If your company is exhibiting at a trade show, don’t leave home without this helpful trade show checklist. Trade shows can be a great place to interact face-to-face with current and potential customers, giving you the opportunity to build solid leads. But it’s important to have a carefully thought-out plan, from pre-show planning to post-show follow-up. This handy trade show checklist will help you make every trade show appearance a successful one.
6–12 Months Before: Set Your Trade Show Strategy
Start your trade show planning by creating your trade show strategy. Doing this first will make everything else easier and more focused.
- Set goals. What objectives do you want to achieve at the trade show?
- Set a budget.
- Identify your target audience.
- Develop a marketing plan for before, during and after the show.
- Choose a trade show that fits your customer’s profile, and book a space.
- Design your exhibit, including graphics, displays and layout. Keep in mind what you want to communicate to the customer, and consider your technology and presentation needs.
3–6 Months Before: Start the Trade Show Planning Process
With your strategy as a guide, determine how you’re going to communicate your message most effectively. And start marketing: Building buzz early can reap great rewards later.
- Book a block of hotel rooms, even if you don’t know who will attend. It’s easier to change attendees than to hunt for rooms at fully-booked hotels.
- Determine what literature and marketing materials you’ll need and prepare them.
- Order promotional giveaways. The best pieces provide value to your customer and will make your brand more memorable.
- Start pre-show marketing: Send information to attendees with your booth contact information. Send out press releases. Promote your presence through social media.
1–3 Months Before: Finalize Event Plans
Continue building momentum. Get your customers and booth staff excited about the trade show.
- Prepare follow-up materials. If these are ready before the show, they’ll be ready to send out immediately afterward when conversations are still fresh in prospects’ minds.
- Make travel arrangements.
- Train booth staff.
- Contact the event sponsor for any last-minute details.
- Schedule meetings with prospects and other customers. They have busy agendas, so make sure they have time set aside to meet with you.
- Finalize production of all marketing materials and booth displays.
- Order promotional apparel for your team to give them a polished, professional look in the booth.
1–4 Weeks Before: Prep and Pack for the Trade Show
Finalize all the details. The more fine-tuning you do, the smoother and more effective your trade show presence will be.
- Prep and package booth equipment and confirm shipping arrival dates.
- Prepare a competitor trade show checklist to see how your brand messaging and strategy compare.
- Give your team a master contacts list in case things don’t arrive on time. Include cell numbers for team members, tracking numbers, vendor information and trade show details.
- Put together a two-bin supply kit. Place office supplies in one and team resources (cold and allergy medication, lint rollers, stain pens and mints) in the other.
- Make cheat sheets for booth setup and quick reminders for the team, including lists of conversation starters.
- Role-play meeting with leads. This prepares your staff for interacting with visitors.
At the Show: Go For It!
The hard work is over. It’s time to have some fun! Be as professional as possible and make notes for every interaction. Even the smallest observation can go a long way in making a connection.
- Smile and greet visitors. (Follow a ‘no phones’ on duty rule with your teammates to maximize interactions.)
- Trade badge scans or business cards for promotional products. (These little workhorses are a great way to introduce yourself and put your brand in front of your prospect even after they go home.)
- While scanning badges or collecting business cards, talk with prospects about their needs.
- Make notes about post-show follow-up you’ll complete to turn prospects into customers.
Afterward: Follow Up
This is the most important part, next to the strategy. A detailed analysis of prospects, customers and the event itself will set you up for future trade show success.
- Organize leads and follow up right away. Be sure to give 2–3 methods of response, such as a demo request, white paper download, or newsletter subscription.
- Evaluate the show. What worked? What didn’t? What can we do better next time? And do we want to participate next year?
- Review the budget and determine ROI.
- Continue follow-ups throughout the year, including social media and blog posts.
We hope this trade show checklist has been useful. With a solid trade show strategy, planning and preparation, and post-show efforts, sure-fire success is in your future.
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Gleeson, Brent. “7 Tricks For Tradeshow Domination.” Forbes.com. Forbes.com, 04 September 2013. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/brentgleeson/2013/09/04/7-tricks-for-tradeshow-domination/#7fd3869f4a1e>
Ostomel, Dana. “10 Lessons From A First-Time Tradeshow.” Forbes.com. Forbes.com, 14 August, 2014. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/groupthink/2014/08/14/10-lessons-from-a-first-time-tradeshow/#7a2cb2fa5be2>
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