From booth space to rigging, shipping and A/V equipment, trade shows can be an expensive way to market a business. However, strategic planning and preparation will guarantee a return on the investment while achieving marketing and sales goals.
While every trade show, conference and exhibition is different, this guide will help the way you pre-plan to meet your trade show goals. Planning for a trade show does not have to be overwhelming and this guide effectively plans for and directs you to a successful event.

While the show is in the distant future, it doesn’t take long before the big day finally arrives. This is the time to set the foundations to the big event.

Set Goals & Targets
Set the stage for a great trade show experience with firm goals from the beginning.
• Who do you need to meet with?
• How many leads do you need to collect?
• Is this an opportunity to launch a new product?
• Do you want to be noticed by a new segment in the market?
• Are you trying to understand your position in the marketplace?
• How many visitors do you want to visit your booth?
• How many other exhibitors will you meet?
• How many sales should result from exhibiting?
• Who will do what at the booth?
• Are there any meetings that can be set up?
• How will you measure the results?
• Be realistic and set 4-6 achievable goals to work towards.

Sign Up For Early Bird Rates
Make sure you book early, because if your decision to pick a great trade show is a good one, space will fill up fast.
• Discounted early bird rates generally expire four to six months before the event, offering rates about 5 -10% lower than standard rates, so make the most of them.
• Sometimes there are also really great discounts with “association memberships”.
• These discounts may also extend to beyond space at the show, with accommodation or technology hire.
While these little discounts can cut costs at trade shows and events, the largest savings come from strategic planning and measuring efforts.

Outline Budget
Project your budget covering these expenses
• Booth space hire
• Transportation, shipping & material handling
• Electrical (if required)
• Lead technology setup
• Carpet/flooring (if required)
• Rental furniture or A/V equipment
• Installation and dismantle (if required)
• Rigging for hanging structure(s) (if required)
• Booth costs (rent or purchase)
• Accommodation, airfare/ travel costs for booth staff (where necessary)
• Marketing campaign and sales expenses for dinners, pre- and post-show awareness campaigns
• Set targets for sales for during the show and follow-up.
You can then evaluate the cost of the show with the potential on return.
This will serve as your financial guide, setting foundations, benchmarks, boundaries and goals.

Make Connections
Strength is in the numbers, so explore any opportunities to connect with global partners. Reach out to set your exhibit and display needs and see if there are areas that can be covered such as co-branded collateral, giveaways or prizes.

Assign responsibilities with deadlines to key staff so tasks are completed on time and progress is monitored.

Develop Marketing Plan
Begin planning your marketing and promotional campaign for before, during and after your event. This will be the roadmap for driving qualified visitors to your booth and converting those leads into sales. An integrated and multi-touch point marketing campaign is the best strategy for reaching your audience. Your sales team can also be the driving force for word-of-mouth and relationship leveraging.
• Set a Buyer Persona that establishes needs, desires and goals for the demographics of your audience, where they get their product information (internet, print publications, television or radio) and what their objectives are
• Profile event guests, how many are expected, what percentage fit into your Buyer Persona and what their objectives would be
• Be clear if/ where the show offers listings and ads in the show directory, special event sponsorships, product showcases, banners, branding marketing sponsorships or awards. These programs have deadlines 60-90 days before the event, so this is the time to maximise your exposure and benefit from participating. Set deadlines when to place your ad space order and to submit materials.
• Create a campaign that establishes a unified message promoting the date of the tradeshow, your booth number, any booth giveaways or competitions and special offers and incentives.
• Design content for your website and social media
• If it suits your demographic, set up digital print, tv or radio advertising campaigns.
• Create an event database from your overall database aiming to reach out and create event and campaign awareness
• Craft exclusive and personalised invitations to top and middle tier clients
• Schedule newsletter campaigns to the rest of your database
• Design a sales script and start planning for all sales collateral
• Build a giveaway competition, how this will be promoted, the process for it being executed and how it to maximise it to capture potential leads

Set A Schedule
In an excel worksheet or using an online project manager such as Asana, collate all the details for the event, who’s responsible for what actions with contact details and delivery times. Set deadlines into an open calendar.

This period lays the groundwork for the months leading up to the event.

Design Your Booth & Graphics
The exhibit design process is a process that requires plenty of planning far in advance of your show date. Depending on the size and complexity of your display, it can take up to 3 months to design, build and deliver.

