How to Plan an Expo and Not Go Insane

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It’s been a hectic 2 months for me but even more so in the last couple of weeks. I am an Administrative Assistant for a local government agency, so a lot of the daily tasks fall to me. Whether it’s as mundane as making coffee to as complex as making arrangements for health education seminars or making travel arrangements for all my staff, I’m involved.

My most complex task was the most lengthy one: arranging and coordinating the Agency’s Annual Expo for the Elderly. There were times I felt like I was going to have a heart attack and other times, it felt as if things were floating on by without a care. I thought it would be a great idea to share what I’ve learned in coordinating this event so that if ever such a task falls to you, you’ll be prepared and know what to expect in the future.

Supplies Needed:

A large 3 ring binder
Set of at least 8 divider
A Reliable PC with an Office Suite

3 Months Ahead:

  1. Determine what your theme, cause and venue will be.
  2. Become familiarized with your venues and their rules. Some of the questions that you may want to ask are:
    Will Food Be Allowed? What is the occupant capacity of the place? Will amenities such as water, electricity, WiFi be included? Is there a curfew?
  3. Name your Event…create something catchy and fresh that can easily be  remembered for media, participants and guests.
  4. Start thinking about your logo or icon. You want to create a sense of  continuity, so your logo should be used on all media and on any   communication that you make with potential participants and attendees.

Two and a Half Months Ahead:

  1. Start making a list of the local agencies and organizations that would be interested in promoting themselves at your event.
  2. Think outside the box. Include in your list other groups who may not be traditionally involved in such events but may have a common goal. In this instance, I started thinking about cosmetic surgeons, health food stores, wellness and Reiki experts and so on.
  3. Now that you’ve brainstormed your potential participants, create a spreadsheet in Excel or a well made table in Word. You’ll call this your ‘CONTACT LIST‘ and you’ll need to include the following fields for each:
    Organization Name/ Contact Name / Phone Number/ Email / Physical Address / Contacted by: Mail, Email or Phone / Follow-up?
  4. Always contact about 4 times as many people than what you realistically expect. If you get more participants than you projected, you can usually accommodate them at the last second, as this means more money for both you and the booth set up company.

Two Months Ahead:

  1. Start researching and making arrangements with a booth set-up vendor. Here in El Paso, there aren’t a whole lot of these companies so we usually go with the same company for set-up every year.
  2. Get an estimate of about how much the display set up company will charge you to set up your booths. They will charge by the booth and by the amount of stuff being used (tables, chairs, side skirts and so on) so you’ll need to have a projection of about how many participants you are realistically expecting.
  3. Keep Reading by clicking the below link:
  4. Determine how much you will be charging for each booth setup. This depends largely on how many booth vendors  and how much the booth set-up company is charging you.
  5. Start out with mailing informational packets/registration forms to your contacts. Check them off as you go.
  6. Start creating your contact binder now. Set up your binder with the following tabs and it will help keep you in check:
    Master To-Do List / Participant List / Sponsors / Paid Booth / Free Booths / Receipts / Invoices /Transportation (if you plan of shuttling people)

One Month and a Half:

  1. Start following up with the companies you sent a packet to.
  2. Issue receipts as checks for booths start coming in. Make sure you make copies of the receipt you send and that you also document the receipt number on the Excel spread sheet.
  3. Send invoices to those booths that have submitted a registration form but no payment.
  4. Check with your venue to see when a contract is due to be signed.
  5. Start researching pricesThor media. Depending on the size of your event, you may want to consider the following:
    Flyers / Television / Radio / Newspapers / Magazines/ Face-to-Face Interviews

Two Weeks:

  1. Gather a conference of all your participants. Make a list in descending order from highest paid (Sponsors) to lowest (Free Booths).
  2. Their place on the list determines their priority for choosing booths.
  3. Keep a digital map of this layout once it is done. You’ll need to provide it to the Display Services company to determine how many final booths you will need.
  4. At this same meeting determine what each of your participants will provide. Free stuff? Education? Raffles? Write this down in your Excel spreadsheet.
  5. Make a snazzy map + a column to the side of the map showing which booths are giving what. Make 1000 copies of these for Expo attendees.

The Day Before:

  1. Have your display services company set up all the booths, the stage and any chairs during the day. As in, before noontime.
  2. Have your booth participants come in after noontime to set up their equipment and displays.

EXPO Day:

  1. Arrive an hour or two early to ensure that all Expo participants are properly set up and aren’t breaking an venue rules.
  2. If any entertainment fails to show up, have a backup plan. Having an hour of ‘dance’ time or ‘raffle’ time are great time killers.
  3. Walk the venue and ensure all needs are met; if any one is lost, help them. If the bathrooms are less than pleasing, have maintenance attend to it immediately.
  4. Hand out your flyers and any free stuff that you may be giving away. Ensure to direct traffic to your Sponsors primarily, after all, without them your Expo wouldn’t be happening.

So that’s all for now. I know it’s a lot of stuff but if you can follow this guide, our Expo or trade show will go off without a hitch. Always be thorough about everything you do and always keep records. If this is all daunting to you, then enlist the assistance of a trusted (and organized) friend. Oh and here’s a free treat:

Sample Expo Sheet (Sponsors, Paid and Free)

If there is anything I missed or anything you’d like me to elaborate on, email me, comment below or send an @ message to me on Twitter.



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