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Step by Step Guide to Trade Show Planning

How to Plan for a Successful Tradeshow

Businesses choose to attend trade shows as a way to get the word out about their company. Because the audience you reach at a trade show is highly targeted, it is the perfect opportunity to showcase the goods or services your company can provide. If you want to make the most of your trade show experience, you need to do whatever it takes to make your booth stand out from every other booth at the show. Starting about twelve months before your next show, you need to use the following tips.

use a planning checklist

Make use of our Trade Show Planning Checklist below and you will find the process of planning for a trade show to be less stressful while still achieving a high level of success.

come up with a promotional strategy

Think about how you will spread the word about your attendance at the trade show. There are plenty of options available to you, including sending email or printed invitations, advertising through local or industry publications, public relations, posting to your website, telemarketing, sending direct mailings or soliciting sponsorships.

use on-site promotion tactics

You can make use of the area at or around the trade show to make the most of your promotion budget. Some of the areas in which you can advertise include the airport, nearby hotels, public transportation, billboards or the show directory itself. Sponsorship can be another useful promotional technique at the venue.

use the media

The media can still be useful tool in spreading the word about your business. All you need to do is provide them with a newsworthy angle on your business. Build a press kit to distribute to the media that includes this angle. You can provide the local media outlets with these kits by mailing them out, making them available at the show and passing them out after the show.

There are basically two ways to reach the media: press releases and press conferences. Always make sure you have new information to share if you choose a press conference.

create a little competition

Many people love to compete for prizes. You can take advantage of this by providing competition for prizes to entice people to visit your booth. However, it is important to make sure you keep your game in tune with your marketing goals and corporate image. For instance, a trivia contest can work well for many companies. Make sure your prizes tie into company as well.

As you plan your competition, it is important to think about what type of competition you will hold, what your prizes will be, how long it will last and how to tie it into your promotional efforts. Make sure you are aware of any trade show regulations and local rules or laws that apply to these competitions.

give something away

Everyone loves to get something for free. Think about the types of things your customers would be able to use in their lives and order them in bulk imprinted with your corporate logo and contact information. This will ensure those who take one will think of you often. As you choose your corporate giveaway, make sure it ties into your company and marketing effort in some way. It should also be something unique

be hospitable

Trends have changed. Trade show attendees expect to be treated as if they are a friend or family member, not a stranger. This is especially true if you are attending an international trade show. Some of the ways you can implement hospitable treatment into your trade show includes meal style events, sponsorship or a hospitality suite.

pay attention to detail

In the world of business, the minor details are often important, though they are often overlooked. Therefore, you need to pay close attention to every detail to avoid losing customers who feel you are missing something important. Some of the most important "minor" details you should pay close attention to include marking your booth number clearly on your literature, keeping a large supply of extra marketing materials, making sure the information in the show guide is correct, clear and concise, and having an adequate supply of tickets to hospitality suites or other events.

Trade Show Planning Checklist

twelve months prior
  • What is your purpose for attending the show
  • Evaluate the floor plan, services and traffic patterns to select a space to
    rent
  • Read through the contract, making sure you understand the payment
    schedule, terms, rules and space assignment methods.
  • Apply for your space and make your deposit
  • Budget for the show
1
six months prior
  • What do you want to accomplish with your exhibit
  • Choose vendors for your booth, including suppliers and a
    transportation company
  • Design a new exhibit if you need a new one
  • Plan out your advertising
2
four months prior
  • Choose who will staff your booth
  • Make any reservations, including car, flight and hotel
  • Determine what your old exhibit needs for upgrading
  • Choose products to display in your booth
  • How will you handle inquiries
  • Speak with the vendors you have chosen about your needs, including
    when you need their services
  • Create a floor plan for your exhibit
  • Finalize your exhibit design for a new exhibit
  • Choose your exhibit supplier
  • Begin your trade show advertising plan
3
three months prior
  • Review the exhibitor manual so you are fully prepared
  • Go over your floor plan. Make note of any restrictions and target dates
  • Plan your presentations or demonstrations you will use within the booth
  • Make a list of any services you need. Note any discount dates
  • Give copies of the plan to your staff
  • Reserve the extra space you need for your hospitality suite or press conference
  • Choose your catering options
  • Submit your free advertising to the venue for the exhibitor guide or preview
  • Turn in your authorization form for your exhibitor-appointed contractor
  • Plan your pre-show meeting
4
two months prior
  • Preview your new exhibit
  • Finalize your graphics
  • Order badges for your staff
  • Provide information to other departments that may use the same booth
  • Order your lead forms and finalize the procedures for inquiries
  • Prepare the orders for all the services you need, placing your orders
    with enough time to benefit from pre-pay discounts
  • Check on all your promotions to ensure they are on target
  • Prepare the press kits
  • Verify reservations for your entire staff, making any necessary changes
  • Create a briefing packet for those who will staff your booth
  • Schedule the training for your staff
  • Remind management of briefing meetings with their agenda
5
one month prior
  • Check on your shipments
  • Check the schedule for installation and dismantling of your booth,
    including an estimate of cost
  • Confirm all travel reservations
  • Follow up with vendors on the dates
  • Confirm display literature availability
  • Preview your portable display
  • Send out all materials to ensure they arrive on time
  • Distribute briefing and training materials to your staff
  • Hold the pre-show briefing at the office
  • Arrange any meetings you will need to hold while at the show
  • Send second reminder of meetings with their agenda to management
  • Determine when you will brief staff at the show on the purpose of attendance,
    demonstrations, agenda and show specials
  • Make sure you have copies of your orders with proof of payment, credit cards, contact
    information for all vendors, shipping manifest, shipping labels for return shipping, traveler's
    checks and engineering certificate for your exhibit
6
when you arrive
  • Check for the arrival of all shipments
  • Check on reservations for hotel rooms and meeting rooms, as well as
    catering orders
  • Locate the electrician and service area and confirm installation date
    and time
  • Supervise the setup of the booth
  • Brief and train your staff one day prior to the start of the trade show
7
during the show
  • Reserve a space for the following year
  • Meet with your staff daily
  • Arrange for booth dismantling and return shipping
  • Send lead forms back to the office every day to be processed
8
after the show
  • Supervise dismantling of the booth
  • Work with the leads you generated
  • Debrief your staff
  • Compose thank-you notes to those who took the time to visit your
    booth and send them
9
download pdf versions of the step by step guides

Download these printer friendly PDF versions of the Exhibit Options
step by step guides to trade show planning: