Exhibitor Planning Pt. 1: How to manage booth spaces at your event
Booth spaces at your event can play a crucial role in your event’s success, both as an attraction and as a revenue generator. From a quick glance, selling booth spaces can seem like a simple process…I sell this, they pay me, I give them a booth…but the process for exhibitor management is in fact quite detailed and requires strategic planning to ensure partnership wide success.
Focus on these planning stages to ensure your booth exhibitors are happy, your event attendees are impressed and your execution happens without any major hiccups.
Note: We are using the word Exhibitors in this blog series but you will also see the word Vendor here and within the Industry often used interchangeably.
Determine Your Target Exhibitor:
You wouldn’t solicit a vegan food vendor to participate in your Bacon fest, would you? The correct answer is Maybe, It Depends. From the on set of your planning, determine the types of booth spaces you are looking to fill. For your Bacon Fest, you might be looking to offer an array of “bacon” perspectives to please the dietary requirements of your events target audience. A tempeh or jack fruit variation on traditional bacon could be a unique twist that allows you to attract and please a larger audience. On the other hand, your Bacon Fest might be following strict regulation on what qualifies for entry, and you might be comfortable saying “See you later” to the herbivorous crowd.
Neither one of these situations is right or wrong, but this is an important distinction to make when outlining the types of booth exhibitors you are looking to attend your event.
Set Your Goals:
Step two in your planning process is to outline your goals overall and for specific categories of booths as well as what qualifies for those categories. If you are hosting a community street fair with a come-one-come-all approach to the categories of booth vendors being accepted, you still need to be mindful of the quantities of similar booths at your event. Filling 1/3 of your food booth spaces with ice cream vendors is going to minimize the success for all participants. Each vendor will get less business due to competition, and your event attendees will have a more limited experience. For this example, if you have 10 food booth spaces to sell, you might consider limiting ice cream vendors to 1, or maybe 2, if one booth sells soft serve cones and the other sells ice cream sandwiches.
To give you an idea of outlining your goals, here is an example for a fine art show with 100 booth spaces total.
· Food Vendor Booths – 5 – must be high quality unique fare
· Non-Food Vendor Booths – 5 – must have a product or service for a high-end clientele
· Artist Booths – 9 of each category below – each artist to be juried
o Jewelry | Sculpture | Photography/Digital | Print Make/Drawing | Fiber/Textiles | Painting | Glass | Ceramics | Wood | Mixed Media
Set Your Pricing:
Pricing can be defined in a variety of ways but you want to make sure it is fair and reasonable to your TE (Target Exhibitor) and that they have the ability to cover the booth cost and make enough sales to make a profit. Several items factor in to setting an appropriate pricing system for your booth (event audience, length of event, economic climate, premium locations, etc.) so we will be focusing on this topic in more detail in Part 3 of this Exhibitor Planning series.
Determine What’s Included:
You will want to address this hand-in-hand as you set your pricing, but before you can open up your event for applications, you need to determine what is included in each booth space rental. Is it just the space and the exhibitor must bring all set up equipment? Or, are you providing white tents and a banner to have a more uniform look? Are tables and chairs available for rental through the application? Is power provided or provided at an added cost or not provided at all? Each event is different depending on the unique variables of the location, budget and vision. You need to establish what exactly you’re providing and not providing upfront, so you can efficiently fill your booth spaces.
Now that you have established what you are selling (or even giving away), you need to set up the system for registration. Create an application that details out what each booth vendor gets, pricing information and all regulations. Be thorough in this process and provide as much information upfront as you can including day of instructions and regulations. Review your permit, if applicable, for special guidelines you have to follow at an event and include that information to your individual participants to make sure all recycling, storm drain, electrical, Health and Fire protocols are met. The more information you can provide in one place from the beginning, the more likely it is that there is no error in communication or oversight later on. The relationship is set up to be transparent and forthcoming from the onset.
We recommend digital application formats especially for large events with lots of information to organize. By creating a digital application (Jotform or Google Forms are great tools. Your ticketing company might have an option as well but be mindful of service fees.), you are making the registration process easy for the exhibitor (no printer required!), and you will receive entered data in an already organized and manageable format (gone are the days of manually entering in each companies phone number and address!).
With registration under way and your booths filling up quickly, its time to focus on preparation for the Big Day(s). You might have included your load in / day of instructions in your initial application, but you will want to send them out again prior to the event. Be sure to highlight any changes that have happened since registration began so they are easily noticeable.
Designate your Exhibitor Relations on-site team and collaboratively run through the load in, event and load out processes step-by-step to catch any areas of potential problems and to properly prep your team.
Assign booth spaces to your registered exhibitors, unless you had exhibitors select a booth during registration. Be strategic in where you place booths based on flow of traffic and spreading out categories. This is a key step to reducing problems on-site so have a system for how you are placing booths that aligns with your event strategy.
You’ve arrived! Months of planning have led you to this moment…it’s game time! Meet up with your Exhibitor Relations team on-site and review your processes from start to finish. Physically walk them through the event space so they can see how the booth challenges come into play in real life. Not everyone is a pro at reading event schematics, so giving them time to understand the plan as they see it before them, can create a much smoother system.
Ensure all on-site teams are friendly and welcoming to exhibitors and pumping them up for a great event. Your event attendees will be interacting with the exhibitors, so this is your chance to set the tone for the entire event.
As you monitor exhibitors and make sure everyone is staying in their assigned space and following all safety rules, be kind and transparent with why these items are important to the overall success of the event.
Be proactive in solving problems to ensure all booths have a fair chance. If you notice the line from a neighboring booth creating a barrier, redirect the line using bike rack or other resources. If you observe traffic flow bypassing a row of booths, find an attraction to draw event guests to that area or, time permitting, relocate those exhibitors completely.
Check-in with your booths. Make sure they know who they can come to with concerns and also gratitudes. Ask how you can help make their experience more enjoyable – both immediately and in the future. The feedback they give will give you the best guidance for future improvement.
This overview of Exhibitor Planning gives you the key stages to successfully managing the booth spaces at your event. But don’t worry, we know there are some other areas of detail that you want more info on. Stay tuned for more posts in this series that will get you to Exhibitor Planning Pro status!
Exhibitor Planning Pt. 2: How to sell out booth spaces at your event, and keep them coming back
Exhibitor Planning Pt. 3: How to price booth spaces at your event
Exhibitor Planning Pt. 4: Everything you need for on-site management - checklist included
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenna Thompson
Jenna is a mountain based Yogi with a love for veggie focused foods. When she's not in Warrior Pose you can find her spending time with her Avalanche Rescue Dog Luna with a Matcha Latte in hand!