Planning and managing a tradeshow can be both exciting and overwhelming. There are a lot of details to provide prior to, during, and after the event. One of the most important aspects is managing your vendors. Because they’re taking their time and resources to be there, you want to be sure to manage their expectations and provide them with accurate information throughout.
Our Vendor Experience
We’ve been vendors at numerous tradeshows throughout the years and wanted to share one of our latest experiences as an example of what not to do and help you learn how to better serve your vendors.
We recently attended a tradeshow as exhibitors in order to meet and network with event and meeting planners in a different part of the state.
It was a one-day show that promised to bring in as many as 500 event and meeting planners. In order to extend our reach and visibility in the community we took the plunge and paid the booth fee, hired labor for travel and hosting the booth. On top of this, we created new graphics for a fresh look and produced flyers and additional collateral to furnish our booth. Preparation wasn’t cheap – we put in several thousand dollars to make this happen as vendors.
One cost saver was that the event was from 3-7 PM and didn’t require an overnight stay. We arrived and setup in four hours, had a pleasant check-in experience, and were able to grab lunch at the local café before the show began.
Less Than Expected
After doors opened, there was a VERY light crowd. We thought attendance would increase, but boy were we wrong. The expected crowd of 500 turned into a potential 100 and by the end we only saw about 25 meeting planners.
To say we were disappointed in the turnout is an understatement. To say the show was well organized, well, I’m just not going there. This was especially surprising with a room filled of vendors with extensive meeting and event planning experience.
Taking Advantage of Our Situation
To turn this negative experience into a positive one, we spent our time visiting with other vendors. We were able to set future appointments with them and have in depth conversations with the few meeting planners we were able to find in the slim group that attended.
Vendors are the core of tradeshows, so it’s important that you understand how to best serve them in order to ensure the success of current and future tradeshows. Learn our top tips for vendor management and appreciation from our most recent tradeshow experience below.
Here are a few ways tradeshow organizers can better serve their vendors:
1) Offer a vendor hospitality room
Although we weren’t there for a long amount of time, a place to put our coats and grab a water and small snack would have been nice. Any time you have people standing on a hard floor for a long amount of time, it’s nice to have a place for them to get away. Even for five minutes.
2) Underpromise and over deliver
Gather friends and friends of friends that are in the demographics you promised and make sure you deliver on the promises of attendees made. Trade shows are expensive ventures for your vendors so make sure you deliver the crowd.
3) Pay special attention to noise levels
Keep music and presentations to a level where the attendees and vendors can have a conversation. We could not hear the people that attended our booth and they couldn’t hear us over the very loud bands that had been booked to play during the event.
4) Make sure your deliverables are outlined and clear
I was told by the tradeshow intern that I would get a list of attendees. In this group the attendees this probably didn’t make that much of a difference, as they turned out not to be my audience. However, there was one person whose business card I didn’t get that I would have really liked to communicate with later. I was later told by the organizer that no list would be delivered. I understand that several of the other vendors were expecting a list as well. This should be clearly outlined for both the vendors and the attendees.
5) Offer incentives to help pull in attendees
For the companies and meeting and event planners in this area, an educational series or discussion might have made the difference deciding to attend. Tapping into the speakers’ or performers’ social media followers could have also increased the opportunity to reach more of the audience and incentivizing them to attend.
6) Don’t forget signage and/or mapping
Make sure there is a banner for each booth to hang on the drape at the back of the booth. If the vendor has their own signage, this is a waste of money but if they don’t, this would have certainly helped to identify the vendors. In this case, those were not provided and several vendors didn’t have any signage to identify them.
We know it’s a lot of work to put on a tradeshow, we know that there are a bazillion things to manage, but keep in mind that your vendors have paid you money to attend and are expecting what you promised in return. They too, have taken a risk of time and money to be there and it can be quite costly for them. Make sure you deliver!