Are you planning to exhibit at any shows in 2016 or 2017? If you haven’t already started planning, the time is now. Participating in trade shows are a big financial commitment. Laser focused planning will help guarantee an ROI.

I always recommend beginning trade show planning six to eight months in advance. You may want to consider additional time if your involvement in the show consists of more participation. I’ve been in your shoes many times and trust me when I say, nothing ever goes exactly as planned. To save you time, money and headaches, I’ve created this guide to make sure you stay on track.

The 12-month plan

  • Know your objectives for the entire year.

  • Assess the national trade show calendar with consideration to your marketing calendar.


  • Determine which shows are best for you, consider new shows in new markets.

  • Decide on your yearly trade show budget.

  • Create a plan on how you’ll spread this budget over all your planned participations.

8-10 months before each show

  • Work with the shows producer in conjunction with the exhibitor manual to determine any rules that may affect your participation. You’d be quite surprised how inconsistent even the most presumptive things can be from trade show to trade show. For instance, one show may permit the use of orange extension cords while they next show requires you to use only black. Seems trivial, but you’d hate to lose your access to electricity on kick off morning all because of the color of your extension cord!

  • Know all of the show deadlines and create a method to keep track of those deadlines. I also recommend creating a backup plan for major components.

  • Book any dinners, meetings, meeting rooms, caterers this far in advance.

5-7 months before each show

  • If you’re using a booth that you own and reuse, put it together and make sure all components are in good working condition, determine if any repairs are necessary. If you’re making any changes to to the display/graphics components, place these orders now.

  • Schedule any additional services such as shipping, installation and dismantling.

  • Schedule any publicity or pre-show events/promotions. Create invitation lists for said events.

  • Purchase any travel accommodations including flights, rental cars and hotels.

  • Purchase any local advertising needed for the area surrounding the show.

3-5 months before the show

  • Determine, design and order any promotional material you’ll be needing such as brochures and giveaways.

  • Schedule shipping

  • Contract with servicers in the local area who will provide you with electrical, carpet, security, booth setup, etc.

  • Develop a plan to manage your leads

90-day countdown

  • Print mailers and brochures

  • Send out newsletters

  • Create press kits

  • Train staff, hire temp staffing if necessary

  • Create emergency kit

Please keep in mind that this list is just a guide!


About the author: William Hall is a seasoned business coach specializing in branding, social media and promotional events. William has spent his career teaching businesses of all sizes how to stand out in the crowd while using marketing dollars most effectively. His clients are continuously thankful for his out-of-the-box ideas that lead to increased revenue, more clicks and a bigger online presence.


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