How To Organize A Trade Show

A recent conversation brought to my attention that there is no article on the Cash Flow Show on how to organize a trade show.

As a former caterer and event planner, I can certainly cover this one!

As an event planner your vendors have expectations. These expectations include the management of the 3 stages of the event.

  1. Securing appropriate venue and negotiating contract: services, maximums, money, space limitations, insurance requirements, deposits, etc.
  2. Finding vendors and building a relationship with them: your success depends on them and vice-versa, encourage vendors to promote as well
  3. Event promotion: flyers, grocery stores, vendors, radio, TV, newspaper, engaging non-profit groups

Tips On How To Organize A Trade Show

Before you can pick an event center you need to be clear on a couple of times and dates that will be appropriate.

Your purpose of holding an event is to provide a platform for buyers (leads) – to meet sellers (distributors).

In order to create a successful event, the day, times and venue need careful thought!

In addition to holidays and location accessibility you may want to research what other events are being held in the area during the same time frame.

When negotiating an event center be sure to check multiple locations and:how to organize a trade show

  • Negotiate the room rate with your favorite venues
  • Be clear regarding set up and tear down times, space and number of booths that will fit, venue restrictions and other requirements
  • Know the cancellation policy of your expo location
  • Be clear on other items provided by the event center and possible fees: pipe and drape, tables, chairs, etc.
  • Understand the parking situation
  • Ask if they promote the event in their calendar as well

After venue is secured:

  • Make arrangements for necessities not provided by the exhibition hall: tables, linen, etc.
  • Make it your own – a theme or color scheme will transform the venue to yours
  • Determine the vendor pricing, create a vendor agreement
  • Find your vendors quickly
  • Keep the communication open with your vendors
  • Be clear with them as to what you provide and do not provide

Most likely the location where the event is being held will require a deposit so you can expect payment in advance or a deposit from your vendors.

A successful event will bring the same vendors back year after year.

Most direct sellers are limited in budget so consider creating a pricing package that will assist with securing vendors.  One fee includes: booth, table, skirting, ad in program, etc.


Ultimately it is the event planner’s (YOUR) responsibility to fill the room with guests and vendors!

You can however ask that they promote the event too!

Direct sales-specific trade shows that encourage the businesses to promote the event to their data base will leverage every vendor’s network for the good of all the companies involved.
How To plan a trade show
A vendor incentive that encourages your vendors to invite and promote to their data base will increase traffic.

You may want to consider creating an incentive for the vendors to receive a cash discount (at this event or a future one) for everyone walking in the door on their referral. With some thought a tracking system can be developed and your guest attendance will increase by all vendors participating in the promotion of the event.

Another way to get a boost in publicity is to align your trade show with a nonprofit group.

When you donate to a nonprofit organization they too would promote the event.  It is important to be clear with the organization what types of promotions you are expecting them to do when you include them as a beneficiary.

When you plan an exhibition you may want to add some extra perks:

  • Workshops for guests or vendors may add value to the whole day and make the event easier to promote
  • Child care could bring in more stay at home Moms

Ultimately, you are building a platform with the goal of connecting leads with vendors!

This is a very important job which can be quite hectic and should not be taken lightly!

Hopefully you now have an insight into how to organize a trade show!

Questions? Ask in the comments!

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