Strategic Event Planning Guide
Having a predetermined plan for tackling the job of organizing the details for your booth at a trade show can be daunting unless you have a plan that fits into a well-thought-out timeline and some foolproof rules to follow. This is why we say that detailed planning with Event Program Management guarantees success.

Planning Forces Good Decision Making

For a marketing department with a rigorous event schedule, detail planning with program management tools guarantees success. First, all the established dates and times from the service kit need to be examined and analyzed. This will determine how all the moving parts will eventually fit together. These details and timelines force all who participate in trade shows and conferences to quickly gather information and make decisions.  Doing so within a timeframe determined by the information in the service kit not only saves money but helps eliminate errors. 

Information gathering and planning allow for a series of subsequent decisions to be made in an orderly manner. This helps to achieve a final cohesive timeline/plan for the event. As an example, your shipping schedule will be determined based on information in the service kit. The salient point here is that it forces people to make both simple and challenging decisions without procrastination. Meaning there is no second chance for the event. It begins on time and ends on time.

So the quick lesson: Make sure every detail is in place, every item and service is ordered and confirmed. Timing should be aligned for each event, and schedules synced to meet the common goal. Have a backup plan for your backup plan and know which items and services are essential. Doing so will guarantee that you are focused and able to put out fires. For less essential or less noticeable details in the event that sometimes goes wrong, you now have the luxury of time. There’s a saying in the decorating business that’s expressed like this: Do as much of tomorrow’s work today, so when tomorrow goes to hell in a handbasket, you’ll still have time to deal with it! 

Different Types of Timelines – Different Types of Decisions

We would like to illustrate a few instances when timelines generally produce positive results. Plus instances where costly repercussions have occurred in the absence of a reasonable timeline.

Examples of Decisions That Impact Multiple Events

Here is a list of decisions that help make up a timeline. All of which have repeat features such as budget approvals and marketing objectives. We make these types of decisions for almost all events, so deciding for one event will be a decision for multiple events.

  1. Purchase promo items for the entire event schedule to reduce cost
  2. Making timely decisions on hotel accommodations allows an organization to make reservations in advance, thus guaranteeing the availability of accommodations and fewer Uber fares.
  3. Securing booth space in an event generates a booth number. Having a booth number allows marketing and sales to see what competitors are adjacent to them on the show floor. It also gives them the ability to use the booth number for promotional campaigns directed toward prospective attendees.
  4. Having a plan in advance for significant assets such as the exhibit booth itself saves money on last-minute ordering and shipping and rush fees.
  5. Planning and executing a timeline set an expectation for all who participate in this activity and the organization. Team members will follow your lead leading to subsequent decisions for lesser details which are part of the overall plan.

Specific Event Action Timelines & Decisions for Individual Events

What specific disasters at events can the implementation of a tight timeline prevent?

  1. Failure to follow ordering timelines causes the cost of almost anything ordered from a service kit to be 30% more expensive. An example of this would be missing deadlines for ordering carpet, electrical, and furniture.
  2. Missing the delivery date at the advance warehouse for your freight will generally increase the cost by about 25%.
  3. Forgetting to notify your shipping company to pick up the show freight after the event or arriving late can double the cost of returning the freight.
  4. Failure to provide a floorplan for your electrical drops will cause a delay in your installation. It will now need to be installed on overtime at one and a half or double the standard outrageous rate.

 6 Key Aspects of a Good Program Management

  1. Predictability, Predictability, and Predictability. Or lack thereof! Until you become as easy to read as a book in an 18 point font, you better become an exceptional communicator. Your management team knows the drill. Until they see you executing as good or even better than others have done, there will be many anxious moments. Solution: Create forms that illustrate precisely how you collect information, execute each event’s details, and share those with your client.
  2. Create a Financial Check in the form of a budget before each event. All events should have running totals of all expenditures. This will include all items that your program management activities are planning to spend. Share this with the people who manage the budget before the event, so there are no surprises.
  3. Timelines and maintaining them are critical. Ensure that you highlight all critical dates and drop-dead times in your execution of point number 1 above. These would be items such as advance order deadlines and forced freight times. Show your management team that nothing financially can slip by you that will negatively impact the event that you are managing.
  4. Visual Proof is powerful. Whether you are at a show site or managing the setup from home. Have your I & D company on deck to produce a simple photo. The power of an image is immense. This simple step allows you to forward proof of a successful setup to your sales and marketing team. This will put their mind at ease. You can then correct simple mistakes or errors with the luxury of having time on your side.
  5. Financial Accountability is essential because every company’s accounting department demands receipts for each expenditure in almost real-time. When expenses don’t have the proverbial paper trail,  somebody will be all over it, which initiates the endless stream of emails. These then go back and forth from accounting to management to vendor and back and forth again and again. Like you did with your timelines, create a process that records and matches every expenditure with the company credit card. When you become predictable with the company’s credit card handling, trust is created, which builds a successful relationship with a long future.
  1. Surprises and Program Management are words you never want to see in the same sentence. Sometimes they can’t be helped, but they can be managed and minimized if appropriately addressed. Properly means addressing issues immediately! To make this happen, you have to put yourself in a position to see what is happening. The sooner the better which will allow you the luxury of time to initiate a solution. Something as simple as arriving at the show site the day before move-in and inspecting the freight on the show floor is all it takes.
  2. The Exhibit Team – Good show site management means knowing what sales team members management is sending to the show. Knowing this will ensure that you’re predictable in terms of their expectations too. Have their name and phone number handy should you have questions. Be proactive to send them information. Regardless of good or bad, keep them in the know. Prevent them from having an anxiety attack upon entering the show hall.
  3. Wrapping it All Up! As you direct all the company show site plans, your goal is to orchestrate a flawless event. You can do everything right throughout the entire event, but unless you wrap it up and put a pretty bow on it, it’s still unfinished. Providing your management a recap of the event suitable for review by the finance department. This will show that choosing your staff to handle the job was not only astute but pure genius!

As program management grows inside your organization, always be open, honest, and predictable. This will create a relationship that can withstand some knocks here and there, which will undoubtedly come. With as many moving parts that trade shows create and program managers try to control, something will always go sideways. However, detail planning with Program Management helps to guarantee success. As a program management professional, you can create processes that allow you to discover mistakes. Doing it early enough in the timeline will you give you a great chance to succeed.

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