In this part of your plan, you need to sit down and prepare all of the activities that you need to undertake to ensure that the fair is a success. These activities are discussed below:

Preparing presentation materials (Powerpoint slides, brochures, etc.)

In preparing for your exhibition, you need to think what it is that you want to achieve and what the core message is that you hope to carry over to your stand visitors. The trade fair objectives that you set for yourself earlier on in your trade fair planning will indicate what you hope to achieve, but from this you still need to distil a core message (be it “reliability”, “quality”, “adaptability”, “innovation”, or whatever). This is the message that you will incorporate in your promotional materials, stand design and interaction with potential customers. It is the message that you hope will attract potential customers to do business with you.

Once you have decided what this message is, you need to prepare a presentation that outlines what you want to carry across to your customers. You will probably use a program such as Powerpoint to prepare a number of slides highlighting the key points that you want to make (about your company, about your products, etc.). This presentation you may use at the stand either on an ad hoc basis to example things to a potential customer, or you may use it as a perpetually running background display about your company and products.

You will also use aspects of this information in your other supporting promotional materials and these need to be prepared as well – brochures, flyers, catalogues, price lists, posters, etc. Today, CDs are a powerful way of promoting companies and their products and don’t take up much space. Make sure that your promotional materials are professionally produced – after all they reflect your company and its products.

Preparing your samples

With your objectives in mind, your core message outlined and a framework of a presentation at your disposal, you can now focus on other important issues. One of these is deciding on what samples you will take with you. For some companies, it is sufficient just to have brochures, videos and catalogues available to show clients, but in many other instances, it is much more effective to have actual products to show potential clients. This is especially true if the product has some unique feature which can really only be appreciated when seen and touched by the customer. For this reason you may want to have one or two samples with you for display. In some cases (if the product is small and cheap enough and won’t be duplicated), you may want to give away samples and so you want to have enough samples on hand to give to potential customers. In the case of heavy machinery, you may also want to have this machine on display for visitors to see.

Deciding on what samples you plan to have available at the fair is the first step. The next step is to prepare these samples for the fair – for example, there may be some thing you need to do to the product to ensure that it cannot be copied or to make its unique features more visible (a machine may have a cut-away so that you can see inside the machine). You may also have to specially produce these samples for the fair (perhaps printing your company details on the sample).

You also need to think about how you will package the sample(s) to get them to the fair. A engine may have to be crated, while other samples can be carried in your luggage. You may also have to arrange for the freighting of the samples to the fair, but this we discuss later.

Printing your promotional materials

As we have already prepared the promotional materials, we now have to print them or produce them (in the case of CDs or videos). You will need to make the necessary arrangements for this. Bear in mind that you do not want to run out of promotional material on the stand, so you need to print/produce enough materials to last the time of the fair (and longer, if you will be doing some sales promotion after the fair). At the same time, you don’t want to waste your promotional materials by having them left over and having to either take them back home with you or throw them away. For this reason, the numbers you print or produce need to be carefully thought about, but too much is better than too little. If you see that you will have promotional materials left over towards the end of the show, be more generous and hand them out to everyone, but if you see that you will be short, then hand them out only to the more promising customers. If you have materials left over at the end of the show, these could be passed on to an agent or other representative that you appoint.

Arranging for the design and construction of the stand

Your next big task is to design your stand and arrange for its construction. At this point, there are several possibilities that you could follow. The first possibility is not to make use of any special design features, but only to have a desk and couple of chairs available at the stand, supported by some posters and other promotional material such as pull-up screens that you place on the walls and around the stand (a lot of smaller companies follow this route). Although this may be the cheapest route to follow, it may not carry across a very good impression and needs to be considered as an alternatively only if you are really have serious budgetary constraints.

The better option would be to create a more professional designed stand using either specially designed exhibition materials or off-the-shelf materials. If you think you are creative enough, then maybe you can tackle the design task yourself. Design materials today are being produced in such a way that you can use them off the shelf without necessarily using a design service. Most of these materials are collapsible and can be packed in carry cases that you can take with you, or send ahead. However, if you don’t have the time of the design inclination, stay away from this option.

The best option would be to make use of a design service that is experienced with the needs of the exhibition industry and it is likely that they will come up with professionally designed stand materials that will add impact to your status in the foreign marketplace. Of course, stand designers are not cheap and this service comes at a price, but the price may be worth it, considering the cost and risk associated with exporting, especially if the design helps you achieve your objectives. You may also want to use a design company overseas. Costs are usually higher, but they can not only design the stand, but construct it for you. Your local company may know of a good exhibition designer in your target country or you may want to search for such a company on the Internet.

Exhibition stand materials are usually created in an easy-to-carry manner which may allow you to carry your stand with you to the trade fair as part of your luggage. Alternatively, you may need to arrange for the stand materials to be forwarded to the trade fair by a freight forwarding company. This we deal with in a coming section.

At the stand, you may also need to arrange someone to construct the exhibition shell for you especially if it was designed by a South African company as an easy-to-construct kit or if you bough it off the shelf. While they are not difficult to construct, being in a foreign country and under pressure will just make the construction of the shell difficult and it may be worth it to hire someone to do it for you.

Arranging for freight forwarding, delivery and clearance

You will almost certainly need to make use of a freight forwarding company to deliver the samples, promotion materials and exhibition shell to the trade fair in question. Wherever possible, try to make use of a company that can guarantee deliver of these items to the trade fair itself. You do not want to be stuck trying to clear the goods through customs and trying to arrange them to be delivered from the airport or harbour to the trade fair itself.

What is more, ensure that these goods are delivered timeously (which means that you need to deliver them to the forwarding agency in time). There is nothing worse than arriving at the show knowing that your samples, promotional materials and any other items haven’t arrive yet – it will put you under considerable pressure at the fair.

ATA carnets

An ATA Carnet is a document usually issued by your local chamber of commerce that will allow you to take your samples into the country without paying duties on them, as long as you of course take them back out of the country with you.

Booking your flights and other travel arrangements

Other arrangements that you should not leave until the last minute are your travel arrangements – your flights and accommodation also need to be booked timeously. In the case of large, international trade fairs, it is not uncommon for flights and accommodation to become fully booked quite quickly. The earlier you book, the more assured you will be of getting there and having a place to stay. Prices are often cheaper, the earlier you book.

Arranging and preparing your support staff

Will you need staff to help with the trade fair and what will they do. The sort of tasks that you may need assistance with include:

  • Assembling and dismantling your stand
  • Electrical and technical installations
  • Interpreting
  • Assisting with enquiries
  • Undertaking research
  • Handing out promotional material

Arranging for payments

If you plan to sell goods at the stand, then you need to think about how you will be able to allow customer to pay. Certainly cash is the best option, but many customers may want to pay using credit cards – will you allow this? It may be difficult to arrange and electronic point-of-sale machine at the trade fair, but if you design your website with a credit card facility as part of the site (and using a payment gateway that will work in the country in which the trade fair takes place), then you can use the online facility to take payments.

Customer int eraction

You need to prepare yourself on how you will deal with customers and handle queries. Will you position yourself outside the stand and try and “attract” customers into your stand, or will you remain within the confines of the stand and wait for customers to come to you? What will you use as an attraction to get customers to come into your stand? If they have questions what will you do? What will you do if you have several customers wanting your attention at the same time? Will you hand a brochure and/or sample to every visitor? Will there be a facility (such as a running presentation or some exhibit) to keep your customers occupied and to attract their attention? How will you keep record of your discussions with potential customers?

You will need to give thought to these and other questions relating to your customer interaction. You will also need to train any staff that you use to follow the same procedures.