Managing Exhibits

Exhibits provide face-to-face marketing environments that bring buyers and sellers together.  Held in conjunction with conferences, they provide an extension of the educational experience that adds measurable value to the attendee and exhibitor.  

Exhibitions are complex events whose success depends upon meticulous planning and execution. Planning and managing conference exhibits is a challenge for most conference organizers. IEEE recommends that you hire an exhibit management company, also known as a General Service Contractor (GSC), to sell and manage your exhibit space. This is especially helpful if your conference has more than a few tabletop exhibits, or has other complex requirements.

 

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Hiring an Exhibit Management Company

The Exhibits Committee must create a Request for Proposal (RFP) and get bids from several companies. Always ask for references and contact those references before moving to contract. 

An exhibit management company handles the logistics of planning and managing your exhibit space

  • Material Handling – Shipping, moving, and storing
  • Exhibit Booth set-up and tear-down services
  • Aisle and booth carpeting
  • Booth furniture
  • Graphic design and production of signs 
  • Electrical services
  • Registration counters and entrance units
  • Poster boards
  • Exhibitor service kit creation and dissemination
  • Floor plan layout/Fire Marshal approval
  • Direct exhibitor interface

Preparing a Budget

Prepare a detailed budget for the exhibition as part of the overall conference budget. Important items to include:

  • Anticipated income from booth sales
  • Cost of setting up exhibition booths
  • Cost of securing exhibition area and facilities
  • Marketing and promotional expenses
  • Liability and cancellation insurance
  • Decoration, storage, utilities, security, and other expenses
  • Fees for an exhibit management company, including a commission schedule and anticipated travel expenses
*All items below are the responsibility of the Conference if an Exhibit Management Company is not contracted.

Designing the Space

A well-designed floor plan is fundamental to the success of the exhibit.  Design with options for reconfiguration, if needed. Find out if your conference space has any restrictions or guidelines regarding booth sizes, lighting, sign locations, and other exhibit-space related details. Consider the traffic flow carefully, with specific attention to the following:

  • Location of food & beverage stations
  • Activities in exhibit spaces that stop or divert traffic, e.g., demonstrations or presentations
  • Placement and number of entrances and exits (access and egress)
  • Location of registration, meeting rooms, and other key areas
  • Directional signs, barricades, product locators, booth numbers, and aisle signs

Developing the Exhibitor Prospectus

The sales prospectus provides a detailed description of the conference, a statement that conveys benefits they will derive from participating, important dates, target audience, exhibitor packages, pricing, sponsorship opportunities, floorplans, past exhibit companies listing, registration instructions, lead retrieval options, etc.

The information in the exhibitor prospectus will help you to attract and sign up exhibitors. Exhibitors participate in Exhibitions to generate sales leads from new prospects or existing customers; enter new markets (geography, product type or both); assist dealers and distributors to sell; educate customers about products and services and promote awareness of their company.  Know your audience and keep the ROI for them and the exhibitors in mind in your construction of the benefits prospectus offerings.

Creating an Exhibitor Service Kit

The service kit is sent to contracted exhibitors and includes the floor plan for exhibitors to select their booths, exhibitor move-in and move-out dates and times, carpet rental, kiosk rental, etc. approximately six to eight weeks before the conference, or it is posted on the conference website.

The kit should include:

  • Hotel and exhibits-hall layout
  • Conference schedule
  • Exhibit-hall schedule
  • List of service contractors
  • Rates for furniture, decorations, and equipment
  • Set-up and tear-down dates
  • Exhibition-space rules and regulations
  • Shipping instructions
  • Security and insurance information
  • Pricing and order forms for vendors and contractors
  • Electrical, telephone, and Internet services

Exhibit Sales & Promotion

The Exhibits Committee provides leads and direction to solicit exhibitors. Select committee members who have extensive industry connections and knowledge so they can reach as many potential exhibitors as possible. Use industry magazines, electronic media, digital tools, social media or similar topic conferences to identify potential exhibitors. Solicitation to previous exhibitors is a good place to start.

  • Initialize contact, send email blasts regularly, conduct all follow ups with potential exhibitors, finalizing the details of their exhibit/sponsorship packages, issuing invoices and collecting payment
  • Ensure exhibitor satisfaction with all aspects of the process up to and including the start of the conference
  • Obtain logos, URLs, and 25-word company abstracts for inclusion on the conference website, conference materials (program book, signage, giveaways, etc.).
  • Ensure delivery and execution of all sponsorship items outlined in agreements

Onsite Exhibit Management

Work with the venue and all vendors to ensure that the exhibition is executed seamlessly.  

  • Monitor/Supervise exhibit move in/move-out; Oversee hanging of banners, placement of signs, entrance units.  Ensure that all are positioned properly and do not violate any fire codes
  • Begin pre-sales for next year’s exhibition 
  • During the exhibit:  circulate through exhibitors to answer questions and resolve any issues during exhibition hours
  • Arrange for shipping and handling of exhibits, if exhibit management company is not used
  • Hire security guards to protect the exhibits when the conference is not in session

Post-Evaluation

Be sure to survey both attendees and exhibitors post conference on the overall exhibit experience to assist in future exhibit planning.  Provide exhibitors with attendee information post-conference for those that have opted in through the registration system to share their contact details.

International Considerations

Outside the U.S., exhibitions may be held in facilities with permanent stands or shell scheme configuration and are measured in meters.  Custom Brokers or Freight Forwarders will need to be contracted to assist with shipping.

We Are Here to Help

If you have questions about managing exhibits, please contact the MCE team.