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, showcasing your products or services and giving you the opportunity to build solid leads. In fact, 99% of exhibitors find unique value from a trade show compared to other marketing channels. 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 by creating a 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 an event marketing plan for before, during and after the show.
- Choose a trade show that fits your customers’ profile, and book a booth space.
- Design your trade show booth 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 trade show giveaways. The best items 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. Run an email campaign. 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, you can send them out immediately after, 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 trade show booth displays.
- Order trade show 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 (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 sales leads visiting your booth. 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 trade show giveaways, so you can stay top-of-mind even when prospects aren’t working.
- While scanning badges or collecting business cards, talk with prospects about their needs.
- Make notes about the 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 offer 2–3 ways to further engage with your business, 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 planning checklist has been useful. With careful event planning for trade fairs and exhibitions, strategy, preparation and post-show efforts—sure-fire success is in your future.