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How do I manage exhibits?

Planning and managing conference exhibits is a challenge for most conference organizers. IEEE recommends that you hire an exhibit-management company to sell and manage your exhibit space if your conference has more than a few tabletop exhibits, or has other complex requirements.

Many conferences hire an exhibit company.

  • Prepare an exhibit budget.
  • Select an exhibit-management company, if necessary.
  • Select a drayage (shipping and decorating) company, if necessary.
  • Create an exhibits prospectus.
  • Solicit exhibitors.
  • Design exhibit space layout and usage.
  • Manage exhibitor registration.
  • Arrange for security.
  • Promote exhibitors on the conference Web site or conference materials (program book, signage, giveaways, etc.).

Prepare a budget

Required Task for Conference OrganizersThe conference finance chair, or treasurer, prepares a detailed budget for the exhibition as part of the overall conference budget. The budget includes:

  • Anticipated income from booth sales
  • Cost of setting up exhibition booths
  • Cost of securing exhibition area and facilities
  • Marketing and promotional expenses
  • Liability and cancellation insurance
  • Decoration, storage, utilities, security, and other expenses
  • Fees for an exhibit-management company, including a commission schedule and anticipated travel expenses

Create an exhibitor prospectus

Required Task for Conference OrganizersThe exhibitor sales kit, also known as a prospectus, is important for marketing your conference. The information in the exhibitor prospectus will help you to attract and sign up exhibitors.

The prospectus may consist of:

  • A letter of invitation from the conference chair and/or exhibitor chair
  • Highlights of the conference
  • Benefits for exhibitors
  • Listing of attendee categories and demographics
  • General conference information (expected attendance, dates, and location)
  • Exhibit-hall dates and hours
  • Exhibit-hall floor plan
  • Testimonials and photos of past conferences
  • Exhibit contract and rules
  • Description of exhibitor packages
  • Pricing and payments
  • Registration form
Distribute the exhibitor prospectus at the previous year's conference. Many exhibitors plan their events more than a year in advance. Conference websites should also have information for potential exhibitors, including benefits and fees and the full prospectus.

Solicit exhibitors

Required Task for Conference OrganizersThe conference exhibits committee provides leads and direction to the exhibit-management company to solicit exhibitors. If you are not using an exhibit-management company, the conference exhibits committee also solicits exhibitors.
Select committee members who have extensive industry connections and knowledge so they can reach as many potential exhibitors as possible. Use industry magazines or similar topic conferences to identify potential exhibitors.

Prepare an exhibitor service kit

Required Task for Conference OrganizersThe exhibitor service kit has all the information an exhibitor needs to ship and set up their exhibits. The drayage company, if one is used, usually sends out the exhibitor service kit six to eight weeks before the conference, or it is posted on the conference website. The kit should include:

  • Hotel and exhibits-hall layout
  • Conference schedule
  • Exhibit-hall schedule
  • List of service contractors
  • Rates for furniture, decorations, and equipment
  • Set-up and tear-down dates
  • Exhibition-space rules and regulations
  • Shipping instructions
  • Security and insurance information
  • Pricing and order forms for vendors and contractors
  • Electrical, telephone, and Internet services

Design the exhibit space

Required Task for Conference OrganizersIf you are not using an exhibits-management company, the exhibits committee manages the design and layout of the exhibit space. Planning for the exhibit space includes the following:

  • Design a floor plan to maximize booth or table space, and allow for adequate circulation of attendees.
  • Coordinate with decorator, equipment rental, and other service companies.
  • Arrange for signs, equipment rentals, and other services.
  • Provide for essential utilities, such as adequate electric power, telephone, and Internet service.
When calculating floor space, include space for registration, lounges, and other areas if they are part of the exhibit space. Find out if your conference space has any restrictions or guidelines regarding booth sizes, lighting, sign locations, and other exhibit-space details.

Manage the exhibit space

Required Task for Conference OrganizersThe conference exhibits committee manages the exhibit space during the conference.

  • Oversee the set-up and tear-down of exhibits during the conference.
  • Arrange for shipping and handling of exhibits if a drayage company is not used.
  • Schedule at least one person from the conference committee to be present in the exhibit space during exhibit hours.
  • Hire security guards to protect the exhibits when the conference is not in session.
Host an exhibitor appreciation and feedback session on the last day of the conference.

You can support local educational or scientific institutions and governmental agencies by providing them with free exhibition space for educational displays.

When donating space, consider the following:

  • Publicize the availability of free exhibition space well in advance.
  • Clearly identify any fees to be paid by the group receiving donated space.

Promote exhibitors on the website

Show your exhibitors that you appreciate their support by promoting them on the conference website and materials.

Who do you talk to at IEEE?

IEEE is ready to help. If you have questions about managing exhibits, please contact IEEE Meetings, Conferences & Events (MCE).

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