Getting Organized for Show Season
St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission's Renee Eichelberger shares her top tips for organizing all of the details related to travel show season.
Every year, after my budget has been approved, I pretty much take one day and get my travel folders ready for the next year. Yes, I still keep hard copies of everything, but I also have electronic folders with all the information in them for each show filed in Outlook and on our share drive. Maybe one day I will say goodbye to the hard copies, but not yet. You might ask, "Why?" Have you ever show up at a hotel and had no reservation? I have, so that's how my over-the-top travel files came to be. Also, it saves me time, anxiety, and sometimes hard dollars, by doing things early. Yes, you might be saying that there are all these great travel apps, et cetera, that you could use. I have tried several apps, but not all my information translates, so I have found that I do best with hard copies with some electronic/app cross over. Let's just call it Old School/New School hybrid.
Below are just some of the tips that I find useful in my crazy travel life:
- Put dates of all industry shows in your Outlook calendar. If I know I am attending, they are green and show that I am out of the office; if it's a show I am not attending, I make them a different color.
- Create a travel folder for the next 12 months of shows you are budgeted to attend. I use one color for all travel folders, which makes them easy to find. They never get lost on my desk.
- At the same time, create a folder in Outlook. I keep a folder for each show, and it might have a couple of years' history in it. I just keep adding the current information. This helps me with budgeting. Do you need to know what you spent on shipping or décor for a booth? Who was the decorator, and what did I order last year? Oh, I have that. After a couple of years (or when the IT department tells me I need to do some cleaning), I just go back and delete.
- On the inside of the folder, put the login and password for the show. I also tape an envelope for receipts for later.
- Go to the show's website and print out the schedule of events. That way, you have an idea of when you need to arrive and depart.
- Starting adding the information to the folder as you receive it.
- Register for the show when it opens. I am one of those people who if registration opens on a Tuesday at 10 a.m., I am signed up on Tuesday shortly after 10 a.m. That's one thing off my list of things to do.
- If housing opens at that same time, I go ahead and make my reservations. Hotel reservations are easy to modify, but are harder to get closer to show dates.
- Add all of the important deadline dates to your Outlook calendar – i.e. housing opens, appointment scheduling starts and ends, deadlines for any sponsorship information, shipping, and booth orders.
- Make all other reservations needed, such as car rental, airlines, et cetera. When do I purchase my airline? As soon as I know my arrival and departure dates. I find I get better flight options and seat selection.
- Submit your travel request documents; my travel request recaps my trip with all my confirmation numbers, et cetera. Of course, I have a hard copy in my trusted travel folder.
For me, getting registered and making the travel arrangements for a show is easy. It's getting my appointment book ready that is the biggest and one the most important parts for me. But that's a whole other story.
Written by Renee M. Eichelberger, CTP, Director of Leisure Travel Sales for St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission.
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Photo courtesy of Renee Eichelberger.