Trade Show Marketing - The Planning Countdown

October 18, 2011

On our theme of planning for 2012 (did you start your marketing plan yet?) we will be posting several articles on planning for your next trade show event - everything from trade show graphics to the actual booth design

Most people think that they do not have to start the planning process until 60 days out - they are so wrong.  You should be planning your next event NOW for 2012.  Here is a breakdown to show time that gives you a listing of activities you should be working on while getting ready for that next event.  

Countdown to Show Time

trade show calendar

12 Months Out

  • Determine purpose for participating in show.
  • Select space: Study floor plans, traffic patterns, services, audience makeup.
  • Read contract carefully: Understand terms, show rules, payment schedule, space assignment method (by product category, seniority, membership, etc.).
  • Send in space application and first payment.
  • Prepare budget.

Six Months Out

  • Determine exhibit objectives.
  • Select primary vendors (exhibit house, transportation company, installation/dismantle supplier).
  • Decide if new exhibit is needed. If so, begin design process. (If using a portable, the design process may not require this much lead time.)
  • Plan show advertising.

Four Months Out

  • Select staff.
  • Make airline, hotel and car reservations.
  • Determine exhibit needs (if using existing properties): refurbishments, additions, changes.
  • Select display products.
  • Plan inquiry processing procedures.
  • Communicate with primary vendors (exhibit house, shipping, installation/dismantle) regarding services needed and dates.
  • Develop floor plan for exhibit.
  • Finalize new exhibit design.
  • Execute show-related advertising.

Three Months Out

  • Carefully read and review exhibitor manual.
  • Select portable exhibit supplier.
  • Review exhibit floor plan and note target dates and restrictions.
  • Plan any in-booth presentations/demonstrations.
  • Create list of required services, noting deadlines for "early-bird" discounts.
  • Distribute show plan to staff.
  • Reserve any additional meeting rooms (hospitality events, press conferences, etc.)
  • Select catering menus (for hospitality events, press events, etc.)
  • Meet deadlines for free publicity in the exhibitor guide/preview.
  • Submit authorization form if you are using an exhibitor-appointed contractor.
  • Plan pre-show meeting.

Two Months Out

  • Preview new custom exhibit.
  • Finalize graphics art/copy.
  • Order staff badges.
  • Send information to other departments exhibiting in booth.
  • Create and order lead forms. Finalize inquiry processing procedures.
  • Prepare orders for: drayage, electrical, cleaning, floral, etc. Take advantage of any pre-pay discounts.
  • Follow up on all promotions, making sure everything is ready to ship by target date.
  • Prepare press kits.
  • Check with staff on airline and hotel reservations and travel dates. Make needed changes.
  • Develop briefing packet for booth staff.
  • Schedule training for booth staff at show.
  • Send reminder to upper management about briefing meetings (in office and at show); include agenda.

One Month Out

  • Follow up on shipping orders.
  • Follow up on installation/dismantle schedule; get an estimate on costs.
  • Call to reconfirm airline, hotel and car reservations. Make needed changes.
  • Follow up on target dates with all vendors.
  • Confirm availability of display products/literature.
  • Preview new portable display.
  • Send all needed materials by target shipping date to avoid express mail shipments.
  • Distribute briefing packet, including training materials, to all booth staffers.
  • Set up and hold pre-show briefing meeting in office.
  • Set up in-booth conference room schedule for pre-arranged meetings at show.
  • Send follow-up reminder to upper management about briefing meeting, include agenda.
  • Determine date and time for briefing staff at the exhibit. Review agenda, purpose of show, demonstrations, rehearsals, show specials, etc.
  • Ensure that you have the following items before leaving for the show: traveler's checks, credit cards, copies of all orders and checks for services paid in advance, phone numbers and addresses of all vendors, engineering certificate for exhibit, shipping manifest, return shipping labels, and additional badge forms.

Upon Arrival

  • Check on freight arrival.
  • Check with hotel about reservations for staff, as well as any meeting rooms and catering orders.
  • Find service area. Meet electrician and confirm date and time for electrical installation.
  • Supervise booth setup.
  • Hold pre-show briefing and training for staff the day before the show.

During Show

  • Reserve next year's space.
  • Conduct daily meetings with staff.
  • Make arrangements for booth dismantle and shipping.
  • Arrange for lead forms to be shipped back to office daily for processing.

After Show

  • Supervise booth dismantle.
  • Handle leads.
  • Debrief staff.
  • Send thank-you notes.

Resource:Beating The Deadlines: Step-By-Step Guide To Trade Show Planning. Exhibitor Online.

Planning a show is a lot of work!!! What other suggestions to you have?



Download one of our Resource Guide Catalogs!

Our custom, modular, portable, and rental exhibits catalogs are a great resource for trade show information as well as exhibit designs.

Download A Catalog

We promise that we won't SPAM you.