From good idea to making it happen: Putting together a consumer show

* Translated from the article that appeared in the May issue of ExpoMag

People who have a passion for something, anything, always welcome the opportunity to share it with their peers at a consumer show. Attending conferences, going around gathering samples and literature, meeting fans or stars, and dressing up as your favourite character are all part of the fun associated with these collective experiences.

Often, when no such event exists, these same people set about creating one, which spells good news for consumer show fans everywhere! Whether it’s about being active, hobbies, or interests like the environment or the outdoors, all subject matters and new trends have the potential to trigger events that draw crowds.

Just as often, these future event promoters lack event planning and organizing expertise, so getting the right support becomes essential. Thankfully, help is available from a variety of sources, e.g. tourism offices, convention and exhibition centres, or service providers like audiovisual or decoration companies. Organizing an event is about teamwork, and the parties involved are always happy to play a role in the process of shaping a new initiative.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

If you want your event to be well attended, it needs to be accessible. Based on the consumers you want to attract, determine whether you need to consider parking, public transit, or both! Will there be heavy or large-size items on the exhibition floor? If yes, find a venue with high ceilings and check the floor’s load bearing capacity. If you’re looking to organize a green event, make sure the venue is certified to provide green services.

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Event space providers are often equipped with tools designed to shepherd new promoters through the development of their project. This includes information on the various steps of starting up an event. E.g. event promoters are required to be duly incorporated under provincial or federal law. Foreign firms must be duly registered in their country of origin. Starting up your event requires, among other things:

  • Determining:
    • when you’d prefer to hold your event (make room for a few options)
    • which days of the week
    • room requirements: how many and what size
    • room setup: theatre-style, classroom-style, etc.
    • the type of 10 x 10 booths
    • the estimated number of days required: setup, exhibition, takedown
  • Assessing the number of exhibitors – Defining the event’s structure:
    • Exhibition only
    • Exhibition with conferences/workshops
    • Exhibition with demonstrations
    • Exhibition with food concessions
  • Settling on a ticketing system:
    • No ticketing service
    • Onsite box office only
    • Onsite box office and online ticketing service
  • Reading and learning about the venue you are interested in, e.g. information found on their website
  • Determining your overall budget, including the venue rental

Using this as your general outline of the event you’d like to host, you can now move on to finding your venue, and when warranted, scheduling visits so you can scout the venues and pick the right one.

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Once you’ve fleshed out the general idea of the event, found your venue and started the process of finalizing the programming, it’s time to tackle logistics and publicity. More specifically:

  • Ascertaining your needs in terms of:
    • services (rigging, plumbing, electricity, merchandise handling, etc.)
    • staff, i.e. greeters, coat check
    • internet (organizers, exhibitors, visitors)
    • audiovisual (projection, sound, etc.)
    • food services (organizers, exhibitors, visitors)
    • ticketing
    • visibility
  • Looking into sponsorship revenue opportunities
LET’S TALK BUDGET

Sound planning is the key to booking an event without losing your shirt! There are many expenses to consider, but also numerous revenue sources you can tap into. Seize every opportunity out there. Renting the space in which to host your exhibition will definitely constitute your biggest expense. Make sure you ask which services are included in the rental fee. Often, the fee will include offices for the event’s promoter, registration or storage areas, building security and housekeeping services. Below are some of the costs that need to be factored in, by either the party renting the space or the suppliers working the event:

  • Labour for room setups
  • Rigging
  • Electricity hookups
  • Plumbing
  • Coat check
  • Security
  • Nurse’s/First aid station
  • Housekeeping (during and post event)
  • Telecommunications and internet services
  • Ticketing and greeting services (operating expenses and/or royalties)
  • Food and beverage
  • Audiovisual (microphone, screen, projector, staff, etc.)
  • Decoration (booth, handling, labour, etc.)
  • Parking
  • Lodging
  • Advertising and graphic design services
  • Speakers, host, spokesperson
  • Customs clearance
  • Transportation (deliveries, travel expenses, storage fees)
REVENUE OPPORTUNITIES

The list of expenses might seem long, but the range of possible revenue sources is also quite extensive, e.g. participant registration fees, signups for specific activities, booth rentals for exhibitors, sponsorship plan, merchandising, subsidies/grants or other funding operations.

Take the time to inquire about the advertising opportunities the venue offers. For instance, some venues are equipped with event technology organizers can use to not only promote their event but also sell ad space to sponsors and generate some serious income. Wi-fi access portals, dynamic signage, poster displays – a multitude of possibilities. All you need is a little creativity to provide both your sponsors and visitors with an exceptional experience. When you integrate sponsors and exhibitors in your communication plan, they become allies in spreading the word about your event to as many people as possible.

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SHIFT INTO ACTION MODE

Once you’ve hammered out your needs and drafted your budget, next is making your event happen. Here, the support of a dedicated event manager assigned to your event by the event venue can make all the difference in terms of advising you throughout the logistical planning process. Your manager will liaise with team members and service providers to ensure everything runs smoothly every step of the way during the setup, the actual event, and the post-event takedown. Your manager also knows the venue inside out, so s/he will be able to recommend creative ways of using the event spaces at your disposal. Think of your manager’s knowledge of the premises as a Pinterest board you can draw inspiration and practical solutions from. Also, make sure the venue assigns someone to the exhibition floor during the event, to handle last-minute adjustments.

POST MORTEM

After the event, once everyone has slept a few hours, it is essential that you perform a thorough review of the experience and take stock of what went right and what could be improved upon, for the next edition of your event. Also, take the time to reply to the satisfaction surveys from your sponsors and suppliers, to give them the opportunity to improve how they do things as well. Proper feedback facilitates the process of tweaking your operations to better meet your customers’ needs.

Is putting together an event a lot of work? Of course. But the sight of thousands of visitors sharing a common interest and experience, eager for new information, instantly makes it all worthwhile. Teamwork, sponsors, suppliers – they all make everything so much easier. The support is there, avail yourself of it by developing ties that will foster success!

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