How to Plan a Trade Show in Smartsheet
by Shauna Wu
Editor's Note: We're re-publishing this popular post where we share our tricks and templates for planning a trade show in Smartsheet.
As a seasoned event marketing professional with over 10 years of experience, I have a passion for connecting companies with their customers through conferences, networking events, and trade shows. As a senior event marketing manager at Smartsheet, I am responsible for leading the strategy, execution, and outcomes for our corporate events including Smartsheet ENGAGE and third-party sponsorships.
When I joined Smartsheet I was thrilled about using our platform to manage events. I only wish I had known about the platform sooner, as it has truly improved the way I work when it comes to planning and executing events.
Trade shows have many moving parts and can be complex to manage. With conference season upon us, I’m sharing my tricks and Smartsheet templates to help you hit the ground running when planning your trade show logistics.
When you first start planning for your trade show, consider all the people that will be involved with planning, from executive sponsor to vendor. From there you can create a workspace in Smartsheet and determine the correct sharing permission levels for all the people you would like to keep informed and involved.
After identifying your key players, begin setting up the core planning sheet for your trade show. We’ve created this template that combines a master work-back schedule with a RACI model to help get you started. Leveraging a RACI model within your work-back schedule can help you identify everyone’s role and hold each team member accountable for their contributions.
There are typically four types of contributors for any given event. These individuals can range from the people on your immediate team, to others across your organization, and vendors outside of your organization. I’ve outlined these contributor types to help you better understand how the RACI model can help you categorize these stakeholders:
Responsible: This is the person who does the work to complete the task. They own or perform an activity to drive results.
Accountable: This is the person responsible for overseeing that the task is done, and done correctly. They hold the power of veto and typically have authority over some or all of the resources.
Consulted: This person may weigh in on the task but is not necessarily responsible for doing the work. They review and provide feedback and may serve as a contributor or content provider.
Informed: These are people who are neither responsible for doing the work, nor overseeing its completion, but who should be kept up-to-date on its progress. These are typically your executives and business owners.
Now that you’ve outlined your stakeholders and their contributor types for your trade show, you can begin setting up your work-back schedule in the template. First, start by entering your event date in the second row. You will see how the preset formulas automatically populate with suggested due dates based on the T-minus formula. This template has a basic timeline set up for trade show planning purposes; larger conferences will typically need longer lead times than this template has set.
One of the biggest challenges in trade show planning is that the information you need to be successful is often scattered across various tools and applications. Information about deadlines and resources will come in through email, attachments, or the Exhibitor Resource Center provided for a specific trade show.
It’s important to establish your work-back as the housing unit for all of these details. At the top of the template, you can find space to link off to your event overview deck, as well as a spot for attaching documents with running meeting notes. This template helps you create a single source of truth, letting you consolidate all the important information you need into one key sheet.
One important task you’ll take on is booking the hotel block for your team. Chances are the trade show will have discounted hotel rooms available, but in many cases event registration is required in order to make the reservation.
To help alleviate some of the headaches this can cause, I recommend proactively booking a block of rooms for your traveling team members that one person is responsible for managing. Blocks can be arranged directly with hotels or through housing agencies. Using this team hotel and registration template, you can manage the pre-booked hotel rooms and event pass allocations all in one place. Automation features allow you to notify your team right away once they have been registered and assigned to a hotel room.
At events, you must be prepared for anything to happen. You never know when you could need tape, scissors, or even a phone or computer charger. To be prepared, you can use this trade show packing template to easily organize your items and confirm their packed status.
By creating this list of tools and items you will need onsite, you can make sure you have everything on hand in case something unexpected happens. It can also be helpful to create an emergency ‘show kit’ consisting of general office and tech supplies that you may need.
When you’re planning a trade show, you often have to ship collateral for your booth, signage, and swag to the event. This template helps you create a manifest for your inbound and outbound shipping assets, so you can easily track them down once you arrive onsite.
This template lets you automatically alert stakeholders when an item has shipped in either direction. Add your shipping labels by attaching them to the designated row and quickly input tracking numbers using the Smartsheet mobile barcode scanning feature.
To help you plan, track, and manage your trade show budget we’ve created this budget template that includes many of the most common trade show line items to help you get started.
Once you have added in all of your line items, you can automate your budget tasks, set reminders, and attach invoices to each budget line item to keep your trade show payments on budget and on time.
As you jump into conference season, these templates are a great place for you to start planning your trade show and I hope they help you to streamline how you track and manage events for your organization.
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