is there a requirement for the direction your booth is facing? For example, some shows require booths to be facing in such a way that doesn’t demean or take away from the presence of its competitors.
- Hanging signs. Are they allowed? Is there a weight or size limit? What about extra fees – is the exhibitor charged for a forklift and/or show-provided labor?
- General signs and lighting. Are there any restrictions on sign and lighting placement? Location? Size?
REFER TO YOUR MANUAL WHEN CREATING A REASONABLE BUDGET.
The cost of exhibiting at a trade show is not simply the booth creation and the registration fee. The show manual gives all additional costs, including show-provided labor, electricity, internet, drayage, and carpeting. It also gives the fees incurred when deadlines aren’t met (KNOW YOUR DEADLINES). While a majority of these fees are estimates contingent on the day of the show, knowing the factors that change the initial estimate will help your company formulate the most accurate budget.
USE THE SUMMARY SHEET FOR EASY ACCESS TO BASIC SHOW INFO.
The show contractor often provides the registered attendee with a "summary sheet" either at the front of the manual or on the contractor's website. Print that sheet out or save the file electronically for easy access to basic show and exhibitor information.
WHEN IN DOUBT, CONTACT THE SHOW CONTRACTOR.
If there are ANY questions, it is best to clarify with the contractor over phone or email. Remember that they are the ones who wrote the manual, so they can answer your questions most effectively. They want the show to run as smoothly as possible, and will work with you to make sure that happens.
By learning ways to read the literature effectively, you can extract the right information in a timely manner. Don’t treat this show like a frustrating IKEA desk unassembled in scattered, confusing parts; arrive to the show with a powerful, confident, and knowledgeable presence to get the most out of the exposition.