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Piles of Paperwork: The underbelly of trade show preparedness

Exhibiting at a trade show can be a huge financial commitment, both in dollars and man-hours. From the perspective of many booth staffers, the preparation involves learning a special pitch or angle for the show, and planning for lead follow-up. Perhaps only the trade show coordinator knows how much paperwork is involved during the months leading up to the show.

It can be critical to find and adequately prepare the documents for a show. One wrong move can keep things from running smoothly in your booth, or send your displays on an unscheduled trip around the world. To keep things copacetic, begin with the exhibitor kit or manual provided by the show organizer. It used to be a thick folder or binder; now many are found online at the show’s web site.

First Things First

Read the show manual. No, really. Get to know the show schedule, your booth location, hotel info, everything. Take all of the move-in and move-out dates, shipping deadlines, etc., and put them into your calendar with alarms. Look for any and all forms the exhibitor is expected to fill out, and gather them together. Take all of the deadlines on the forms and put them in your calendar with alarms. If you are more of a visual organizer, print out and hang up the calendar so all the dates are staring you in the face.

 

The Nitty Gritty

Now it’s time to dive in head first. After gathering all of the exhibitor forms, you truly see that every little thing requires paperwork, from carpeting to shipping to a security guard. You can eliminate any of the forms you won’t need– like that security guard! For instance, if you do not have an overhead banner that needs to be hung from the ceiling, you don’t need the forms for hanging signs or rigging. The forms that remain are yours to fill out and send in before the individual deadlines.

 

Show Me the Money

Meeting the deadlines on the forms is critical to assure that you get the things you need for your booth on time. But that’s not all. It goes way deeper than that– deep enough to hit your company’s bottom line. The deadlines also mark the cutoff for the best prices. You get the form to the right person before the deadline, you save money. You decide later that you want something else, you’re going to pay more than you would have. You pay the highest prices (and are inconvenienced) if you order something during the actual show. It pays saves to be organized.

 

Double Check

Many expo venues supply a neutral color carpet to all exhibitors. But don’t assume! What if this particular expo does not supply carpet? Do you want your beautiful display sitting on an ugly, stained concrete floor? And do your back and your feet want you standing on said floor? Use the exhibitor manual to be absolutely certain what is included with the rental of your booth space. If they don’t provide it, you’ll need to fill out a form to get it.

 

Know Who Gets What Paper 

Were you supposed to send that form to the show organizer or the decorator? Or was that supposed to go straight to the electrician? In addition to filling out the paperwork accurately, it has to go to the correct person, or all is for naught. The majority goes to the show organizer (the company managing the expo) or the decorator (the company supplying the carpet, chairs, drapes, etc.). But sometimes you need to send it to a third-party vendor. After you send it, ask for confirmation. Follow up on everything to get a formal confirmation or even just an informal email acknowledgement.

 

Did We Order That?

Finally, send a copy of all these papers to the show with the head of your booth staffers. If any questions arise, your people have all the completed forms and confirmations with them, enabling speedy resolution of the issue. Send it however it works best for your staff– a hard copy, or a PDF on their tablet or device.

 

The paperwork phase of trade show preparedness is tedious but, in the long run, it can save the company thousands of dollars in late fees and last-minute orders. When the show is over, please recycle all that paper!

 

What are your thoughts on this? We’d like to hear your comments!

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