Trade Show Checklist: The Ultimate Planning Guide
Whether you're attending or exhibiting trade show events, require preparation to hit your goals and make a return on your investment. A detailed checklist is the ultimate planning tool for a successful event, from logistics to marketing—let's get into it.
When it comes to planning out your marketing objectives for an upcoming show, it's best to have them well established from the get-go. From there, you can build out a month-to-month plan to break up your tasks and delegate to avoid being overwhelmed.
Working backward from your event date is a great way to ensure you're confidently prepared and even plan some buffer time. One can dream.
Six months out (ideally twelve)
Set your objectives. List the top three goals you want to accomplish with your trade show program over the next six months to a year. This exercise will help clear up key elements for your marketing strategy and each live event.
- Carve out your budget and return-on-investment (ROI) for each event.
- Set your goals and strategic objectives for each show. Do you want to generate leads, make sales, increase brand visibility, or launch a new product?
- Conduct your research, especially if this is your first time attending. You'll want to evaluate the challenges, opportunities, and risks—for example, the participation rate, target audience, etc.
- Reserve your trade show booth space in advance to find the best high-traffic location and determine your booth size. Also, Early bird rates for exhibitors typically expire four to six months before the show.
- Review all contracts and build your calendar; make sure to list all deadlines for submitting paperwork and payments.
- Secure an exhibit house partner and start designing your trade show booth. If it's custom, get cracking, you'll need more time. For rentals or reusing elements from an existing stall, you'll still want to allow flex time.
Five months out
Now that you have support from your trusted exhibit house on booth design, it's time to tackle marketing collateral, staff, and travel logistics.
- Finalize your exhibit purchase, booth design, and graphics
- Create your sales, marketing, and promotional materials, including business cards, brochures, and giveaways, such as branded keychains or pens.
- If you're conducting a product, software, or service launch, ensure it's been thoroughly tested and ready for its big reveal.
- Select your shipping, installation, tear down, and storage vendors. Typically exhibit house project managers will ensure all concerned parties know the correct dates and the scope of services required.
- Hire your onsite trade show team. Will they be wearing uniforms? If so, order them now.
- Book a photographer to take photos of your booth and the event for marketing and social media content.
- If your team is traveling, make all travel and hotel reservations.
- Check in with your exhibit house to make sure construction is on track.
Two months out
Are you hyped yet? If you've followed the list, things are organized and on schedule. But, of course, there are always wildcards in the wonderful world of trade shows. That's why we plan. Now, it's time to follow up, confirm, and promote your trade show presence before the event. Find out if the event offers listings and ads in the show directory, special event sponsorships, or aisle banners; it might be worth investing to maximize your exposure.
- Choose your furnishings and exhibit accessories, from couches to garbage cans to floral arrangements.
- Confirm that all signage, swag, brochures, and other marketing collateral are on schedule.
- Cement your logistics. Confirm all dates and details with your shipping, installation, and storage vendors.
- Finalize payment information with your vendors.
- Start marketing your show presence: update your social media, send a press release, and email campaign to notify your clients.
- Research and study the list of exhibitors to know your competition.
- Contact prospects, clients, and potential business partners to book meetings in advance.
- Train your booth staff to make sure they know the ins and outs of your brand and nail the sales pitches.
Day of show
Well, here we are, it's showtime! You're prepared, rested (hopefully), and ready to make some connections. Before you tackle the opening day, make sure to check in with your booth staff to make sure the energy level and attitude are on point. It's always a good idea to arrive early to do the rounds.
- Ensure the booth is spotless, all furniture is in its place, and no cleaning products or trash are in plain sight.
- Test all monitors, iPads, or any electronic devices. Are you connected to wifi?
- Review your schedule to allow the proper time between meetings, especially for different meeting spaces. Exhibit halls can be big spaces with separate rooms.
- Stay hydrated and make sure to eat to keep your energy up. Trade shows usually last a few days; you want to keep your momentum.
- Have fun! After all, live events are exciting, and the energy is contagious. The networking opportunities are endless.
Once the lights in the exhibit hall fade, it's time to roll up your sleeves. Compile and organize the contact information collected at the show—make sure to include notes so you can follow up with the right information and material to convert your leads into sales. Again, it's important to strike while the iron is still hot. The days following a show are critical for following up with leads, evaluating your event presence, and planning for changes at upcoming shows.
Planning for a trade show does not have to be overwhelming. Of course, this checklist is a guide to help exhibitors effectively plan successful events. But you don't have to do it alone! The right exhibit house can manage everything from concept to execution to dismantling, shipping, and storage.
Let the accordex team help you plan your next event. Contact us.