Carpet & Flooring
If flooring is not included with your booth, order flooring from the show or a supplier to the event – this is another great area to take advantage of early bird rates.

Furnishings & Accessories
Couches, booth furnishings, garbage cans and floral arrangements generally need to be reserved at least two weeks before the show but this is an area where early bird discounts can really help.

Roll Out Pre-Show Marketing Strategy
Tactics inviting prospective clients to the show or scouring the show registration list to target qualified visitors will attract leads and sales to your booth. It will also set a focus for your booth staff with qualified traffic familiar with your brand and product.
• Push website content live
• Schedule emails and social media
• Roll out advertising campaigns

This time is crucial to focus on your booth setup and show services and often where the small details can fall into the crack. Planning ahead with a great checklist reduces tasks and details being overlooked leading up to the show.

Booth Logistics
Start planning transporting your display so your materials are safe and secure, and reach your booth space in time for your installation team to arrive.

Rules & Restrictions
Booth height restrictions or maximum hanging sign heights form part of the rules, regulations and restrictions with each show. Make sure you are fully aware of these so you don’t break them.

Booth Install & Dismantle
Create setup instructions and line drawings of your exhibit so your installation
and dismantle teams know when to bump in or out and how to set up and pack down.

Electrical & Rigging
Maximise your space for strategic use of lighting with a distinctive and sleek design that focuses on your products and people. Excellent design leverages where the eye will linger so create a flow in your brand experience where your visuals, lighting and message interact with each other. Don’t forget you have the rights to the floor as well as the space above, so think in terms of three dimensions.
• Explore the electrical setup of your booth – complex electrical setups may require an electrical drawing of your booth for the main electrical drop, wattage and locations of outlets
• Look at where you’ll be hanging signs and if tall or unsupported structures need to be rigged

You’ll still be monitoring your pre-show campaign so this is the ideal time to focus on in-booth marketing collateral for the event.
• Lead retrieval machines and reservations may need to be booked, and this is another area to take advantage of low “early bird” rates.
• If giveaways and a competition is part of your marketing plan, start ordering your branded giveaways and setting up the competition.
• Start ordering the production of your pull-up banners, brochures, catalogues and collateral, setting the deadlines for production and delivery across the next 4-6 weeks.

Start rostering and scheduling staff in with dates and times to be trade show ready as well as establishing show goals, targets and KPIs.
• Training may also be required so staff know what is expected onsite
• Refine the sales script with a checklist of points to make it easy for everyone to follow onsite on the day.
• Establish uniform or attire: if a special uniform is required, this is the time to start ordering.
• Book flights and accommodation.
• Reserve ground transfers, events and entertainment.
• Start writing up a travel itinerary listing plane, transfer and accommodations details.

The last 30 days pre show will be busy, but staying organised and using your predefined goals, budget and marketing plan will help focus your efforts. This is the time to be confirming details in the leadup to the show

Final Booth Details
• Finalise the details for your booth and make sure your display materials and transportation with installation are locked in.
• Confirm wi-fi and internet services
• Lock in renting or purchasing your audio-visual equipment and make sure it’s tested before arranging delivery to the event site

• Your in-booth materials such as products, brochures, catalogues and giveaways should be ready by this time. Arrange the safe and secure delivery of the collateral to your booth staff’s accommodation or the site
• Keep monitoring and gauging your pre-show marketing campaigns

• Lock in the times and details for shipping your booth materials to your space
• If you need it, explore options for onsite storage and security
• Booth cleaning services may need to refresh your space after a long day of visitors: organise a cleaning service or put together a cleaning pack with a handheld vacuum, spray & wipe, chux, Glen20 refresher, bin liners and anything else to help maintain the cleanliness and presentation of the booth

In an excel worksheet, collate all the details for the day/s of the event, who’s responsible for what actions with their contact details and delivery times. While you will account for changes right up to the last minute, the outline will be reassuring for you and your team.

Onsite Survival Pack
Gather the essentials in a presentable sizeable tub including printed versions of the itinerary, power boards, packing tape, extension chords, phone and computer connectors and a pencil case of pens, scissors, tape, paperclips and bull clips along with napkins, hand-sanitiser, hand mirror, snacks and water.

Need help with Trade Show Booth Displays? Blue Can Do helps companies drive their marketing as Trade Shows Specialists. We have success stories of companies we’ve worked with grow from ideas into successful businesses and market leaders. We know your business will benefit from exhibiting at trade shows and events. Contact us to get Trade Show ready.