Trade show planning can be quite daunting. Whether you are in Marketing, Sales, Human Resources, or are even an intern, the trade show responsibilities and strategies aren’t always second nature. This is especially true for beginners who have never attended a trade show, let alone represented an organization at one.
If it is your first time planning a trade show exhibit on your own, you will need some help. Our beginners guide to trade show planning will serve as an excellent resource for those who are first-timers at trade show planning or even those who have attended year over year, but have had no such luck at gaining a sale or lead.
Consider the following important elements to ensure a successful experience from concept and implementation to completion.
TRADE SHOW PLANNING CHECKLIST
One Year Out:
Set A Trade Show Budget With Objectives
Trade shows can quickly become cost-ineffective, which is why it is important to determine how much money your department has to work with prior to participating in a trade show. Here are some cost examples to keep in mind while building out a trade show budget.
Outlining Trade Show Display Costs With Your Budget
- Trade booth costs, e.g. booth reservation costs, booth display creation, maintenance, build, shipping and handling.
- Marketing costs, e.g. giveaways the day of the event, brand swag, printed marketing collateral.
- Employee costs e.g. staff training, travel to participate.
“What is the purpose of attending a trade show?” your leaders may probe. Educate your leaders on brand exposure and visibility that can be gained from attending trade shows and having specific goals in mind. These pieces make the return on investment full-proof. Here are some examples of goals or objectives for attending a trade show.
Examples of Trade Show Goals or Objectives
- Obtain leads (emails, phone numbers, addresses)
- Take orders
- Exposure to your brand
Ten Months Out:
Trade Show Deadlines Punch List
Outline the synchronized pattern of what date things should be done by. This way, your trade show day is effortless with no unplanned ebbs and flows.
Are You Outsourcing Trade Booth Design, Build & Shipping? Ask yourself these questions:
- When do final comps, designs, wireframes of my booth need handed into my exhibit display partner?
- What day must my designed booth need to arrive prior to the event itself?
- Where will I store my trade show booth leading up to the event and after?
- Who will be in charge of setting-up my trade booth and testing the interactive components?
Eight Months Out:
Plan Your Trade Show Booth’s Design
Consider some of these components for your trade show booth in correlation to your brand’s mission, core values, and marketing messages:
- Lighting, style, and textures
- Interactive exhibit pieces
- Product placement
Six Months Out:
Prep Your Staff & Identify Their Marketing Techniques
Hiring a professional to train your staff prior to a trade show is not unheard of. Maybe your team is not outgoing enough, or maybe they are sales-inclined but not as their true, authentic selves. Consider outsourcing trade show training to help develop the team who will be representing your organization at a trade show.
Trade booth staff training examples:
- Pre-show marketing
- Post-show marketing
Three Months Out:
Asset Management, Shipping, Install
It is important to double, and sometimes triple, check that your trade booth assets are handled leading up to your event. Three months ahead of schedule is ample time to check-in with your trade booth designers to see if they’re set to ship, deliver, and install your piece at the trade show location.
Two Months Out:
Lead Tracking & Follow-Up
Tracking leads for your trade show is extremely important, and more often than not, includes a digital marketing strategy. Make sure that your internal digital resources are set for pre-trade-show and post-trade-show lead generation and evaluation two month’s prior to attending the trade show.
One Month Out:
Trade Show Emergency Preparedness
- Double check if there’s WiFi availability.
- Compile cleaning supplies so you’re prepared if people decide to bring food or drinks near your display.
- Test any charging stations (if interactive components are included in your booth)
- Set aside any necessary office supplies and business cards
One Week After:
Post-Trade Show Reporting
If you are organizing, leading, and attending your first trade show for your organization, it is extremely important to benchmark your successes (e.g. leads generated, pros and cons, what worked vs. what didn’t). Here are a few key steps to keep in mind during your post-trade-show analysis:
- Review any leads gained
- Look at benchmark successes and gap analysis
- Review expenses and ROI
- Offer recommendations for future trade shows
This step-by-step trade show planning guide will act as a template you can use time and time again. Be proactive and not reactive to your trade show exhibition, and get your return on investment with this infographic timeline.