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Trade Show Checklist: How to Successfully Plan for a Trade Show

Participating in a trade show is an excellent way to showcase your products, expand your customer base and establish new business partnerships. But you still have to be prepared to fully reap the benefits.

Are you planning to attend a trade show soon? Our trade show checklist will help you effectively plan your exhibit before, during and after the trade show.

Before the trade show checklist

Exhibit planning should begin well in advance of the trade show, as much as 12 months ahead of time. Here is our guide to everything you should plan before hitting the trade show floor.

Set your goals

Businesses can reap plenty of benefits by participating in a trade show. However, you should always clearly define your main goal before planning for a trade show so that you can track and use the event data as a key indicator of your success afterwards.

Here are some common trade show goals that you can use as performance indicators:

  • Building your reputation
  • Building awareness for a new product or service
  • Generating X number of sales
  • Generating X number of qualified leads
  • Finding X number of potential investors
  • Asking visitors to fill out a questionnaire for market research
  • Networking with X number of industry professionals
  • Gathering intelligence on your competitors

Plan your messaging

In general, you only have a few seconds to capture the average person’s attention and attract attendees to your trade show booth. When planning your next trade show, creating a short and captivating message should be on your checklist.

Book your space well in advance

Booth location can have a major impact on the number of attendees you will attract. Since prime exhibiting space tends to run out quickly, you will want to register and book your space as soon as you know which show you will be participating in.

When selecting your space, you should aim for a location that is close to the front entrance or closer to the center than the periphery.

Design your trade show booth

Your exhibition stand will be the centerpiece of the show, since it will serve as your main commercial display during the event. It is very important to think about the type of booth design you need at least 6 months ahead of the event.

Popular options include modular trade show booths, portable trade show booths and fully custom trade show displays. When hiring a designer, be sure to include everything you can in your checklist, from the general layout to trade show booth lighting, since every little detail can have an impact on your success.

Create sales materials and promotional items

Alongside your trade show booth, you will need to plan the sales materials and promotional items you want to include in your exhibit. You can hire a graphic designer to develop your brochures, catalogues and business cards if you don’t already have an in-house designer.

Some exhibit stand designers and manufacturers also offer a graphic design service. You can easily outsource the production of your posters, banners and other branding materials to them.

Designate your staff

A talented trade show booth team can make or break your success and you will want to make sure you choose the right people for the job.

Aim to have at least three people on hand to ensure your booth is always staffed and clearly designate each staffer’s roles and responsibilities. Determining your staffing needs early will also allow you to train your staff and plan for travel and accommodations.

Plan your travel and shipping logistics

One of the most critical elements of trade show preparation is arranging transportation to and from the event. Make sure to book all flights, accommodations and rental vehicles as soon as you can to avoid unexpected hassles and excessive costs.

Another equally important aspect of planning is shipment logistics. Always confirm inbound and outbound shipping of items such as your booth well before the event.

Pre-event communications

Creating some early marketing buzz about your presence in the trade show is a great way to drive more attendees to your booth when the big event day rolls around. Consider using a few different event communication tools to spread the word about the event.

During the trade show checklist

Beyond all the planning that needs to be done before the show, you will also want to keep the following checklist in the mind for during the event.

Test everything

After you first arrive at the venue and have everything set up and ready to go, it is always wise to test all equipment and event tech to make sure it is in working order before the show.

Showcase your products or services

The best way to illustrate the capabilities of your product is through live demonstrations on the showroom floor. Consider using larger displays instead of laptops or tablets in your demonstrations and asking attendees to test your product after welcoming them to your booth.

Engage beyond the booth

If you stay in your booth the entire event, you will have to rely on visitors coming to you. Don’t hesitate to have one or two staffers venture out for some aisle-side interaction if you want to improve the number of prospects you reach.

Track your progress

As mentioned at the beginning of this trade show checklist, tracking your event data is a great way to stay on top of your goals and measure your success. Use a pre-defined set of key performance indicators and keep track of your numbers throughout the event.

Stay active on social media

There is a strong chance that attendees who visit your booth will want to check you out on social media. Be sure to maintain an active social presence throughout the trade show, posting updates using hashtags for the trade show and inviting others to follow you on your platforms.

After the trade show checklist

When the big event is all wrapped up, there are a few more things you will want to add to your trade show checklist.

Follow up on leads and networking opportunities

One of the most important post-event actions to take is to follow up with any or networking contacts you generated during the event. This step should be done no later than one week after the event.

Evaluate your success

Once you’ve followed up on the contacts you made, you will want to take the time to measure how successful your trade show presence was. Consider surveying your team as well as making sense of the event data and KPIs you captured in relation to your original goals.

Apply what you’ve learned

The final step in your checklist should be to apply the lessons you’ve learned from your trade show experience. Trade shows are often a great opportunity to glean insights from prospects, competitors, attendees and industry players.

Use these insights to improve your products and services and adjust your trade show checklist for your next event.

Need help planning your next trade show?

Our trade show experts are ready to help you with everything from booth design and manufacturing to logistics and storage for your next trade show event.

Get in touch with us now to request a consultation or if you have any questions about our turnkey services.