Tradeshow season: some of us live for them while some of us run. Personally, I’m all about them and you should be too.

The logistics, scheduling, vendor management, micro-managing, budgeting, and executing of a polished project takes a special skillset and for whatever reason, some of us have it while some of us don’t.

Like you, I remember trying to figure everything out. Below you’ll find 10 tips to help you achieve your coffee exhibitor tradeshow dreams – or at least not having reoccurring convention hall nightmares.

1. The Exhibitor Kit

No matter what tradeshow you are registering for, the organizing body will provide you with an exhibitor kit. In that kit, you’ll find

  • Utility Service Order Form
  • Set Up, Show & Break Down times
  • Payment Forms
  • Shipping Options
  • Rental Options (Furniture, Floral, Decoration, etc.)
  • Labor Rates

These documents are your lifeline between having a great experience and a terrible one. Read every page and ask questions early.

Many convention centers have an exclusive contract for drayage, shipping, labor, and a whole lot more. If their contract is exclusive, you must use them. Ask the trade show representative for more information about vendor relationships. There are a lot of rules governing what happens on the trade show floor (especially regarding labor). You won’t be able to bring your forklift to the show to save cash – even if you ask nicely.

You’ll also receive emails, paperwork, and links for non-exclusive vendors as well. You might not need to use them, but ask to be sure.

2. Planning

Nearly every trade show at which I’ve managed a booth offered an early bird discount. It’s the easiest way to save money. And while you’re planning ahead, you might as well book flights and accommodations, especially if you are planning on staying in the official hotel. Don’t get caught paying more than you need.

You’ll also want to think about shipping and graphics. How long will it take for you to ship your crate? Your UPS items? Don’t make your staff carry everything. What about your promotional materials? How long is your printers turnaround time? No one likes to pay for rush service.

While you are planning, be sure to create checklists for what you need to ship, what you need to bring & what you’ll need to procure once you arrive.

3. Your Goals

In many ways, this is your first step. Speak with your team and ask the group

  • What do we want to achieve?
  • Who will lead and support?
  • What is our budget?

4. Your Booth

This is the fun part. Start with your booth position. Having a corner 10 x 10 booth will drastically change your service strategy vs a 20 x 20 island booth.

I’ve always believed that a company’s booth should reflect the company. While walking into an Apple Store is an incredible experience, that aesthetic might not make the most sense for your booth. As Anthony Bourdain says “good is good forever.” If you have a story to tell (and great coffee to serve), tell it and present it just like you would in your facility or with your clients.

How will you drive people to your booth? Giveaways? Promotions? Why should people stop at your booth – get creative and help attendees discover you.

5. The Coffee

Stop. Take a minute and think about what makes your coffee program special. Don’t step outside of your element. If you are reading this, you are probably in the coffee business. Coffee people can smell inauthentic a mile away. Your booth should be a reflection of who you are and nothing says that more than your coffee program. If you’ve never roasted Geisha, now is not the time to pull single origin Geisha shots. Showcase the coffee program that’s made you successful – that’s what people want to experience.

6. The Equipment

“I drank all the coffee at the show – and yours is the best” – that’s what you want to hear. But how do you pull that off?

Check with your team early and often (especially those brewing and serving) to consider all the items needed: hot water source, smallwares, should we serve espresso? – all of these micro-decisions will have major implications on your coffee service. When in doubt, reach out to your equipment suppliers – if you ask nicely, they’ll tell you everything you need to know.

Remember, none of this is free, so good planning is essential. Oh – and have all of your power specs handy for when you order your electrical. The convention center has no idea what a Marco T10 is, if it’s better to have a 2 group or 3 group La Marzocco Linea, or if a single 110 outlet will power four Bonavita brewers running simultaneously.

7. Opportunities for Collaboration

The three big coffee trade show organizers – SCA, Coffee Fest & Coffee Con – all offer opportunities to collaborate at the show. Whether to teach courses, host events, volunteer, or [insert your big idea here], there are always options. Reach out to the business development rep early. They want to hear from you.

Additionally, think about who your partners are. Reach out to customers, suppliers, media, etc., as soon as possible to talk about ideas. They too want to hear from you.

Keep in mind, everyone wants to make a splash at the next trade show – you can be the spark that generates the most #trending event at the show.

8. Be Nice to the Event Staff

They are the friendliest and hardest working people in the industry. Who hasn’t had someone from the SCAA or Coffee Fest answer all of their questions, save them from failure, introduced them to a new customer, or asked someone nicely if you could borrow a flo-jet because the vendor sent the European version and you didn’t check before opening the show crate (true story)?  Show staff are amazing and they literally do this for a living – be nice and they might even share few tips (oh – and send them coffee!)

9. Your Team & Your Schedule

Your Team: They will be hungry. They will get headaches. They will be tired. Keep them fed, hydrated, and well-rested, and they’ll make sure everyone loves your coffee.

Your Schedule: Don’t burn the candle at both ends. You won’t be able to do everything. Take some time before the event to map out your experience and prioritize where you need to be versus where you’d like to be. You can’t do it all…and that’s okay.

10. Post-game Analysis & Plan

After landing that new client, saving that one account and hosting the party of century, you are back into your normal rhythm. Within a week, have a sit down with you team to analyze what worked, what didn’t, and the opportunities to improve.

How will you follow up with leads? You just met with a ton of people – what’s next? Don’t let the trade show momentum pass you by. Connect with your team to ensure everyone knows what’s next.

This is just a start. There are tons of strategies to shape and execute a game-changing coffee trade show booth. What are some of yours?

 Originally published on www.PerfectDailyGrind.com