Importance of Details in the Pre-Show Planning Process











If you can relate to the phrase, “if you want it done right, you have to do it yourself,” then you are not alone.  Most of us have found ourselves in a situation that requires us to delegate a task to someone else.  For Show Managers, this is par for the course.  Sometimes the end result is better than expected, while other times it leaves us with more work than what we started with.  When the result is the latter, the question is, how do we prevent a majority of the mistakes from being made, to begin with.  While some of the responsibility falls on the one who carried out the task, it doesn’t negate all personal responsibility of the delegator.  After all, people aren’t thought readers.  

The solution to the problem is in the nitty gritty details.  While the answer seems simple, it’s actually harder than it sounds.  It gets difficult trying to convey every nuance and intended meaning in writing.  Furthermore, it’s easy for instructions to be taken out of context.  What might seem like a no-brainer to you, might not necessarily be as obvious to someone else.  This can be especially true when dealing in areas of your expertise that are often not within the scope of another person’s understanding.  A foundation needs to be established before moving on to additional instructions.  That foundation includes all the information that would be required in order to understand further directives.  Try to look at the task from the perspective of the contractor by anticipating any obvious questions that might be asked by elaborating beforehand.  

As Albert Einstein keenly observed, “If you can’t explain it simply, (maybe) you don’t understand it well enough.”


The pre-show planning process involves a lot of delegated work to make a show happen.  As a Show Manager, it’s your job to provide detailed plans that are simplified and accessible to everyone, but also accurate and specific.  The fewer details you provide, the more labor you end up paying for.  This is one case where more really does equate to less; providing more details in the beginning will cost you less hassle and money in the long run.  If something is difficult to understand, questions will be asked, leading to delayed production.  The best way to lessen confusion it to try to prevent it in the first place.  A great way to accomplish this is by creating a standard template with vendor partners that can be used as a guide. The template should provide specific information regarding every aspect of the job, such as:

  • Floor Plans
  • Event Specifications
  • Sign Orders
  • Structure Requests

There is one caveat to being detailed: clarity means identifying what information is essential and relevant and what information isn’t.   Include what is necessary and leave out what will only bog down workers, possibly muddling what was meant to be clear.  


Imagine for a moment that you have recently ironed out the details for an upcoming event in the footwear industry.  You have specified to contractors that you want graphics to be displayed indicating that registration will take place in the lobby.  The contractor has been provided with a copy of the drafted layout of where registration should take place on the floor.  While that might seem like adequate information, it’s likely just enough to create problems.  Additional information should be provided, such as the order of the headers, what they should read, and the quantity of each in order to curb complications.  For example, if the show has six registration counters, workers will need to know who will be registering, (exhibitors, buyers, badge holder pickup) how many registration spots each group will require, and what order they should go in.  You might need three exhibitor counters, one counter for buyers and two for badge holders, but your contractors won’t know this unless it’s already been specified.  

It’s always prudent to create a timeline for your contractors so they know when to start certain tasks and when projects should be completed.  For instance, designate dates and times for installation and tear down.  For your footwear event, setup needs to be completed on Wednesday before 2 pm with tear down beginning on Sunday at 5 pm.  There should be no confusion regarding what the expectations are regarding time management when you provide a timeline.

A New Mindset

The success of the show planning process relies on having an effective communication strategy.  To ensure satisfaction for all involved, details must be included and explained in ways that are understandable and useful.  It may take time before you can automatically integrate all essential details into instructions and come up with the right words to simplify a complex idea.  And that’s OK!  Build on what others know, then formulate your plan of action by filling in the unknown.  By doing so you will be able to approach your plans with confidence, and so will your contractors.