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Those Who Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

It’s January and I know everyone is just recovering from the holidays, but TradeShow Teacher is energized and ready to start 2013 with a bang. This is the time of year when everyone is trying to make good on those New Year’s resolutions. We all go into each New Year with plans to make this coming year the best yet. Maybe you planned to start exercising or spend more time with the family.

Whatever it is you want to achieve in day-to-day life or when it comes to tradeshows, it all starts with a great plan.

Today’s lesson is all about planning. You know what they say about good planning: “To be prepared is half the victory.” “A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.” And, of course, you’ve heard: “Bad planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”

What it all boils down to is thinking ahead so that you’re ready for whatever comes your way. It works in life and it definitely works for tradeshows. Since I know everyone has a lot on their plate with the new year just starting, I’m going to highlight some quick and easy ways to help you plan before you get anywhere near the show floor.
Review the show website
Sorry, students. I didn’t mean to raise my voice, but I can’t stress enough how important this is. The show’s website contains valuable information, such as exhibitor lists and networking events. The website is your best friend, and it is truly the essential tool in helping you make the most of your show.

Take a calendar and mark the timeframe you will be in the show’s city. Now, mark off the actual show hours and then start filling in the time around it. Enter the items that have fixed schedules first, which will make it possible to get the most out of the time you still have available. Even if last minute things come up, you’ll have a good part of your day planned out and you won’t waste valuable time trying to make appointments or track people down while you’re there.

Create a show folder that you’ll keep attached to you the whole time. This folder should have all your show documentation, your travel information, your calendar, your specific booth information, purchase orders, invoices, etc. Anything and everything connected to the show should be kept in one easy-to-reach place. If you want to be really prepared, you can scan all this information into a folder on your laptop so you can easily access from anywhere and guaranteed never to lose it.

Here’s a tip that may seem obvious, but it’s frequently overlooked. Before the show, make sure you have a ton of business cards. If you’re low, get more printed. I’m constantly surprised by the number of people who run out of business cards during a show. Make sure you bring at least three times as many as you think you’ll need.

Have you utilized MapYourShow.com? If not, you should check it out. MYS offers an entire suite of show management software solutions. From online, onsite and mobile support, MYS features everything show managers need to successfully execute their shows. If you haven’t had occasion to check it out yet, you probably will soon since they currently provide services to over 200 tradeshows, such as IMTS, CES and other popular and very well-attended shows. I’ve used their service a number of times now, and I find that they make planning very easy, both for me and my exhibiting clients.

Create paper forms and have them available to capture leads. Even if you have an electronic lead-capturing system, it’s a good idea to have paper forms available as backup. Maybe your booth becomes too busy for the device to handle the traffic, or maybe you experience technical difficulty with the electronic system. The last thing you ever want to happen at a show is to miss capturing valuable leads. Just knowing you have a backup plan in place will ease your mind – believe me.

Again, this was just a few items from my ever-growing arsenal of pre-planning tips. For more tips for improved planning and exhibiting results, visit www.tsteacher.com/resources/tradeshow_teacher_trade_show_tips.php.

Okay, class it’s time for your homework. We’ll meet again in February. Class is dismissed.

Dennis Waitley (an American motivational speaker and author of self-help books) once said “Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.”
• What unwelcome surprises have you encountered on the show floor?
• What planning steps have you taken since that have better prepared you to not stumble upon these types of surprises?

Linda Musgrove is founder and president of TradeShow Teacher, an award-winning tradeshow management and marketing firm. Linda, along with her team of specialists, focuses on assisting companies increase trade show ROI through a comprehensive results driven formula. The author of “The Complete Idiots Guide to Trade Shows,” published by Alpha Books/Penguin Publishing, Linda is a regular expert contributor to several industry publications and sites. Learn more at www.tsteacher.com and sign up for the FREE monthly Trade Show Tactics newsletter. Follow on Twitter at: twitter.com/tsteacher or e-mail: info@tsteacher.com.

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