What Associations And Meeting Professionals Want In Tradeshow Partnerships


Imagine this scenario. A nonprofit trade association decides it wants to add a tradeshow to its annual conference. It’s never produced a tradeshow in the past and wants to secure a third-party planner to produce the show.

Typically, an association tradeshow should have a potential of $150,000 or more in revenue to justify securing a third-party planner to provide full scope of services. Both the association and independent planner want to establish a partnership that will be profitable for each sides.

Both the association leadership and the independent planners will have different expectations, priorities and styles. Leveraging this partnership for success will require both parties to manage expectations and understand unique work cultures.

Ten Things Associations Want From Independent Tradeshow Planners

Here are ten expectations association leadership has of independent tradeshow planners.

1. Experience and talent

Highly capable and skilled planners. Veterans at planning tradeshows.

2. Trust and loyalty

Planners with integrity and allegiance to the organization and its tradeshow goals. A sense of urgency to resolve issues that arise.

3. Commitment

Dedicating time and energy, especially at the beginning, to understand the association, the organization’s mission and its customers, exhibitors and sponsors.

4. Customer service

Timely responses and quality customer service for association staff, customers and exhibitors.

5. Relationship

The ability to embrace the organization’s mission as one’s own and reflect it all programming decisions. A willingness to develop relationships with association staff and act as an extension of that staff.

6. Innovation

New creative ideas and solutions to create a unique, memorable tradeshow experience.

7. Regular communication and updates

Regular updates and status reports reviewing what has been accomplished and next steps.

8. Increase in revenue

Finding new exhibitors and sponsors that attract wider audiences, expanding revenue from existing exhibitors and sponsors.

9. Most bang for the buck

Planners with the ability to better negotiate with vendors and venues to help decrease expenses while maintaining high quality and service.

10. Evaluation and analysis

Comprehensive post-show report with suggestions for improvement for the next year.

Nine Things Independent Show Planners Want From Association Leadership

Here are nine things independent tradeshow planners expect from association leadership.

1. Full disclosure

Staff to share all facts, figures, history and demographics of customers and past events.

2. Established Goals

Well defined goals and objectives including financial and experiential.

3. One key contact

A clear reporting structure with one key contact for status updates and communication.

4. Communication

Regular meetings and updates with all changes and reports documented in writing.

5. Flexibility

A willingness to accept changes in procedures and processes to make it happen.

6. Efficiency

Good organization processes with a goal of effectiveness.

7. Pragmatic decision-making

Making decisions quickly, efficiently and effectively for the facilitation of selling booth space and sponsorships. Confirming booth rates, ad rates and sponsorship deals quickly.

8. Empowerment

Empowering planners to make decisions in the best interest of the organization and tradeshow as long as it is within budget and aligns with the goals.

9. A multi-show contract

Ultimately, independent tradeshow planners would prefer a multi-show contract so the partnership can flourish. It also allows planners the ability to become familiar with the industry, exhibitors and sponsors so they can grow the event. They often would like the responsibility for the entire event, not just the tradeshow.

What are some other reasons why associations might seek to work with an independent tradeshow planner? What other association or planner expectations would you add to these lists?

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