Participating in trade fairs: a trade fair plan for peace of mind and higher returns

Peter Desmyttere
August 14, 2018
⏱ 3 min. read

The pressure is almost palpable in the weeks just before participating in a trade fair, one deadline following rapidly on another. These are stressful weeks in which plans often go awry for anyone who finds it difficult to get a good grasp on the planning. Nevertheless, there is no reason why marketing planning with regard to trade fairs should be difficult. A carefully compiled and rigorously executed trade fair plan will give you peace of mind and good returns, both during and after the trade fair. In this article, I will not only describe what a professional trade fair plan looks like, but how you can set to work with it in concrete terms.

Definition of a trade fair plan

Let's start by answering the following question: "What is a trade fair plan?". My answer: "A trade fair plan is a central platform or document that
makes available all strategic and operational trade fair data to all marketeers concerned." 

The emphasis is, without doubt, on the words "central platform or document" and "all strategic and operational trade fair-related data". And this is, in practice, precisely where the shoe pinches. After all, the practical aspects of planning a trade fair usually comprise "a collection of separate documents with partial strategic and/or operational trade fair data that does not offer an overall picture of the situation to the marketeers concerned." 

The architecture or structure of a trade fair plan

Trade fair planning therefore centralizes or bundles all operational and strategic data for one or more trade fairs. In concrete terms, it's all about the following:

  • Task planning: "Who is responsible for which task and what is the deadline?", as well as "Which tasks are still outstanding and which tasks have been completed?"
  • Communication planning: "Which channels will we use to promote our participation in the trade fair?" Principally speaking, you don't "just" set up a stand at a trade fair; you will need to make your attendance known to your clients and prospects, make use of the communication media provided by the trade fair organizer and develop a strategy to draw visitors to your stand. 
  • Budget planning: "What is the budget for participation in the trade fair, which costs can we expect to make and how will this affect the budget afterwards?"
  • KPIs and results: "Which goals will we set? Were we able to achieve them in the end?" If we compare the results to the budget, we will instantly see the ROI (Return On Investment) of our participation in the trade fair.
  • Notes: these consolidate the most important information about the trade fair, the stand, the approach, the build-up, the team, etc. 
  • General trade fair strategy: if you participate in multiple trade fairs each year, a trade fair plan can be expanded with a trade fair strategy that tells you how to strategically approach participation in various trade fairs.

Trade fair planning and Excel, or in a digital tool?

Ask for a dozen trade fair plans and you will be bombarded with Excel documents. This is logical, because Excel-based plans can be drawn up easily and quickly. However … chances are that your data will become fragmented in various Excel files, causing you to quickly lose your grasp of the overall situation. If you participate in several trade fairs each year, and have to share this information with various colleagues, trade fair planning in Excel will soon lead to "Excel hell".

Sure, you can use Excel as a planning tool – provided that various tabs are used for tasks, communication, budget, notes and results. You can download an Excel template from this website.

Digital planning tools are excellently suited for anyone who wants to manage his data in a more flexible manner, participates in multiple trade fairs each year and is part of a marketing team with a diversity of colleagues who all join forces in drawing up a trade fair plan. You can set up multiple trade fair projects in one and the same plan, in which you can share data with your colleagues from a single, centralized platform. In our Husky marketing plan, it looks like this:

Above, you will see the project structure in which each trade fair is a separate project. Below, you will see how the various modules of different operational and strategic data are segmented.

You can also consider a compromise, in which Excel is combined with one or more digital tools. You could, for example, manage tasks within your team in Wünderlist, keep track of your notes in Evernote and put your communication, budget and results in an Excel document. My experience with trade fair planning in marketing teams has taught me that this solution is generally not very long-lived. Fragmentation in various documents or tools is never a good solution. Limited planning can therefore be perfectly centralized within a single Excel document, but more extensive or complex trade fair plans should be set up in a specialized tool like Husky, in which all operational data can be centralized on a single platform on which the various marketeers can manage and share their data.

Would you like to experiment with trade fair planning in Husky? Start a free 14-day trial.

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