A trade show timeline to keep you on track

A trade show timeline to keep you on track

A Trade Show Timeline Or Trade Shows By The Numbers

Smart companies create a trade show timeline long before exhibiting to ensure a successful outcome and to optimize their trade show budget. By following this trade show timeline you will keep your trade show planning activities on schedule. And rest easy if you encounter unexpected glitches, since this trade show timeline has been intentionally designed to allow a little leeway for the unforeseen.

12 Months Prior to Show – Strategize

  • Determine how trade shows will complement your overall marketing/sales strategy
  • Research and identify which trade shows are worthwhile to attend
  • Request show statistics from event sponsors, including past attendee numbers and profiles, and vendor participation
  • Develop your trade show budget and projected return on investment

9 to 12 Months Prior to Show – Be Objective

  • Establish show objectives (number of product sales, generated leads, publicity, etc.)
  • Set exhibit objectives (space requirements, type, display and promotional items needed)
  • New or existing exhibit?
  • Register and reserve exhibit space with event sponsor after studying floor plans and anticipated traffic flow patterns
  • Request exhibit requirements and review the booth space contract
  • Mark your calendar with deadlines for booth space deposit and balance payments
  • Create a trade show marketing plan including pre-show, at-show, and post-show marketing activities

6 to 9 Months Prior to Show – Unleash Your Creativity

  • Specify and develop your marketing activities (advertising, direct mail, email campaign, promotional items, giveaways)
  • Begin design and print work on literature and marketing materials for show distribution
  • Establish a budget for your exhibit
  • Select a exhibit designer/builder and begin design work for the exhibit, banners, accessories, literature racks and other items
  • Develop an engaging sales message that conveys the key points you want your staff to communicate at the exhibit

3 to 6 Months Prior to Show – Small Details With Big Impact 

  • Determine staffing requirements, develop an exhibit schedule, and plan staff training sessions
  • Research safe and cost-effective methods of shipment for your exhibit and other exhibit items
  • Provide basic show information to the transportation company and the install/dismantle service provider
  • Carefully read your exhibitor service manual; note rules, regulations and deadlines for payments, site service arrangements, discount offers, move-in/out dates
  • Explore travel, rental and accommodation opportunities
  • Begin planning any in-booth live demonstrations or presentations
  • Evaluate and plan your pre-trade show promotion strategy (direct mail, email, other media campaign)
  • Place orders for your giveaways/promotional items

1 to 3 Months Prior to Show – Think Pre-Show Marketing and Post-Show Monitoring

  • Continue with pre-show marketing activities
  • Distribute your direct mail promotion or other pre-show marketing initiatives
  • Finalize production of the booth display, promotional items, marketing materials, literature, and preview your exhibit
  • Develop an exhibit staff briefing kit, confirm identity of exhibit staff, schedule staff training seminars, plan your first pre-show exhibit staff meeting, and distribute the trade show plan to staff
  • Complete your lead fulfillment plan: assemble follow-up packages to send immediately after the show, develop custom lead tracking forms, and plan your lead processing procedures for the show
  • Finalize shipping arrangements for your booth display and related items
  • Confirm final arrangements for travel and accommodation
  • Schedule dinners and other meetings for the show with your prospects, distributors, and customers
  • Order show services if required, and notify show management if you’re using an exhibitor-appointed contractor

1 Week Prior to Show – Conduct A Final Departure Circle Check

  • Complete another round of staff training, rehearse your sales message, and be sure to include staff motivators
  • Confirm shipping arrival dates for your exhibit and related goods
  • Test product demonstrations and all audiovisual equipment
  • Assemble a trade show kit that includes the following:
    • Copies of advance orders for services
    • Contact information, emergency phone numbers, and travel logistics for exhibit staff
    • Shipping manifest and return shipping labels for booth and equipment
    • Digital copies of booth graphics in case damage requires last-minute reproductions

Now sit back and take a deep breath. Following this trade show timeline means your company is well-equipped and organized for your upcoming trade show. Your thoughtful preparation will optimize your at-show performance and your post-show results.