Trade show season officially gets underway next week with the NEFA Equipment Finance Summit in New Orleans, La., and we’ll have a team in attendance ready to go. But before introductions can be made and business cards exchanged, our Marketing team was busy making travel arrangements and collateral, identifying giveaways and so much more. Here’s a few behind the scenes things to remember the next time you plan a trade show.

Preparations start weeks (and sometimes months) in advance. From booking travel and reserving hotel rooms for your team, to getting the booth packaged and shipped so it will arrive on time and not damaged, attending a trade show is an intricate process. You’ll have to make sure all of your collateral is updated, printed and ready, and that any handouts you’ll need are at your disposal. Throw in any extracurricular activities the conference host may have planned, and all of a sudden, you’re planning your two- or three-day trip three months in advance.

You need to have a Plan B. And a Plan C. What do you do if your booth doesn’t make it on time? Where did that box of branded somethings-or-anothers go? Why is the Sales team still in Chicago and not in Atlanta? Even though you feel like you’ve planned for the perfect trade show, ensuring it actually sticks to the script is out of your hands. What’s not out of your hands is having your collateral on a flash drive so you can get it printed off quickly in a pinch, or coordinating with the hotel staff to provide refreshments at your booth in the event your branded giveaways don’t make it. Just plan on having things go differently than how you planned.

Share what’s happening on your social media channels. Getting social at conferences can be a great way to reach more than just conference attendees. Leveraging your company’s social media channels to chronicle the day’s events, starting discussions about what’s happening on the trade show floor and even engaging your customer-base that can’t make it not only grows your online presence, but also shows that your company is actively invested in the industry it serves. Just remember to use that conference-specific hashtag.

You can’t be everywhere. And that’s okay. It’s easy to spread yourself or your team too thin by trying to attend everything out there that is remotely related to your product or industry. But with trade shows, it’s important to think quality and not necessarily quantity. For the amount of effort (see above) and money that goes into attending a trade show, the last thing you want to do is have a burnt-out booth of employees ready to hit the road by 10 a.m. on day one. Identifying conferences in advance where your company will see the most gain is obviously the best place to start. Once you’ve locked down attendees for these top conferences, you can then see where else you can plug in the pieces to make other conferences work.

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