Getting through a trade show stress-free requires a good amount of planning, and one of the ways to ensure that you are well prepared for the day is to have a trade show checklist, where you tick off each activity one at a time.
Some companies will focus on logistics and forget about marketing, causing your booth to lag behind. By the time they catch up, they do end up getting flooded with deadline after deadline.
So, how can you stop this inevitable rush in the end? First of all, you shouldn’t get distracted with the “Whats” but focus more on the “Whys.”
This is actually the marketing part. You can plan out a good marketing item that you will need during the show, but you should be wary of turning the “why” into a “what,” as well.
This means that you should not frame it as “I must prepare a design message for my trade show booth,” as this will make it into a chore; simply say that “Why is this the message for my company’s trade show booth?”
As a result, you will deep dive into what the message should entail and even develop a trade show booth checklist.
Now, when it comes to planning the objectives and marketing items for the upcoming trade show, it is wise to do it on a month-to-month basis, so you clearly understand what you are doing each month, without getting too overwhelmed by the whole process.
If you are unsure what to do, then coming up with an ultimate trade show checklist is an excellent place to start.
So, let’s have a look at a month to month basis plan.
One year before the Trade show
Once you have decided on the trade show date, you need to ask yourself the million-dollar question: Why are you spending all of this money for a trade show?
You must remember that each expo typically has a different marketing goal and theme. Additionally, you have to define your business and let the objectives direct you towards a suitable trade show booth design.
You should never jump into every opportunity for a trade show that comes your way.
This is what you should do instead, come up with a theme and then identify all the expos that will be relevant to your business and marketing campaign.
Identify the dates, the registration fees, and all other package inclusions, which will help detail a comparison to see which one suits you.
You should do the best you can to prepare a marketing budget that will suit your company and ensure that it is as detailed as possible. Actually, having a budgetary expenditure cost can help in identifying whether you are ready for the trade show investment or not.
What you need to prepare for at this time is a trade show preparation checklist.
Ten Months before the Trade Show
By this time, you should have already chosen objectives for the trade show event and all the necessary registration documents completed.
During this point, you could start communicating with the show’s organizers about the packages they have available.
Now, we need to talk about the specifications for the booth and all other inclusions into the trade show event such as security, efforts, freebees, all required documents, program flow, and registration fees, plus the expected number of people to attend.
It would be best if you started working on the necessary registration papers. You must work with your company and the accounting team about the budget allocation and fees.
There should be a brainstorming session where you come up with an initial conceptualization of your booth.
This could also start by discussing what the promotional efforts and marketing materials for the event will be.
If you are looking for a more in-depth plan, you could divide this into three different phases;
The pre-show marketing will deal with the strategies designed to raise awareness for your participation in the trade show.
The at-show marketing will touch on the tactics you will use to engage and entice the attending market.
Lastly, the Post-show marketing which will feature following ups on the leads you came up with.
Between six and nine months to the Trade Show
Now, this is the most important time for planning. You must determine the show booth layout and design.
If you have an in-house graphics team, you must allow them to voice any ideas you have to the branding specialist.
You could use an exhibition 3D application or software to help you picture how the booth will look. Do remember to consider the potential number of attendees visiting the booth.
Be sure to layout and give space for conversations by leaving enough space in the booth for the attendees.
Now, the booth design plan should cover walls, lighting, and physical graphic needs, such as stand-ins, posters, and banners.
Additionally, design the booth display now so that you can finalize the marketing materials, branding literature, giveaways, and all promotions early.
Someone in the team should also have started sourcing for the potential suppliers to decide which one you will give the best deals and not sacrifice the quality of the show you want to put out.
Five Months to the Trade Show
When you are five months out, you will have quite a few things to do. You may think you have time, but it will go by so fast that you may end up getting caught unaware if you are not busy planning. So, here are a few things you should do at this time;
Complete the budget
You could adjust your budget as per the objectives you have already set. The current opportunities and finances will guide you on this, and you must always plan for anything that might pop up. The budget is one of the most vital parts of the trade show checklist, and it should feature everything, so ensure that you know everything you are planning to do on that day.
