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Everything you need to know about planning a B2B exhibition. The ultimate checklist.

Planning a B2B exhibition is a complex undertaking. To ensure the seamless delivery and success of your B2B event, you must explore numerous different elements. The fundamentals involved range from budgeting and logistics to programming and marketing. You should also carefully consider the needs of both delegates and exhibitors. 

Meticulous planning is critical for effective event and exhibition management. However, if this is your first time planning an exhibition or trade show, you may be feeling uncertain about where to begin. 

At the Congress Centre, we have supported our clients throughout this process for many years. Drawing on our team’s knowledge, we have created a step-by-step exhibition planning guide. 

This blog explores the many benefits of hosting an exhibition and a step-by-step exhibition planning checklist. It also details some common challenges organisers face and suggests ways to overcome them.

two people smiling and networking at a B2B exhibition in a London venue

Benefits of hosting exhibitions and trade shows 

First, let’s understand why exhibitions are important for businesses before we discuss how to plan one. Exhibitions are a highly effective platform for enabling and achieving numerous objectives, including: 

1. Brand positioning
Having a presence at an exhibition dedicated to your industry provides vital exposure to peers, competitors, influencers, existing and potential customers alike. This visibility will help increase brand awareness and reinforce your integrity.
 

2. Networking

Few other event formats provide so many opportunities to grow and develop your professional network. This can take place on exhibition stands, during catering breaks, or as part of interactive content sessions. These interactions are vital for establishing rapport and building trust with new and existing contacts. 

3. Lead generation

Exhibitions offer unrivalled access to a captive target audience. Capturing high-quality leads will help grow your customer contact database, drive sales on stand or build up to a future launch. 

4. Showcasing products and services

Live demonstrations will help attract potential buyers and can often accelerate the sales process. Help customers understand the benefits of your products, services, and innovations to start a conversation and receive valuable feedback. This can be particularly effective for research and development of a new offering.  

5. Learning opportunities

Every good trade show or exhibition has a varied educational programme. These sessions will cover important trends and topics impacting the sector, in various formats. These include seminars, panel discussions, interactive round tables and individual consultations. The quality of content on offer is what encourages many visitors to attend B2B events. 

6. Customer engagement

Meeting customers in person at exhibitions is a great way to have meaningful conversations and build relationships. Without the usual distractions they face at work, they may be more willing to spend more time talking to you and your colleagues. This can offer valuable insights into any needs and challenges they may be facing and how you can better support them. 

 

crowd of people sitting at round tables in a big hall watching a conference

How to plan an exhibition: our 10 simple steps to success 

1. Objectives
Defining clear objectives before starting your exhibition planning will help streamline the process and inform your decisions. Take some time to think carefully about what you’re aiming to achieve. Are you hoping to position your company as an industry leader? Perhaps you’ve identified a niche gap in your market or are showcasing innovations.

2. Budgeting
Set out your budget as early on as possible, ideally with a contingency in place. Delivery costs will include venue hire, catering, AV, marketing, materials, staffing, security and insurance. After understanding the costs, you can determine the pricing for exhibitors and sponsors to maximise your ROI.

3. Venue Selection
Choosing the best venue is one of the most crucial factors to the success of your exhibition. Location and nearby transport links, capacity, accessibility, branding opportunities, and environment are all priorities to consider in your decision making.

4. Layout
Getting this right can make or break the delegate and exhibitor experience. When designing your floorplan, consider how best to utilise the available space to enhance this. Ensure a smooth flow of traffic for exhibitors and highlight any key areas for networking and breakout sessions. A range of software tools are available to help you create layout options if you are unsure how to go about this.

5. Programming
Educational content is a key motivator for attending exhibitions, often justifying time spent away from busy jobs. Ensure your venue has enough breakout spaces to accommodate a full and varied programme. Engage with expert speakers and presenters. Ensure there is something of interest and relevance for anyone in the industry.

6. Marketing
Exhibition success is also reliant on attracting attendees. To maximise the potential for this, promotion should begin as early as possible. A strong marketing plan with online and offline channels, plus strategic partnerships, will cover all aspects of promotion.

7. Logistics
This includes transport and deliveries to site, build and de-rig scheduling and allocating sufficient staffing. You will likely need dedicated teams to manage guest registration, wayfinding, security and customer service. You should also consider the flexibility to adapt if you encounter any setbacks along the way.

8. Health & Safety
Legal and H&S compliance in event management is paramount. Obtain any necessary licenses or permits. Conduct a comprehensive risk assessment with your safety officer. Prepare for potential incidents or emergencies.

9. Engagement
Offer attendees different ways to get involved and participate in your event. This stems in part from the physical environment and how immersive the delegate experience is. The variety of networking opportunities you facilitate and quality of the educational programme you deliver are also hugely important.

10. Evaluation
Post-event evaluation based on your initial objectives is vital to the longevity of your exhibition. This involves reviewing metrics such as attendance figures, lead generation, performance against budget and visitor and exhibitor feedback. These insights will inform future planning, as you strive to improve and refine your exhibition experience.
 

 

Download our B2B exhibition planning checklist

three people smiling and chatting at a B2B exhibition

The biggest challenges faced when planning a B2B exhibition  

We asked our team about common challenges organisers encounter when planning an exhibition and how to overcome them. 

Budget management – budget can soon run away with you. Some venues may provide additional benefits included in the hire cost to make things easier for you. These benefits could include a special registration area, furniture, equipment, or branding features. Understand your budget parameters and refer to your original objectives when allocating costs to the different elements. 

Choosing suppliers – consider the range of different services needed to deliver your event. These include stand design and building, delegate management, AV, and catering. Find reliable suppliers you can trust to deliver your vision. 

Wherever possible, work with your venue’s in-house or recommended service partners. They know the building inside out and bring a wealth of expertise to the table, often saving you both time and money.

 

Now that you know how to plan an exhibition, you are ready to start organising your own. To keep you on track, this checklist is free to download. Simply follow our 10-step guide to help aid seamless organisation. 

While B2B exhibitions may be challenging to organise, they can also be incredibly beneficial. Meticulous planning leads to seamless execution. By dedicating time to this, you can create a valuable platform for your industry. This platform will help businesses connect, learn, motivate, and expand their customer base. 


Your exhibition at Congress Centre
 

To learn more about the event spaces at the Congress Centre, you can contact our events team. You can reach them at 020 7467 1318 or email congress.centre@tuc.org.uk. We’ve been hosting exhibitions in our London venue for over 20 years so we’re ready and fully equipped to help you with planning a B2B exhibition.