Trade Show Planning Checklist
Having a high visibilty trade show booth at events is a wonderful way to market your brand, develop relationships, learn about industry trends, and see what competitors are doing. There’s a ton of planning involved to ensure that everything for your custom trade show display is prepared on time. If anything important gets missed, it can result in delays and cost more money than anticipated.
As an experienced trade show booth design company, we’ve seen many successes and common mistakes that exhibitors have done over the years that have resulted in delayed shipments, incomplete booths, and ineffective designs. One of the most important things organizations can do is to start planning early, ideally 4 months to a year in advance.
While every event is different, this checklist will help standardize the way you plan and effectively prepare for an exhibition.
Trade show tasks 6 months or earlier.
- Determine the main goal and measurable results for participating at a trade show: Before even planning the logistics of the booth, have a dedicated meeting with your team to determine what the main goal of the show is. Do you want to focus on promoting your brand, get more customers, or get more leads? Knowing these details will give your marketing team focus on the messaging and visuals. Then identify some key metrics such as how many customer signups you would like to have by the end of the event, the number of leads you would like to get, or the minimum number of product orders.
- Secure your space at early bird rates: There are often cheaper rates for exhibitors that expire four to six months before the show. Many organizations try to book a space a year in advance. Take advantage of these lower prices. If you have a higher budget, consider signing up for association memberships to get even better discounts that are provided to members.
Create a detailed budget: At Vancouver Trade Show Rentals, the cost of renting a trade show booth includes storage, booth design, delivery, installation, and dismantling services.
Some other budgeting items you should consider are:
- Cost of renting the booth space
- Staff accommodation, airfare, and meals
- Pre and post show marketing campaigns and sales expenses for dinners
- Carpet/flooring (if you don’t include it in your rental booth package)
- Rental furniture and AV equipment (if you don’t include it in your rental booth package)
- Rigging for hanging structures (if applicable)
- Electrical (if applicable)
- Sponsorship (if applicable)
Trade show tasks 4 months or earlier:
- Hire a trade show booth design company: Decide if you want to rent or buy a trade show booth rental. Learn more about the benefits of renting a custom trade show rental display over buying one.
- Develop your marketing plan: Define measurable goals and start planning your promotional activities before, during, and after the event.
Trade show booth tasks 3 months or earlier:
- Finalize your trade show booth design, graphics, furnishings, exhibit accessories, and messaging: The bigger your display, the more lead time would be required to ensure everything is prepared on time for the event. The most common event booth sizes are 10×10, 10×20, 20×20, and 20×30.
- Start pre-show marketing: Determine the most appropriate marketing strategies to reach your target audiences, including digital marketing or inviting prospective clients directly.
- Book relevant show ads and sponsorship: See if the show offers listings and ads such as the show directory, special event sponsorships, and product showcases. These promotional opportunities usually have deadlines 60 to 90 days before the event.
Trade show booth tasks 2 months or earlier:
If you use a company like ours, we take care of all of the booth logistics including storage, shipping, exhibit installation, and dismantling so your team can fully focus on having a great trade show event. We ensure that everything is delivered on time in order to be set up properly.
- Promotional activities: If you’re doing any giveaways at your booth, be sure to order the items far in advance especially if they need to be shipped overseas. Continue your pre-show marketing to build buzz and excitement about your presence in the show. You can see if there is an opportunity to advertise in a show book or directory.
- Staff logistics: If you would like staff to have matching uniforms, order them at least 2 months in advance. Book staff flights and accommodations at least 60 days ahead to get lower rates.
Trade show booth tasks 1 month before the show:
- Organize all of your pre-booth materials like brochures and giveaways and ensure they are at the show site or at the staff’s hotel.
- Ensure in-booth staff are well trained on key marketing messages and ready to fully engage with visitors.
- If you’re doing live trade show presentations, have the staff practice, get feedback, and continuously refine their presentation. According to the market research firm Exhibit Surveys, exhibitors who present live get two to four times as many qualified leads compared to those that do not. Live presentations also increase awareness at a rate five to ten times greater than exhibits without demonstrations.
- Plan your team schedule.
- Continue marketing activities.
Just before the show:
- Ensure that your team has all of the booth materials and products (if applicable)
- Test to make sure that all of the AV equipment and WiFi are working properly
- Provide enough water and snacks/food for the marketing team. Be sure to schedule enough breaks them so the don’t drain all of their energy too early.
Post-trade show activities:
If you outsourced dismantling services for a trade show booth rental, you don’t have to worry about your trade show display’s storage and maintenance afterwards.
The week after the show has finished, it’s a great time to evaluate and discuss with your team what went well and what could be improved for the next trade show. See if you met your measurable goals. The important thing is to determine the value you’ve gained from the event and compare it to the overall budget.
Here are some key activities to consider to evaluate the effectiveness of the trade show:
- Follow up with leads: Ensure your sales team follow up with leads right away
- Survey staff: Ask what went well and what could be improved
- Start post-show marketing: Update your audience about the event
There is a lot involved with planning a successful trade show exhibit. But having a detailed checklist can help standardize your planning process. Ideally organizations should start planning at least 9 months to a year in advance. Before starting on doing the logistics and marketing activities, the first step is to create measurable goals for the event and define the target audiences. Then after the show, your team can evaluate if the goals were met, if the trade show was worth the investment, what went well, and what could be improved the following year.