Organising A Trade Expo Stand: #2 of 3

March 01, 2023

In our previous blog post Planning A Trade Expo we outlined what we planned for our trade expo stand at Melbourne Gift & Lifestyle, 4-6 February 2023.

Here's what we did in order.

Two months out from the expo we secured our corner position and paid a 25% deposit to the Expertise Events organisers.

It is ideal if you can book your expo stand three months or more in advance as that gives you more time to organise your display, to take advantage of any payment plans, and to market it to existing and potential clientele. As it was, just three days later, the deadline to supply our marketing information for the printed directory would have passed.

Expertise Events' portal was excellent, allowing exhibitors to "tick off" tasks such as ordering your name badges, stand signage, items such as lighting and power for your stand, as well as additional marketing items. It also detailed the preferred suppliers who are well-acquainted with the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre (MCEC).

We had 90 words or less to promote our new range of watercolour wine region map tea towels in the expo directory (printed and online). You have to imagine that someone has never seen your product before, and make it as easy to understand with the best representative photo of your range to entice them to make the visit to the show and to your stand.

Power placement
Next we looked at the mechanics of our stand. Every stand needs a minimum of one power point (from which you can run a powerboard for multiple outlets) for charging your laptop, mobile phone or Square reader - you may need more powerpoints and a much higher order than the standard 10 Amps if you have an elaborate stand. You have to consider the best placement for it, which in our case was in the top left corner, away from visitors so there were no tripping hazards.

Internet access at the expo
Like other exhibitors we had to consider our internet requirements. You simply cannot rely on the free wifi in an expo hall, considering potentially hundreds of exhibitors and visitors will be accessing it simultaneously weakening the availability of a good signal. After getting a quote for $240/day ($720 for a 3-day expo) for internet access from MCEC, we decided to buy a Telstra dongle for $150.

Printing the Octanorm wall panels
We had used credit within our iStock account to purchase an image of a set of limewashed wooden wall panels which would be printed onto removable vinyl panels to cover our walls to evoke the wine cellar look.

Next we needed a quote for getting 5 x 100cm wide x 240cm high panels printed.

The quote from the organiser's preferred supplier for the supply, installation, freight (for a long tube of graphics!) and GST came to nearly $3,400. So we hunted around and found VividAds which was running a pre-Christmas special and ordered the panels for $486.

Rigging for lighting
If you're suspending lighting above your stand as we planned with our 15kg faux antler chandelier, you may need to book rigging. In the cavernous, 5m-high+ halls of the MCEC which requires a cherry picker and a minimum two-person installation, this cost mounted quickly with quotes from $1,580 and $1,980. Unsurprisingly, we chose the cheaper option.

Marketing our expo stand
Around the same time, Expertise Events emailed us about marketing our stand to our clients. We engaged Russell McIntosh of TradeShow Training to help us maximise our marketing and expo presence as well as to work on the stand during the show. He suggested tips for our stand layout, business cards and DL postcards, realistic goals to set, effective sales approaches as well as what to email prospective businesses.

Mapping out our stand space
We mapped out our 2m deep x 3m wide stand on the floor at home, with masking tape. Happily, the expo stand dimensions fitted perfectly with Bunnings astroturf rolls which each measured 1m wide x 3m long, so we just needed two of them.

With the slat wall display stand, pressed metal bar, wooden wine barrel and black Tolix bar stools, Russell suggested we delete the bar stools. There wasn't going to be enough space on the stand and he said it is far easier and faster to engage with prospective clients if you're standing and not sitting down. 

As Expertise Events doesn't reveal its visitor registration numbers, it made it hard to estimate how many gift industry people would be attending the show.

We used Vistaprint to design and print the 500 business cards and 500 DL postcards for $197.98 and spent $203 on 7 x 50cm x 70cm frames from Ikea to suspend the frames. We made a second trip to Ikea to buy the A1 frame for the promotional specials and for the overdoor hooks from which we'd suspend the seven frames on the walls.

Lead scanning
The Expertise Events app included a lead scanning option. By focusing our iPhone on the attendee's QR code on their lanyard, we could capture their contact information. You could customise the lead questions too. What also saved time and helped us qualify visitors was checking what type of business they were - gift store, newsagent, museum etc - and asking which wine region/s they were interested in, if applicable. 

Russell suggested we plan a series of follow-up emails determined by their type of business and regional preference.

In his experience, few exhibitors are organised enough to have created their emails in advance, and once they finally send them - often two week or later after the expo - their attendees' memories and interest have dimmed. As well, by then their prospective clients had often spent their allocated new product budget.

Miscellaneous items
In the week prior to the expo were a number of small and/or inexpensive but necessary tasks that seemed to chew up time.

These included ironing the tea towels and framing them, assembling the antler chandelier and the display stand, getting the laptop, powerboard and chandelier tagged and tested by our electrician, booking the van hire to bump in and bump out, coordinating the timing of the guys to rig the chandelier, organising a Square reader to accept in-person payments, ordering the gift hamper contents and the branded aprons.

We ordered three branded aprons from an Etsy seller before Christmas and contacted them on 17 January after the aprons hadn't arrived. The aprons seemed to have gotten lost in Australia Post so we finally bought three white bar aprons from Chef's Hat and took them to the embroidery kiosk in Southland.

Next blog post: Lessons from a trade expo