It may never happen, but there may be a time when you have an event, but can’t be there in person. So how do you manage your trade show program without being here? And how to make sure your staff handle the trade show without fumbling through? If you’re stuck coaching from the sidelines, this guide may help you ensure your event success.


Appoint an Event Manager

An absentee exhibition manager invariably has to hand a bit of control over to an on-site manager or team leader. Identify people within your company you think will fit a team leader role and then have them mirror your moves at a few shows. Walk them through different scenarios, such as what to do with lost freight, damaged exhibition graphics and more. Having a plan in place to deal with different situations that pop up will make your event captain more confident or being able to carry out plans without you being there.


Train Your Team

Managers with a good pool of talent available have to power to choose their stand ins. However, you may not always have that luxury. Many exhibition managers have to rely on local sales people or a lone representative to manage their display, no matter how little they know about exhibiting.


Put a training program in place for them to complete that covers how to work a show, as well as set up and tear down the display booth. This could take the form of a written show plan which contains instructions, details and contacts associated with each show, backed up with one-on-one instruction on how to manage the show in your absence.


It goes without saying that any sort of intense staff training takes time. A yearly training session can turn its key points into an informational video that can be referenced by event leaders and staff throughout the year.


Manage Your Display

Your team needs the right equipment to get ready for an event. It is a good idea to to put into place an inventory-management system to ensure the correct display parts arrive at each show and are returned properly, inspected and possibly repaired or cleaned afterwards


Before a display goes out to a show, take photos to document all the pieces are present in good condition. When the pieces come back, take photos of the transit equipment to check for damage, as well as the inside of the crates to see that it was packed properly or just jammed in. Inspect each piece on return to see if it needs attention or to check for damage.


Assign Jobs and Make Introductions

Setting goals and communicating them to your staff is obviously a an important step in every event marketing plan. When you’re on the sidelines, it becomes even more important. Make sure you spell out the roles of each staff member, so that everyone knows exactly what is expected of them. It’s also a good idea to ensure all suppliers and vendors associated with your event program know your event manager. Try to make face to face introductions wherever possible, but if you can’t swing that, a quick conference call or at the very least a group email can make the introductions. That way, your suppliers will see your event manager as part of your team and give them the respect and attention they deserve.  


If you lean heavily on a supplier or venue manager in your absence, it's a great idea to work to establish the relationship by communicating before the event even begins. Thanking them for their assistance before the show can ensure you receive their aid when the heat in on. Follow up cases of exceptional support with a thank you note, phone call or gift to show your appreciation.


Avoid Trouble

Sidestep difficulties with setting up your display with clear, step by step instructions before the show begins, and following up during it. Go a bit further than just showing how the display looks once assembled. Guide your staff through the process by taking photos with descriptions relating to each step in assembly, disassembly and how the cases should be packed. Then place them where they can be easily accessed. Arm your staff with as much information as you can to cover every contingency including invoices, packing lists, phone numbers and preprinted labels and forms.


Regularly Check In

It may seem like there is not much more you can do to monitor the effectiveness of your team, but simply picking up the phone to check on your team members can help. Call the lead person while they are setting up to make sure it is running smoothly, and then at random times during the show to check effectiveness, see if anything has popped up and to let them know you are following their progress. If email is your preferred method of communication, you could ask for an overall impression of the day, a description of any issues and a report of results compared to set daily goals.  


Lead capture technology can be another useful tool to help monitor staff effectiveness, as you can monitor who is scanning the leads and see if they putting the effort in to qualifying leads, based on the notes they're adding to the fields.

It’s not easy being an absentee exhibition manager. Coaching from afar may present some fresh challenges, but with these tips you can manage your exhibition program and lead your team to trade show success.