Trade Show Planning Timeline & Checklist

Trade Show Planning Timeline & Checklist

Today, we will take you step by step into the planning period for your next trade show or expo event. You’ll find some helpful tips as well as a planning timeline that’ll help guide you through your important pre-show process.

Do you feel that excitement? Do you feel that eagerness in the air? Do you feel prepared for your next trade show event? 

Maybe that last question got you nervous. 

It should go without saying that being prepared for your next trade show or expo event is paramount to the advancement of your brand.  

But what does it mean to be prepared? How do you get to a level of comfortability where your product or brand is doing the leg work and you aren’t? 

All of these are valid and important questions in your brand-building journey.  

Today, we will take you step by step into the planning period for your next trade show or expo event. You’ll find some helpful tips as well as a planning timeline that’ll help guide you through your important pre-show process.  

12 Months: Relaxed Planning 

There is truly nothing worse than planning for an event with limited time. You might start to feel that undeniable stress inching into your life, and your anxiety level might creep up to a level that could ultimately affect your decision-making for your brand.  

We cannot stress this enough, but start Planning for your next trade show event at least 12 months ahead. Planning at least 12 months in advance will take the burden off of you and your team. This automatically allows you to lead a more relaxed planning session and pushes you to creatively think outside the box.  

However, your first step should always be to identify your business goals before attending any event. Understanding your brand’s ultimate objective will make your next event more focused and, most importantly, RELAXED.  

Once you’ve identified your business goals, you can select the most suitable trade show event that fits those goals. While in this specific process, you should also consider the location, size, and even the event’s reputation.  

Lastly, we highly suggest registering early to secure a prime spot on the trade show floor. By taking advantage of early bird rates, you’ll save yourself and your brand money.  

We highly suggest taking advantage of the time you have to plan.  

Start early and be prepared for anything.  

10 Months: Getting Organized  

Now that you’ve figured out your plan and location, and hopefully, you’ve considered getting the early bird special as you book your space on the trade show floor… your next step is organized Planning.  

With all the knowledge you’ve developed throughout the first two months of your planning time, you should determine the size and type of booth you’ll need to put your brand in the spotlight. This is all based on the floor map of your venue, but having a booth that reflects your brand is a must.  

We can’t express how important your booth is on the trade show floor. If you are the star of your brand, your booth is the stage in which you present your product or service. With some lofty expectations and your budget in mind, we suggest hiring a professional designer to make your stage appealing to you and your audience.  

Aside from the importance of your booth, this where you should start sending out pre-trade show marketing strategies such as a friendly email blast, maybe a social media post, or if you want to be directly sending a direct email to prospective clients to remind them you’re on the trade show floor.  

Now, once you’ve established the first round of reminder emails, it’s up to you to continue that practice. Being politely consistent can add to your brand’s vision on the trade show floor.  

6 to 9 Months: Design  

Trade Show Design Process

Here’s the fun part.  

After you’ve done all your homework on the venue and your overall plan, the fun really begins. 

As previously mentioned, if you’ve selected a professional to help you design your booth, we hope you make it a team effort in the design process. You should have the ultimate say about your booth because it is your stage. You should walk through every detail with the professional you’ve hired.  

Suppose you keep the design process to yourself or within the company circle. In that case, this is your time to think outside the box and consider affordability while using your creative spirit.  

You should also consider the aspects that highlight your booth, such as lighting, signage, and graphics.  

After the booth design has come to fruition, it’s time to work on your sales pitch. You should write a compelling message that gets across effectively and quickly. A 30-second pitch should be all you need to work on.  

You and your staff should be practicing this pitch to perfection. It should be something that comes naturally and immediately. Remember, most of the time, you’ll only have a few fleeting moments with potential clients. You should nail these fleeting moments to forward your brand.  

3 to 6 Months: Ordering 

Now that you’ve worked on your pitch, the booth design is coming together, and hopefully, you’ve been sending out email reminders of your appearance at the trade show you selected.  

Now, we talk about ordering your supplies. 

If you give out “giveaway gifts” or free promotional gifts, you should order those items within 3- to 6 months before the show.  

Another aspect you should consider is how you will get your material to the venue. Should you be shipping that material out now if it’s an out-of-state or, in rare cases, international trade show? 

You don’t need the unnecessary stress of last-minute Planning. Make sure all the logistical attributes, such as shipping material, are figured out. It’ll make your life so much easier. 

Just as important, you should start training your booth staff in this time frame. A well-trained staff reflects your brand, so having them prepared to answer the necessary questions is the bare minimum for a successful trade show appearance.  

1 to 3 Months: Scheduling 

This is the schedule planning section of our timeline and checklist. If you already have prospective clients in the pipeline, this is where you should reach out to them to start scheduling a dinner or something a little more personal than meeting at your booth.  

Reaching out to prospective clients will set you apart from the rest of the trade showgoers.  

This should go without saying, but if your event is out of town or the country, you should probably have your air travel, hotel, and car rental, if needed, to be finalized. 

Another aspect that isn’t talked about as much but is vitally important is reaching out to event sponsors to see if there are any last-minute promotional deals. Putting yourself and your brand out there could help in the long run.  

1 Week: Final Dress Rehearsal 

You’ve done all the tedious work, and now it’s time for you to walk through the motions of your pitch. Your entire staff working at the event should be well-trained and ready to go. 

You should, at this point, know your materials have been sent to the right place. You should confirm the shipping arrival dates for your booth, promotional materials, and informational packets.  

The last thing you should do is double-check everything we talked about in this timeline and checklist.  

It’s time for you to make it happen. BEST OF LUCK! 

Shows Over… Now What? 

Congrats. You did it. You had a successful appearance at your trade show or expo event.  

Feels good, right? 

However, your job isn’t done yet. 

It’s incredibly important for you to follow up with any prospective client you might have met during your time on the trade show floor. Emailing about your conversation with that client will set you apart from the rest of the trade showgoers.  

Being specific in your email, maybe about something you talked about or a question they might have had during your presentation, will make your brand memorable in the eyes of some prospective clients. 

Another aspect you should consider is asking for constructive criticism from the people you trust the most. Whether that’s a client you’ve known for years or even one of your helpful staff members. 

Adjusting and readjusting your presentation, booth display, or promotional materials to make your next trade show an even bigger success is paramount to forwarding your brand.

There you have it!  

We hope this checklist and timeline have been helpful to follow. It’s ultimately up to you as a brand member to stay focused and well-organized.  

Be prepared. Stay open to the possibilities for your brand, and most importantly, enjoy your time on the trade show floor.  

The Trade Group is a full-service trade show and event marketing company. We will work with you to create an exhibit or an event that brings in leads and helps you achieve your business goals. Contact us here or give us a call at 972-734-8585.    

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