Five Tips for Hosting Successful Trade Shows
By Beth Buehler
When the way we did business and conducted our lives got shaken and not just stirred by the COVID pandemic, annual gatherings became welcome lifelines to our colleagues and industries after the dust settled sufficiently. It also became a big opportunity to reshape planning approaches to these types of events.
A perfect example is Destination Colorado Meetings’ 2022 Colorado Meetings Showcase, which was held at Infinity Park Event Center in Glendale on Dec. 8 from 4-7 p.m. Using this event as an example, here are five tips for hosting successful trade shows.
Tie Into a Holiday or Theme
Nearly 120 exhibitors at 61 booths had the opportunity to connect with 180 planners in a holiday-inspired atmosphere. The early December timing of the showcase has always worked well for exhibitors to get creative with their booth décor and giveaways and for a caterer to showcase festive and sustainable options.
“One of my favorite details about Serendipity Catering this year was the water garden. It saved on plastic bottle waste but also was beautiful with clear water dispensers holding infusions such as cranberry citrus, basil strawberry, vanilla bean, and pineapple jalapeño,” says Marie Huston, manager of Destination Colorado Meetings. “Another great sustainable highlight was the sack lunches served in reusable bags prior to our annual meeting.”
Last year, Halcyon, a hotel in Cherry Creek made fun hot chocolate kits complete with a mini bottle of peppermint schnapps for their booth swag. A while back, Vail Resorts went the opposite direction with a colorful garden theme, bringing a bit of outdoor cheer in on a cold winter’s day.
I’ve seen exhibitors have fun tying into St. Patrick’s Day with games, costumes, giveaways and beverages at the annual Meetings Industry Council of Colorado’s Educational Conference & Trade Show typically held in mid-March. Why not have fun with the season or a theme to stand out?
Incorporate Local Culture & Tastes
Just like it is more fun to attend a meeting when local foods and activities are on the agenda, the same is true for a trade show. This year at the showcase, there was live painting by artist, professional snowboarder and clothing company owner Pat Milbery and music by cellist Jae Wes, who is known for his unique R&B and hip hop twist on an instrument better known for classical music. There also was a delicious selection of Colorado wine and beer served.
Select a Venue that Creates Interest
When Colorado Meetings + Events, the magazine that I’ve served as editor of for 18 years, has hosted its Best of Colorado awards over the years, we look for venues to showcase that are new, recently remodeled or offer unique backdrops for staging a gathering. The Colorado Meetings Showcase has been changing venues annually in recent years to shake it up, with this year’s locale, Infinity Park Event Center.
The venue utilizes its association with the Infinity Park campus by pairing meeting spaces such as the ballroom and conference rooms with less traditional outdoor spaces such as the terrace, rugby field and plazas. The Colorado Meetings Showcase was held in the 8,600-square-foot International Ballroom surrounded by 360 degrees of crystal-clear screens, which serves as a customizable digital blank canvas.
Offer Incentives to Attend
While it is vital to make it easy for potential customers to speak with exhibitors by providing a conducive layout, bring additional purpose to the gathering and extend how long people stay. It helps to have incentives like a keynote speaker, educational sessions or prizes. There is always a giveaway drawing at the end of the Colorado Meetings Showcase with exhibitors giving away overnight stays, gift certificates, cool swag and more. If attendees leave early, they miss the opportunity to win big and anyone who has attended previously knows this fact.
Make It Valuable for Members & Exhibitors
For Destination Colorado Meetings members traveling into the Denver metropolitan area from around the state for the showcase, it’s helpful to attend the association’s annual meeting prior to the showcase instead of making a trip another time. Standout members are recognized, a bit of business is conducted, and there is a chance to unify as a group to promote Colorado as a great place to host meetings and events prior to the larger event.
Peak Performer awards were presented to VISIT DENVER as Company of the Year and Sara Lawrason of Operation Altitude as Individual of the Year. Ambassador of the Year recipients included Meg Tewkesbury, The Steamboat Grand; Sharon Schoeffield, The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, Avon, Vail Valley; Lindsey Rohrbaugh, Visit Boulder; and Tracy Blair, Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel.
Being back in person booking and attending meetings and events is truly a gift. Go forth with these five tips for hosting successful trade shows and enjoy the fruits of your efforts in 2023 and beyond.
Photos by Christie’s Photographic Solutions
Colorado native Beth Buehler has been editor of Colorado Meetings + Events magazine for 18 years, helped launch Mountain Meetings magazine, and is on the team introducing Southwest Meetings + Events in the near future. She has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.