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Best Practices for Tradeshow Event Management

We were in a meeting several weeks ago with a potential client looking for help managing their event materials and logistics. As the meeting evolved, it became clear that, for the customer, the issue boiled down to choosing between two basic options:

  • Equip their sales representatives and sales/field engineers with the materials required to stage a small event (two pop-up banners, a table throw, a basic set of collateral, and branded giveaways)
  • Enlist OnFulfillment to manage the maintenance, storage, shipping, and return of these items.

While it’s clear which side of the argument we fell on, it was actually a very interesting and informative conversation. We weighed the pros and cons of each approach, many of which we had never considered before. And while it ultimately didn’t change our position, it did provide insights that will help us better understand the event management challenges companies are facing in future meetings with prospective clients.event management involves tradeshow material storage and shipping

Following is a summary of the discussion, including the benefits and drawbacks of each approach. Maybe these can help you in your event management decision making.

Arming the Field

The original plan for the customer in this scenario was to equip their sales teams (reps and SEs/FEs) with the materials needed to staff the small regional seminars, conferences, and other shows they were scheduled to attend over the next year—in networking parlance, a practice called “overprovisioning.” During the meeting, we agreed on the following pros and cons of this approach.


  • By purchasing the required items (specifically the pop-up banners, table throws and branded giveaways) in bulk, the company could theoretically lower the per-unit price. Just order online and have them delivered where they need to go.
  • Since the sales teams would store the event materials in the office, at home, or even in their cars, they could avoid ongoing storage and management fees.
  • Likewise, since they already have it with them, the sales team could hand-carry materials to each event, allowing them to bypass freight and return shipping costs. At worst, they may have to pay to check a bag if they fly to the event, but that’s cheaper than paying for shipping. If they can carry the item on the plane, the possibility of it being lost or damaged is dramatically reduced.
  • Budget numbers would be identical for each sales team, making it easy to anticipate and track spending.
  • For marketing teams that are called on to provide support for these types of events, proactively arming the field with the necessary materials relieves you of this responsibility, letting you focus on more strategic things.
  • There’s no longer any need to manage inventory—everyone already has what they need.


  • Purchasing a large number of items up front is expensive. While you may get advantageous bulk pricing, chances are you could probably get away with buying fewer of the reusable materials—in fact, it is a virtual certainty—which means you lose money in the end.
  • Sales teams will be expected to hand carry event materials, which can be an imposition and a distraction. If they don’t want to transport the items themselves, they’ll have to pay to ship the event material, which wipes out any potential cost savings.
  • The owners in the field will be responsible for maintaining the quality of the items. This includes regularly laundering the table throws and making sure the pop-up banners are working properly. This is a time-consuming process that is all too easy to ignore.
  • As the year wears on, unless things go exactly as planned, chances are sales teams will end up with too much or too little collateral or will start to run low on branded giveaways. That means they’ll need to track inventory to ensure they have sufficient quantities, not to mention track quality every time these materials are unpacked and packed back up. Sales teams are not enthusiastic about performing these administrative tasks.
  • The investment is the same for each sales team, whether they do lots of shows or just a few.
  • This approach does not provide the flexibility to respond to changes. If shows are added or cancelled, plans are upended.

receive a kit filled with small items needed for events when you schedule a demo

Outsourcing Event Management

What about the OnFulfillment approach of outsourcing event management and logistics? How can that help—or hurt—your plans? Following are the pros and cons discussed during our recent meeting.


  • No need to overprovision. By simply looking at the event calendar, you can determine ahead of time how many pop-up banners and table throws you’ll need to support the anticipated demands of the year. Even if you purchase one or two extras as backups, it’s still cheaper than buying one for every sales team. And you still get the benefit of bulk pricing.
  • All items are stored and maintained by OnFulfillment—no need for sales teams to store them in their office, car or home. Inventory can be tracked in real time online; sales teams can log on and reserve the items they need, ensuring they will be available when they need them.
  • OnFulfillment manages all the shipping. The sales team simply enters the dates and location through the event management software portal and OnFulfillment arranges delivery, as well as provides return-shipping labels for after the event. All the sales team has to do is show up at the event.
  • OnFulfillment is responsible for maintaining reusable materials. Table drapes are sent for dry cleaning before they are returned to inventory, ensuring they are clean for the next event. Pop-up banners and other mechanical items are inspected upon return and necessary repairs are made before they are put back on the shelf.
  • Outsourcing event management lets you easily respond to unforeseen changes. You aren’t locked into a schedule or calendar; if a show is cancelled, you simply release the items you’ve reserved. If a show is added, you reserve the items you need via the software portal. You can change directions on a dime.
  • Speaking of flexibility, by outsourcing event management, you can secure the latest and most relevant items for the event rather they rely on materials created and assigned at the beginning of the year. You can order collateral optimized for the audience, or even create customized handouts using OnFulfillment’s print-on-demand capabilities. And by ordering only the quantities you need, you can reduce waste and eliminate the need to ship items back to inventory.
  • Branded merchandise can be different for every show. Through the OnFulfillment software portal, you can order whatever items and quantities your budget allows.


  • Sales teams that value their autonomy might prefer to “own” the materials they need for small shows. The need to store and transport items is not considered a hassle for these employees.event giveaway ideas for any type of corporate trade show
  • For some, there is comfort in planning out the year’s events, securing the items and executing the plan. Predictability is preferable. If things change, having items on hand means they are ready for the next show, or prepared to add a new one.
  • Cost is a concern. Obviously if you want to outsource your event management responsibilities, you must pay a vendor for those services. Ultimately the question is whether the costs of these services are worth the benefits. If not, this may not be the approach for you.
  • Similarly, there is a cost to shipping items back to a centralized location for inspection and archiving. By hand carrying the materials themselves, sales teams can avoid this expense, although they may need to pay to check an additional bag or two if they fly to the event.

Right Decision for You

If you are currently weighing your event management options, there are clearly a number of factors to consider. OnFulfillment might be able to offer a fresh perspective. If you’d like to hear what we can do for you, please visit Contact Us to schedule a meeting.

Topics: Event Marketing Materials Marketing Fulfillment Event Support