Trade Show Planning Checklist

custom trade show exhibits

Planning for a trade show (especially your first) can be complicated and overwhelming. There are a multitude of deadlines to keep track of, details to plan, and logistics to be figured out. Getting some help with these things is a big reason why many companies hire an exhibit company to help with trade show planning. We at P.O.P. Exhibits Inc. hope to make the process a bit easier on you by helping with design questions, deadline reminders, and paperwork assistance when needed.

We love it when our clients plan early for their shows! Not only does planning early help everything go more seamlessly, but it also helps keep costs down. When rush shipping and production costs can be avoided, everyone is happier. We don’t enjoy charging our clients rush charges. When planning comes down to the last minute it’s stressful for EVERYONE.

If you’re planning for your trade show yourself, setting goals to manage all the elements and deadlines is critical for success. We’ve compiled a list to help guide you through everything involved:

First Steps: 6-12 months from show

□ Set your budget. Setting a goal for your return on investment (ROI) is also a good idea. Figure out how you’ll calculate your ROI. Research the show by talking to prior participants about their experiences, if needed. 

□ Set your goal. Why are you attending the show? Are you debuting a new product, generating leads, making sales, increasing brand exposure, or meeting with existing clients? 

□ Identify your booth space needs and reserve your space early! Good locations go quickly. Research the show venue to find high-traffic locations that’ll give you maximum exposure.


Next steps: 3-6 months from show

□ Review show paperwork and make note of deadlines. 

□ Start designing your trade show booth. Determine the elements you need (conference space, graphics, monitors, workstations, etc.) so that you have a solid idea of where to start. If you’re working with us, this process can take a while or be relatively quick! We have clients who know exactly what they want right away, and others who go back and forth with alterations before settling on the perfect design. Either way, it’s always easier (and less stressful for everyone) when we have ample time to get the design perfect!

□ Plan and prepare your booth graphics. Once we settle on a design, we’ll provide your designer with specs for preparing graphic files. We’ll give you a deadline and provide reminders. Planning early helps avoid rush fees.

□ Write a concise but compelling sales message that gets across the key points you want to communicate at your exhibit. Rehearse it with your staff so that you can use it confidently on the show floor.

□ Place your orders for electricity, rigging, cleaning services, and flooring (if your exhibit company isn’t providing). We’re happy to help with electrical and rigging order paperwork.

□ If you’re launching a new service or product, confirm it’ll be ready for the show.

□ Plan your giveaways/handouts. Determine the marketing and literature materials you’ll need and begin design and printing. 

□ Finalize your trade show team and order uniforms, if needed.

  • Make all travel and hotel reservations for you and your team.

□ Choose your vendors and make sure they’re clear on dates/deadlines. If you’re renting your exhibit through us, we’ll handle shipping, I & D and storage for you! Otherwise, you’ll need to coordinate shipping, installation, dismantling, and storage vendors.


Final Steps: 1-2 weeks before show

□ Confirm all dates and details with your shipping, installation, and storage vendors. Exchange contact information with your install crew.

□ Put together follow-up packets to send out after the show to your leads

  • Finalize payments with your vendors.

□ Start marketing your show presence. Use social media to your advantage! Let people know you’ll be at the show and where to find you. Contact target clients/distributors and set up meetings in advance, if possible. 

□ Make sure your staff is trained and sales pitches rehearsed. Everyone should be able to answer questions about your company, products and services.


Day of Show:

□ Execute your plan and reach your goals! 

  • Wear comfortable shoes. 

□ Keep your booth staff motivated. Provide snacks, water bottles and breaks. Trade shows can be long and tiring. Don’t let unhappy employees cause a bad impression at the show.

□ Keep careful track of contact information collected at the show.


After the show:

□ Analyze leads, send follow-up info and reach out as appropriate

□ Review your objectives from your plan and evaluate the success of the show. Is it worth attending next year? What changes could be made to improve success in the future?

□ Calculate your ROI by reviewing your budget and total expenses

Why Trade Shows Are Still Valuable

10x20 trade show booth

Though sometimes seen as a dying industry, trade shows in reality are as popular as ever. Furthermore, they have the potential to be more valuable than online marketing… if you know what you’re doing.

Below are just a few of the benefits of trade shows that online marketing can’t provide. 

