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It is that time of the year again when manufacturers reps, sales and marketing teams, and, hopefully, senior executives hit the road. Trade shows, conferences, association gatherings, and sales meetings fill up the fall calendar and companies spend serious money to attend or stage events where they are putting their brand out there. For many companies, these efforts may be the largest total sales/marketing spend of the fiscal year. It is also a huge brand opportunity. You can see directly and immediately how customers view your brand, how they understand your value proposition, and what makes their eyes light up.

My experience has shown that with so much to focus on preparing and attending, the overall mission/original reason to attend, gets lost in the action. Remember, we go to events to accomplish a goal(s) but often the effort to prepare and attend become how we gauge success. Ultimately, one of the critical metrics is to know the ROI of going. Getting to this can be tricky. Often the only hard number we have is the expense of the event. It’s okay to use qualitative and quantitative measures if they are agreed to and understood upfront. In technical sales, it can be challenging to tie a sale directly to attending the show. It may be months for a show contact to result in an RFQ let alone an order. For instance, attending the show may not lead to a direct sale, but an invitation to visit the factory was made at the show, followed up on after the show, eventually took place, and a deal was closed during the visit. An event plan can lay out those connected activities, so the sales opportunities from the event have the best chance of being followed up and the ROI can be understood and discussed.

Putting together an event plan provides important benefits. It is a communication tool and works to manage priorities. An event plan ensures that everyone agrees with the goals, the schedule and the deliverables. It keeps the team coordinated and lowers stress levels. It keeps leadership in the loop and manages expectations. So what’s in an event plan? Attached is a Microsoft Word template for an Event Plan. I have found these primary sections are useful in planning, executing and following up on events:

  • Why are we going?
  • Who will be there?
  • What do we want them to do ?
  • How do we get customers there?
  • Coordinating activities
  • During event actions
  • Post event actions
  • Project Plan
  • Metrics

I have included some example text in many sections to get you thinking. You should treat these as living documents, updating them, revising them as plans change, and adapting them to your specific situations.