Tradeshows are an exciting way to show off your product and can be quite successful if done in the correct way.  They can be a good launching pad for a new product and can be used as a hook to get a business established in a new market.

I’ve done quite a few tradeshows and have been fortunate to be involved in big-budget events where upwards of $500k is spent per stall on the event all the way down to smaller local marketplace events with budgets less than $10k.  From these events I’ve picked up many tricks to make tradeshows successful.

This blog isn’t about those tricks (I’ll save that one for later!), but rather, it is about the very important technique of capturing the lessons learned, in a document commonly referred to as a post activity report.

Crystal Display at AREC 2009

Crystal Display at AREC 2009

Post Activity Reports

How many times have you remembered you picked up a good tip from an event you went too, but couldn’t remember what the tip was?  Frustrating isn’t it!  A post activity report is designed to remove that problem by documenting relevant lessons leaned tips and your methodology so they can be reproduced or avoided at a later date.

If you’re familiar with the six sigma process, post activity reports assist you with the measurement, analysis and improvement of your activity for future use.

Six Sigma Process

Six Sigma Process

I’m currently evaluating what we will be doing at our next tradeshow for one of my businesses.  A big enabler in making these decisions is that I’ve written a detailed post activity report from each time we’ve done a trade show.  This process ensures we can continue to improve and make the most of our time and efforts – and ultimately results in more sales.

The report

A post activity report can be in any format you wish and should be completed as close as possible to the activity so your mind is still buzzing with ideas.  I have a set format I follow, inspired by the military writing style as it encourages structure and brevity.  It contains seven topics:

  • Introduction.  Introduce the report and the activity, remember that someone else may be reading your report in the future who isn’t familiar with why the report has been written.
  • Background.  This is where you would explain why you’re doing the activity, what you want to achieve from it, and any lessons you’re using from previous post activity reports.  This last bit helps you evaluate things that continue to work.
  • Preparation.  In the preparation section, write about the lead up to the activity.  Keeping brief, put as much detail as possible, including contact details of people you worked with.  Attach quotes and emails as annexes to the document so they don’t break the flow.
  • Conduct.  Here is where you would write about how you conducted the actual activity.  For a tradeshow it could be a narrative of the days events.
  • Post conduct.  Post conduct is just as important as the conduct itself.  Write how long it took you to contact all your new leads and the response you got.
  • Budget.  Include a mini budget of the event.  This will help with future budget estimates.  Also include an calculation of the cost per lead (total cost divided by number of leads) and the cost per sale (total cost divided by number of sales).  These metrics are powerful to evaluate the success of the activity.
  • Summary.  Take out the 3 or 4 key messages, the things you must absolutely do and avoid next time and put these in the summary.

These topics take you through all the phases of the activity, from planning, to the conduct to the follow ups.  The idea is that under each of these topics you write one or more paragraphs expanding on the topic.  You would be amazed at what you think is important later that might not seem relevant today.

I wrote a post activity report for a military exercise and tried to include as much information as possible.  At the insistence of my boss I included a section on the public perception of the exercise – I didn’t think it relevant to the report.  Good thing I did, as several months later I was asked to manage a PR campaign and was able to pull many of the lessons learned from the report.

In summary post activity reports are a great way to capture your ideas.  I’ve attached a blank activity report in word format for you to begin using, let me know how you go!

Dummy Post Activity Report