Menu Close

How to Plan Your Trade Show

A lot goes into a trade show the day-of, but even more should go into it in the time leading up to it. The more you prepare for your upcoming trade show, the more time you invest in the success of your exhibit. Your to-do list may seem endless, but if you follow this timeline, everything will feel smooth and calm.

One Year Out

Don’t let this first subheading scare you—it may seem like a long way out, but if you start the cycle of planning this far ahead, you’ll thank yourself later.

This is around the time you start thinking about booking a trade show. This allows you plenty of time to make informed decisions, instead of panic-booking something last minute. Take your time researching different shows and pick the one that best aligns with your business goals.

The best way to compare different trade shows is to request statistics from all the events you’re interested in. Looking at the attendee numbers, demographic information, average booth space cost, travel expenses etc. you can make an informed decision that will set you up for success.

Once you’ve decided on an event, be sure to set reminders for important deadlines to ensure your spot! A lot of events offer discounts for early registration, too, so be sure you look into that as soon as you can.

9 Months Out

It’s time to start goal-setting. Meet with you team to set realistic and attainable goals for the show. Of course, goals can change depending on current marketing objectives, like a product launch or promotional campaign, but it’s a good idea to go ahead and set preliminary goals far in advance.

Sit down and lay out whatever outcome you’re expecting from this event. It’s important to define what success will mean to you, so you can analyze the trade show accurately. How will you know how successful you were, if you don’t have a way to measure success? Communicate your ideas with your team so you can all be on the same page; then, you can work out the details later.

This is also when you’ll want to start thinking about the design of your exhibit. First, find out how much space you’ll need in order to meet the goals you’ve set, so you can design your exhibit with these goals in mind. For example, if you’re launching a new product, creating the perfect product display would be your first priority. Your other design decisions will center around that. If the goal is to increase brand awareness, make sure knowledge-based resources are readily available in your exhibit.

Go ahead and nail down your budget, as this will directly determine what you can realistically achieve! Here’s a basic breakdown of costs you can expect:

Exhibiting space—30%

Show Services—20%

Exhibit Design—10%

Shipping and Drayage—10%

Promotional Material—5%

Booth Staffing and Travel—20%

Miscellaneous Costs—5%

6 Months Out

It’s marketing time! You need to start thinking about how you’re going to advertise your exhibit. Decide which outlets you think will help you best attract visitors (direct mail, email marketing, promotional items, and giveaways are some examples) and start placing ads. You’ll have plenty of time to get your event on people’s calendars! You’ll also want to create lots of social media buzz in the weeks leading up to your event.

3 Months Out

By now you should have all of the major details figured out, and this final stretch of your planning timeline should be focused on finalizing all the details. Tie up any loose ends such as travel and accommodations, training your booth staff, scheduling meetings, or networking. Tiny, last minute details can be a huge headache, so make sure you’re keeping up with all deadlines and dates, and make sure you’re confirming everything.

Once all of the big decisions are made, you have plenty of time to take care of the little things that would usually fall through the cracks when you’re rushing. This will no doubt push you ahead of the competition!

For more trade show advice, as well as display services and inspiration, call Design Display right now!