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exhibiting 101
The Post-Show Push
Ensure your exhibiting program's success by keeping these easy-to-forget post-show tasks top of mind. By Betsy Earle
If you stop and think about it, trade show exhibiting is a lot like an iceberg. There's the 10 percent or so that's visible (e.g., an exhibit bustling with attendees during peak show hours), and then there's the bulk that remains hidden beneath the surface – that being the massive amount of planning, labor, and strategizing required to buoy the sliver that gets all the glory. Much attention is paid to pre-show preparations, but the organizational efforts you make after the exhibit-hall dust has settled can have an outsized impact on your program's effectiveness, not to mention your peace of mind.

Any discussion of post-show tasks is dominated by lead management, and rightly so. Establishing a process for "scrubbing," ranking, distributing, and following up on leads is a critical component of any program's success. As such, it's understandable why many exhibit managers make getting a vetted list of leads to their sales reps their No. 1 priority after a show. However, there are a handful of other duties that shouldn't be left on the proverbial back burner for too long after the exhibit hall closes.

Here, then, are some post-show processes that, more often than not, are relegated to the bottom of exhibit managers' to-do lists – if they make an appearance at all. But setting aside the time to see to these action items when the show is still fresh in your mind is better for you – and your program – in the long run.

Review Final Show Invoice
Some general service contractors (GSCs) will post final invoices a few days after the show, while others offer an exhibitor portal on their websites where pending charges and credits are updated in real time. Check to see whether you have a final balance due, that all applicable credits have posted with the correct amounts, and that you understand all of the various charges. If anything on your final invoice doesn't make sense, call the GSC and ask your rep to walk you through the form and answer any questions that you may have.

Inventory Supply Levels
In a perfect world, staffers would have sufficient time during teardown to inventory their remaining exhibiting supplies, e.g., everything from giveaways and product literature to paper clips and cleaning rags. Unfortunately, the mad dash of dismantle often means that any leftover materials are unceremoniously tossed in a box or crate and shipped to their next destination, be that straight to another show or back to a storage facility.

It's all too easy to forget to check how many promotional items and product spec sheets you have on hand until the eleventh hour, which then necessitates a last-minute flurry of costly rush orders. Therefore, do yourself a fiscal favor and count your post-show supplies sooner rather than later. If you're handling your own exhibit storage, you or a member of your team can perform this task. If your properties and collateral are stored by your exhibit house, you'll want to discuss a recurring inventory system with your rep.

Analyze Lead Data
A careful review of your lead data will likely reveal additional information that could be helpful in improving your program, such as the following.
➤  Traffic Patterns: Was your booth the busiest on the first or the last day of the event? When did you score some of your most promising leads, and when were staffers left twiddling their thumbs? Every trade show has unique ebbs and flows of attendee traffic due to ancillary events, e.g., educational and breakout sessions, awards ceremonies, etc. Knowing when your stand was bustling will help you create an optimal staffer schedule when exhibiting at this show in the future.
➤  Types of Attendees: Cross-reference your lead data with the existing information in your customer-relationship management (CRM) system and determine how many booth visitors were "new" to your company. Also, look over the leads' job titles and see if anything jumps out at you. Did your exhibit attract more consultants than buyers? Did you scan more badges for C-suite executives than you anticipated? All this information can help you tailor the in-booth experience for these audiences, such as setting aside space to meet with VIP prospects and developing a promotional video that gives a concise introduction to your firm and its offerings.
➤  Areas of Attendee Interest: If you used badge scanners throughout your exhibit, you can ascertain which in-booth activities and/or activations drew the most attention. (Or if your exhibit lacked a means of tracking attendees, consider asking staffers for their observations.) For instance, perhaps a hands-on demo explaining the nuts and bolts of your product attracted showgoers in droves, but the theater presentation on your company's eco-friendly initiatives was as poorly attended as a fundraiser for bedbugs. If certain parts of your exhibit fail to engage attendees, you may want to reconsider the content, placement, or format of these activations – or scrap them outright.

Setting aside the time to see to these action items when a trade show is still fresh in your mind is better for you – and your exhibiting program's effectiveness – in the long run.
Issue a Staffer Survey
Your booth staffers are your men and women in the trenches, and as such, they often possess troves of invaluable info on attendees' pain points, what is and is not working in the exhibit, etc. Rather than hoping that a staffer or two will pull you aside to share their insights, actively solicit their comments, impressions, and suggestions via an online survey, an email questionnaire, or even a simple paper form. In addition to gathering first-hand perspectives of the show floor, staffer surveys ensure that every member of your team feels heard and valued. Most booth staffers are eager to give feedback, but if your front-line reps are reticent, consider taking a page from a company I previously worked for and only reimburse them for their expense reports once their surveys are completed.

Compile a Post-Show Report
Keeping internal stakeholders abreast of your program's performance is a crucial part of demonstrating its value, and distributing post-show reports is the most common way of doing just that. There are several schools of thought as to how these reports should be formatted. Some exhibit managers submit detailed, soup-to-nuts documents containing comprehensive budget breakdowns, descriptions of in-booth activities, and summaries of any media mentions. Others provide a single-page, bulleted list of key stats, e.g., total leads gathered, projected return on investment, etc. Before compiling a post-show report that rivals "Atlas Shrugged" in length, why not ask executives what information is most important to them? Doing so will not only save you considerable time if the higher-ups prefer a truncated document but also ensure that your report is read by its intended audience.

Create a Project Archive I find it incredibly helpful to create individual archives for each of my clients' trade show endeavors that are filled with what I call "project artifacts." Many exhibit managers are tasked with planning multiple shows simultaneously, and it's not unusual for these events to be 12 months out or more. This extended timeline makes it incredibly difficult to remember small but important details from previous shows, such as the name of an especially helpful installation-and-dismantle labor foreman, the supplier of a giveaway that wowed attendees, or the fickle food-and-beverage regulations at a certain venue. All this minutiae goes straight into my project archive so I can pull it up at a moment's notice when planning for the next iteration of the same event or a different show at this particular venue.

As you can see, none of the post-show projects listed here require an inordinate amount of time or labor. But by expending a little extra effort in the days following the close of a show, you and your program will likely reap dividends for months – and possibly years – to come. E

Betsy Earle, CTSM
managing director and founder of Event Driven Solutions LLC. Earle obtained her MBA at the University of Miami and earned her Diamond-level CTSM designation in 2018. Exhibiting101@exhibitormagazine.com

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