Calculate for the ROI – Return on Investment
Well, you are not just planning a trade show for fun, but you have a plan to get something out of it, and calculating your return on investment for the whole event will give you a precise reason for going ahead with the trade show.
It would be helpful if you had done this before or at least attended a trade show. This will be very easy to plan for one when you base it on the success of a previous one or a trade show you know of. It is essential to include every aspect of the show in the trade show checklist.
Attend some trade shows
Keep attending the trade shows you had outlined above as you try to identify things such as; what you may have left out, the mistakes you are likely to make, and all other eventualities that may happen on that day.
Revitalize and evaluate the trade show booth
Now, you need to review the current work you have done so far, such as the pop-up displays, and whether they achieve the marketing objectives you have set out. If they do, keep them; if they don’t, then you have time to change.
If you have to do a new one, consider this in the budget, and you should have already planned for it. Try not to go too much of the budget at this time.
Between one and three months to the Trade Show
Now, you have just a few months left until the big day. You have already gone over everything, and together with your team, you should have discussed it all in the past year.
Treat this as another briefing session to refresh your energy and memory of everything you have planned and are planning to do at the trade show.
Finalize everything from the marketing collateral to the booth. Travel to and from the hotel to make as many arrangements as possible.
Confirm the shipping dates for anything you have ordered. Ensure that everyone scrutinizes all the plans showing on the calendar with delivery dates slotted, so everything gets there on time.
At this time, you should not start a new promotion for participation at the trade show. This is done so your target market knows what to expect when they visit your booth. If there’s room in your budget, you could do some deals and promos.
Other things you can do at this time are;
- Ordering the promotions – you may wish to send all of the items promoting the show beforehand, which means that you must order and choose them then. Some of these may take more than a month.
- Getting the literature for the booth designed – now, the brochure may vary, but plan for it in advance and then start writing, designing, and revising it for approval on the one you will use on the day.
- Getting the staffers – make a final list of the people you wish to work for you on that day. Please do not leave it any longer; they need to be trained and shown what they need to do during the trade show. The most important part should be teaching them customer care and how they should treat any attendee that’s interested in your products.
- Order their uniforms – It would be best if they were dressed in the company colors, or in clothes that advertise your company and the show. This makes it easy for anyone who may be lost to find where they are supposed to be, showing professionalism and good planning.
- Arrange for your travel – If you have to travel to the venue, make the arrangements in advance. Purchase the flight tickets and book the hotels. The rates are likely to have gone up closer to the show, so if you can do this early enough, you may save yourself some money.
You could book the flight about a month out, and no further than three months, as the discounts will have started at that time. Also, reserve the hotel rooms around three months out as well.
- Get the literature for the booth made. Actually most companies like to deal with this about a week to complete the job, which means that this is a great time to get it organized.
- Ship out the materials for the exhibit.
Two weeks to the Trade show
Now, this is a really crucial time. Do not relax thinking you’ve got everything covered. Here’s a trade show checklist of the things you should be thinking about at this time;
- It would be best to verify that all the trade show displays have arrived and are accurately done without any errors.
- Analyze the trade show preparation checklist, which is probably quite intense, and the trade show booth checklist as well. You are finalizing, and this will also help you spot any errors or anything you may have overlooked according to the original plan you had.
- Build a packet document and come up with backups – Ensure that you have all of the required contacts, including the list of staff members you will be using and their telephone numbers, the contact of local vendors, and any graphics art you may need. Be sure to have copies too.
- Prepare the packets for the leads – come up with post-show and at-show packets with all the information needed. The sales team, in this case, should be ready with all leads.
One week to the show
Well, with just a few days to go, there are no major decisions made here. All you should be doing is double-checking that everything is in order and the game plan you set out is working. Everything must be ready now.
If you wish to be more efficient, execute a plan and then delegate tasks to people in the team who can accomplish such tasks, so you don’t have to do everything yourself and get overwhelmed.
Well, the beauty of this stage is that most of the work is all about confirming and verifying all the plans you already made, which makes it easy to delegate.
