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  • Writer's pictureJoe Federbush, EVOLIO

Now’s the Time to Revisit Your Event Marketing Strategy & Portfolio. Here’s How to Do It.

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

April 24, 2020

When was the last time you asked yourself these questions?...

‘Why do we exhibit at all of these shows year after year?”  

“Do we really need to exhibit in all of these shows”

“Are there new shows we should consider?”

“Do we need to visit our show strategy, and how we execute it?”

While in-person trade shows and events are on hiatus, now is the best time to answer those questions. Instead of constantly being swamped trying to stay ahead of your show schedule, you and your team can review your companies’ event marketing strategy and schedule, including the portfolio of trade shows and events you participate in, and how you participate at them. 

For most, properly answering the questions above does three things:

  1. Saves tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands, by cutting out under performing shows

  2. Delivers greater ROI and ROX because you’ve developed a plan

  3. Increases executive buy-in because they are a part of the planning process

PART 1. STRATEGY STAKEHOLDER MEETINGS OR WORKSHOPS Chances are, you invest in a lot of the same shows year to year, making small tweaks along the way. Whether your strategy is pretty solid or needs a reboot, there’s always room for improvement and additional accountability to take full advantage of rightsizing your booth size and number of staff to bring, identifying potential speaking or sponsorship opportunities, or ways to better attract your target audience and deliver greater ROI.  Tackling a project like this now can really save your budget (and job) later.

Let’s start by understanding what marketing strategy really means.  The term is often overused or under-defined, so, let’s first address it. What is strategy?

The basic definition of strategy is a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim. However, for us - event marketers, it is the art (and science) of planning and directing how we represent a brand at trade shows and events and is often contrasted with tactics (tactics are how we execute our strategy). Read more on

What are your businesses’ strategic issues and challenges as they relate to exhibiting at trade shows and events?

Exhibiting strategies vary, but can include identifying the right shows, brand, sales/ROI, new customer acquisition, meetings, competition, new product launch, thought-leadership, staffing, booth design, meetings, press/media, and budget reduction to name a few.

Event strategies may include attendee acquisition, customer growth, content, thought leadership, overall attendee experience, and revenue acquisition to name a few.

Remember, developing an effective event strategy will differ by brand and business-type.  There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach (e.g., B2B, B2C, provide products versus services, sell capital expenditure-type products versus transactional ones, new versus established brands).  If you’ve used a strategy template you found online in the past, keep in mind, it may be irrelevant, too prescribed, or too watered-down for your specific organization.

So, how do you get your team and stakeholders onboard to develop a strategic plan and what does it entail?

Get your whole team involved. Make sure your team and stakeholders understand the importance of their participation and that their honest input is important to the overall success of the process.  Schedule calls and meetings, and start asking the right questions, like:

  • What kind of experience do we want our visitors or attendees (think of them as guests) to have?

  • How do we want them to feel?

  • How do we stand apart?

  • What words would our guests use to describe their experience with our brand?

  • What do we want our guests to do as a result of their experience with us?

  • How would your guests answer these same questions based on their experience?

  • Do the answers align with your marketing strategy and plans? 


With your companies’ event marketing strategy defined, next is event portfolio planning and optimization. What is event portfolio planning and optimization?

Event portfolio planning and optimization is a necessary assessment of participation and investment levels in trade shows and events based more on facts and less on opinions.  I recommend it be data-driven to rationalize show selection, investment size, and strategy, and include the following steps:

STEP 1: Start with existing data and information.

Gather your important event documents like show schedule; event data; # of leads collected; budgets; planning decks; definition of target audiences; business and marketing plans; competitive assessment; industry trends, org charts, staffing assignments, etc.  What information is missing? What information do you wish you had that you don’t?  This will help you map out the existing planning process (or lack thereof). Prepare it for meetings with stakeholders (see next step).

STEP 2: Conduct strategy workshops and meetings.

Conduct (online) meetings and calls with all stakeholders to discuss criteria for evaluating events. Create a discussion guide and/or questionnaire that covers key topics like thoughts on event marketing, what we do well, what could be improved, and top objectives for exhibiting.  The results help define target audiences, set clear objectives, and define key performance indicators (KPIs). Stakeholders should include influencers and decision-makers across departments within the organization that have a role with trade shows and events, brand, messaging, sales, compliance, and overall corporate strategy (e.g., sales, marketing, executives, procurement, compliance/regulatory, etc.).  Click here to see a sample workshop agenda. 

STEP 3: Collect and analyze trade show and event data.

This can be the most time-consuming, yet rewarding, step! Collect and analyze data on events where your company currently and has previously exhibited, sponsored, and/or presented. Do this for additional events to consider too.  Be sure to include current secondary data about each of the individual events from the associations/show organizers like attendee profiles, attendance trends, exhibiting costs, sponsorship packages, competitors, speaking opportunities, deadlines, etc. 

STEP 4: Create event rankings and scores.

Based on the information gathered, develop a workbook with spreadsheets to compile the data, including important internal information from Step 1, plus event data captured in Step 3. Together, this information is used to rank the events and calculate key metrics.  Train your event team to continue gathering information for maintaining and updating the workbook in the future.  Click here to request an Event Portfolio and Planning sample report.

STEP 5: Develop your playbook and plan.

Lastly, develop a playbook incorporating the important information, insights, and recommendations. Your playbook should include:

  1. Criteria for event selection, investment recommendations and decision-making

  2. Rationale and justification for convention participation

  3. Formulas and guidelines to determine exhibit sizes and staffing needs, expected number of leads and revenue, etc.

  4. ‘Beyond the Booth’ activities (e.g., speaking, sponsoring, meetings, posters, etc.)

  5. Results and recommendations for each event analyzed, including event scores and benchmarks

STEP 6: Present to your team and stakeholders and revise as needed.  The playbook serves as the strategic guide for future face-to-face marketing strategy, planning, and budgeting.

While this all does take a bit of planning and coordination, now is hopefully the time to accomplish it so when live, in-person shows and events are back on, you are reset, rejuvenated, and ready to go.

Don’t have the resources to pull it all together? Let EVOLIO help you, with any or each step of the way. Request more info.

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