Trade Show Management: Keeping Sponsors Happy

Trade Show ManagementTrade show management requires a broad range of skills far beyond booth setup, ordering utilities and materials handling.  It requires the ability to view the event as a community of stakeholders, each with their own needs and goals.

After the attendees, the most important people on the floor are your sponsors.  Without their support and investment, trade shows would not be financially viable.  Whether you refer to them as sponsors or exhibitors, they are the companies who have paid to be at your trade show, sometimes at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars.

My work is primarily with large corporations on private events where specific exhibitors are invited to attend and the show is not open to the public.  The booths are set up by companies that support my client and are an integral part of their business operations.  On set-up and tear-down days we often have several hundred booth personnel in addition to the requisite union labor force.

As we have all seen over the years, accurate pre-show and on-site communication is essential, but the nature of that communication has changed.  Today’s communication allows no excess verbiage, no hunting for answers … people want fast answers and easily accessible information.

So, how do I keep my sponsors happy?

•  Communicate clearly and succinctly.  I provide a complete schedule with load-in and load-out times, show hours, and times they have access to the show floor.  If I am holding an exhibitor meeting, I make sure that the date, time and place is included in sponsor schedules.

•  Provide basic refreshments, especially outside of show hours when convention center concession stands or coffee shops may not be open.  In my experience, cambros of coffee and water are not expensive, generate a lot of good will and are greatly appreciated during set-up and tear down, especially when dock doors are open and it may be very hot or cold on the exhibit floor.

•  Consider the sponsor’s perspective. One of my shows opens at 7am, runs through mid-afternoon and must be loaded out that evening.   It’s a long day for everyone without the chance to get away for food or a chance to sit down.  I go the extra mile and provide a continental breakfast and light lunch in a supplier lounge.    Not surprisingly, this rest area is always rated high in post-event exhibitor surveys.

•  I provide my phone number, not the phone number of the show decorator or exposition service, but my number.  Sponsors often have questions that cannot be answered by the decorator, especially for private shows and events.  I find it significantly lowers their anxiety level when I provide a list of who to call for different types of questions.

•  Don’t be afraid to offer helpful suggestions.  There are a lot of booth staff who are very new to the trade show routine.  Don’t be afraid to make a helpful, non-critical suggestion such as, “You know, we’ve found that putting the table at the back of the booth welcomes people rather than being a barrier if put at the front.”  You’d be surprised at how many people don’t know the simple rules of effective exhibiting.

•  Remember to thank your exhibitors.  I always make a point to stop by each booth on the last day to say “thank you” for participating and ask for feedback to make the show better.

None of this is earth-shattering information or anything you haven’t heard before; but these are the things that sometimes get lost in the shuffle.  The best way to ensure that you have happy sponsors is to take a minute and ask yourself the simple question … “If I were an exhibitor, what would make my life easier?”

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