You could have one person gather all the gate passes and put them in a folder, and another one the registration documents in another folder.
Another team should be overseeing the booth construction at the venue, as this is usually left out till the last few days.
Other staffers should inventory all the branding materials, collateral, and other logistics for the day to be a success.
On the day of the show
On this day, there is nothing much you can do. All the plans you have made in the past year should now come together nicely without any stress.
Just make sure that you are at your best, be there on time, and execute all the plans you had in the planning phase. Meet the attendees and ensure to market yourself. This is your opportunity to increase your client base, and don’t mess it up.
After the Show
There is another checklist after the show. It’s not all over; you could say that some other very important work starts now. Here’s what you should do;
Fulfill your leads
During the show, you gave your customers some essential information in the packets you promised. These packets have good reminders on the stuff you discussed and showed them during the trade show.
In case the clients liked the packet, they may be willing to get into your business, which means you must ensure that you know the customers who got the packets as they are great leads.
Sit down with your sales team and understand everything about your customers before you fulfill these leads.
Analyze your costs
Do a thorough review of the amount of money you spent, and compare this to the initial budget you had created. If you stayed on budget, great! If you did not, analyze why, so you do not make the same mistakes the following year.
Review your objectives
The objectives you initially set out for having the trade show should now be reviewed to see whether you achieved them or not. This will give you the complete information, especially on whether or not you received a return on your investment.
Other than the marketing goals, look at other goals, such as new clientele, new business opportunities, etc.
Did anything go wrong?
Once you have reviewed the objectives and whether or not you achieved them, look at the errors you may have made and how you could fix them in the following year.
Take some notes for the next year’s objectives. Let your trade show checklist for the following year start in earnest.
However, don’t set all the goals too early; check how the customers respond to your company, then set new goals in line with that feedback. But, the earlier you start planning for the next trade show, the better.
The Ultimate Trade Show Emergency Kit
Other than a trade show checklist, it is wise to have an emergency kit. This is a list of things you need to have on hand if anything is required or anything goes wrong, and it is crucial for the success of the show.
You may be thinking that there is no need for one of these, but you will soon realize just how important they are. Some unforeseen circumstances may include someone getting hurt, the booth falling, some materials flying away, having an accident, etc.
Here’s the ultimate emergency kit;
For crafts and repairs:
- Double-sided tape
- Duct tape
- Measuring tape
- Bond paper
- Rubber bands
- Scotch tape
- Binder clips
- Small drill
- Markers and pens
- Sewing kit
For electronics and communications:
- Extension cords
- Flash drives
For cleaning supplies:
- Paper towels
- Stain remover
- Adhesive remover
- Medical supplies
- Eye drops
- Medicine for things such as sore throat, headaches, cough, and colds
- First aid kit
Summary of the Trade show Checklist Items;
- Set some specific objectives.
- Find some potential trade show events in the area.
- Come up with a budget.
- Start with the necessary paperwork.
- Get enough information on
- Booth specifications
- Trade show inclusion and packages
- Program flow
- Gate and security passes
- Expected attendee numbers
- Any monetary prerequisites and fees.
The booth display:
- The size, type, and dimensions of the booth
- The walls,
- The lighting,
- Creative décor
- Promotional and marketing materials
- Company profile
- Business cards
- Product samples
- Brochures and flyers.
- Sales kit
- Sign-up sheets
Writing materials and notepads:
- Electronics and digital
- Projectors and televisions
- Extension cords
- Chargers and adapters
- Digital graphics
- Order forms
- Line sheets
- Digital sign-up sheets
Logistics and people:
- Staff schedule
- Duty roaster
- Travel arrangements
- Pre trade show checklist
- Social media
- Affiliate marketing
To sum everything up, a trade show event offers an excellent opportunity for your business. It can be a great strategy to find new clients and advertise your company further. The trade show checklist helps plan for this event carefully without leaving out anything.
The key, however, is to start the preparations early, and this will help you cover all the bases and include everything from your original plan.
All the best.
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