Quality leads:

Over 90% of trade show attendees are there to learn about new services and products in your companies industry. Those of us who’ve done online marketing know that lead quality MATTERS, and the leads acquired at trade shows are on average more valuable.

One-on-one interactions:

In a world being taken over by the internet and social media, sometimes we forget the value of face-to-face marketing. The connection you can make with someone in person far exceeds any made by email and phone calls. Personal connection is important and that won’t change anytime soon.

Industry Connection:

When you attend your industries trade show, everything is concentrated in that location. No matter your goals there will be something of value for you to gain from attending. Whether it’s access to prospective clients, industry announcements, or news of upcoming trends, there’s something in it for even small companies just starting out.

But if it’s your first show, how will you stand out? 

How to stand out at a trade show

Firstly, do some research before the show. Figure out what your core audience will be, what the competition will look like, and what type of attendees to expect. You’ll be better able to target your marketing efforts if you know your audience well. 

Network and utilize social media before the show. Leading up to the event spend some time talking to people in your industry and don’t forget to followup when the show is over. Pick up your social media activity before the event. Create some hype around a new announcement, product launch, or special opportunity happening at the trade show. Make sure to include your booth number in your posts along with the times any special giveaways will be happening. 

Choose good signage. Choose colors and fonts that match your brand but will also stand out. You’ll be competing with hundreds of competitors and don’t want your brand to get lost! If you’re in an island space consider adding an overhead hanging sign. You want your attendees to be able to find you easily as navigating large shows can be daunting. Make sure you’re as easy to spot as possible!

Engage with P.O.P. Exhibits Inc.
example of a circular overhead hanging sign

Consider a giveaway. Giveaways are a must at marketing events. They naturally attract people walking by who may not otherwise stop at your booth and attract buzz throughout the show. The giveaway you choose will largely depend on your budget. The key is to find something original that people actually want or need. You can either find a unique promotional product to brand and plan to give away a LOT of them, or spend your giveaway budget on a nicer item and have visitors enter to win. The right giveaway has the potential to create a ton of buzz around your booth, so give it some thought and promote it!

With a little planning and help from a quality exhibit manufacturer, we’re confident you’ll be able to stand out and gain some quality leads from your first show. We at P.O.P. Exhibits Inc. do our best to make the process of exhibiting as easy as possible. Our exhibit rental program includes logistics as well as I & D so that you’re able to just show up and focus on what matters. Give us a call to learn more about our exhibit rental program! (800) 880-6498

6 Smart Ways to Make Your Next Trade Exhibit Stand Out

Trade shows are an excellent way to generate leads and to introduce your product to prospective clients. However, it is easy to be overlooked by merchants who may have a bigger booth and a flashier display than smaller exhibitors. This is why it is important to know a few tricks that will help you stand out among even the savviest merchants. Here are six things you can do to stand out among the trade show crowds to make the best impression possible.

  • Start long before you get there: Spend the weeks and even months before the trade show thinking out your exhibit and how your will present your product or service to the audience. Make sure that you have handouts like T-shirts, fliers, pencils and other promotional items ready.
  • Wisely use audio-video materials: Use interactive A/V presentations to draw attendees to your exhibit like months to a flame. Your well produced presentation can be as simple as a monitor a keyboard and a computer or as intricate as a wide screen display so long as it is engaging, informative and interesting.
  • Be hospitable: People enjoy doing business with people who make them feel special and appreciated. Provide your prospects with pleasant conversation, refreshments, etc., to let them know that they are the focus of your marketing efforts.
  • Hold a giveaway contest: Giveaways are an excellent way to build a mailing list and if your company does not hold one you may be missing the opportunity to gain some A-1 prospects. Just be sure that your giveaway is fun and that the prize(s) will be something that the public will find valuable.
  • Invest in a great exhibition stand: Invest – and that is the key word – in the best exhibit you can to make your display stand apart from the others. You don’t have to spend a fortune for a custom stand that can wow the audience and put your product in their minds.
  • Hire a celebrity spokesperson: If your budget allows it, hire a celebrity to help you sell your company. The celebrity you choose doesn’t have to be an A-lister, it can be a local celebrity.

Using these tips you can compete with some of the larger exhibitors. You can also gain parity with the big boys (and girls) with a 10×20 trade show booth. Our custom trade show exhibits can adapt to a variety of different products and industries.