The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Successful Trade Show


As the owner of a fledgling startup, you could not be prouder of yourself and your team for taking a mere idea and building it into a worthwhile product that will potentially benefit many.

Now, your baby needs to be introduced to your customer base as soon as possible. And while online marketing will get you some traction, it is ultimately at trade shows that you will encounter serious customers and give your brand the boost it requires.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? But how do you get started? Of course, you’ll get milestone calendars and notifications from your event organizers, but they are not going to get into the nitty-gritties of what needs to be accomplished beforehand.

That’s what we are here for! Our guide has everything you could possibly need to put your shoulder to the wheel and embark on this exciting journey.


Why You Ought to Plan in Advance?


Simply put, it’s Murphy’s Law – “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”. And the only way you can get around that is through rigorous custom trade show booth planning.

Everyone plans for the “how”, but it’s only the successful ones that plan for the “why, what, where, and who”, too! So, set to work a year in advance, and use this checklist to navigate your way through choppy waters.


One Year to Go…


Set Clear Objectives

If you’ve attended trade shows in the past, review the objectives you had set for yourself. Rethink your priorities, and either create a new set of objectives or modify the ones already put together.

What are your goals for the event? Are you launching a new product? Looking to build a buzz around your brand? Scouting for new leads? Write it down.


 Draft a Budget


Hone in on a budget for your trade show booth design idea. This is a crucial factor that must be thought-out carefully.

Remember, too much penny-pinching won’t get you the leverage you are looking for. At the same time, diving in without a budget could set you back for a long time. Therefore, tread wisely.


What is the Target ROI?


Again, this is essential to decode your success at the show. If you’ve done this before, build on past experiences. If not, definitely enlist the help of experts or people who have participated in trade shows and understand what works.


Know Your Audience


Event organizers can provide you with a wealth of information. Ask them for demographic details on the audience anticipated at the event so you can map out your approach accordingly.


Complete Event Formalities


Trade shows require significant paperwork to be filled, contracts to be signed, and materials to be read. Make sure you meet every deadline for submitting your entry.


Reserve Your Space


The spaces that enjoy the most traffic disappear in a flash, so get this task out of your way as soon as possible. Have your research ready beforehand on the spot where you can expect the maximum footfall.


Start Planning Your Trade Show Booth


Pick a size that would work for you as per your budget and goals. If you are building it by yourself, this is a good time to start pitching trade show booth design ideas.

You can also sign up with a trade show exhibit partner who will provide you with an event booth rental or a custom trade show booth that’ll work. Remember, you must allow a year’s time to fully customize the booth.


Six Months to Go…


Product GO/NO-GO


If you are launching a new product at the event, make sure it is pre-tested and good to go. Finalize and freeze the version of the product that you are looking to market. Start preparing all the relevant marketing material.


Plan Your On-the-Ground Team


Fix the sales team that will man your event booth. Engage them in a rigorous training schedule that will give them a complete background of your product.

If you are enforcing a dress code at the event, place your orders at this time. Talk to a professional photographer and book your time slots.


Sort Out International Travel


If there is any international travel for the event, this is the time to apply for relevant passports, visas, etc. to avoid last-minute hassles.


Put Finishing Touches to Your Event Booth


If you are going it alone, make sure your graphics and displays are good to go.  Place your order for any high-tech installations you might require for your presentations.

If you are working with an exhibit partner, ensure their event booth design teams have everything they need from your end.


Three Months to Go…


Print Your Materials


Get everything ready to go, including your brochures, handouts, and any other relevant marketing materials that you will require on D-Day.


Storage and Shipping


If you have an event booth rental or a custom trade show exhibit by a professional trade show company, then this is all taken care of for you.

If not, ensure you have all the vendors in place to store and ship your materials to the event. Also, finalize the vendors who would be responsible for installation and dismantling of the booth.

Let everyone know the dates on which their services would be required.


Booth Prototype


The trade show rental booth company should have your prototype ready by now. Inspect your event booth design meticulously and discuss any modifications you may require. The same should be done even if you are going it alone.


Two Months to Go…


Contests and Promotions


Start planning for any promotional events, contests, games, or seminars that you intend to hold in your booth to better engage your customers. Get any materials relevant to these events printed and waiting in the wings.


Payment Methods


It is a rookie mistake to ignore this until later. Discuss payment methods with all your vendors and make relevant arrangements right away.

In a similar vein, plan how your team will work on-ground. Will you make per diem payments? Use corporate credit cards? Time to decide.


Tickets & Hotels


Make all the travel arrangements for you and your staff right from airline travel to hotel booking. Ensure all the paperwork is in place.


One Month to Go…


Start Your Promotions


This is the perfect time for a media blitz announcing your participation at the show. Use social media prudently and send out a press release notifying your target market.

In addition, consider an email campaign built around a theme specific to your event. Most importantly, if there are any attendees you are targeting, don’t forget to set up one-on-one time with them at the event.


 Study the Competition


Find out who else is attending the event and study your direct competitors. Keep an eye out for startups that can synergize with your business and add value to your customer base.


 Redo Training


Have one last go-over with your team. Make sure everyone is aware of their specific responsibilities.


One Week to Go…

Very close now!


 Verify Everything


Ensure that your trade show booth design and all relevant materials have arrived at the venue. Speak to your staff and ensure that everyone is fully set to attend the show. Plan for any last-minute substitutes.


 Lead Management


Talk to the team responsible for managing leads and make sure they have everything required for the event, including the lead fulfillment packets.


D-Day is Here…


Relax! You have done all the hard work up until this point. Make sure that you enjoy the experience to the fullest. Be the best you can be.

Stay calm, and keep your team motivated, well-fed, and hydrated. Your team is the face of your brand, and their enthusiasm will permeate through to your customers as well.

Execution is key now. Stay totally focused on your plans for the event and let your team put their training to use. Do not make any major last-minute changes to throw things off track.


After the Event…




Thank everyone, including your staffers and vendors who helped make your event successful.




Match your costs against your planned expenditure and see that you are on budget. Document every expenditure that made you go over-budget for future reference.


 Fulfill Leads


Get all your lead fulfillment packets out. Provide your sales team with a detailed list of all promising leads. Ensure that every one of them is followed up on.




Give a thorough once-over to the entire event. Pat yourself on the back for everything that worked. Analyze every little detail that did not go as per plan.

Go back to your objectives and see if you met them. Let your management know how you did and what could be improved upon in future.

Now that you know everything there is to know about planning a breathtaking trade show, it’s time to put your skates on and get rolling.

Keep this checklist handy, just in case you feel overwhelmed at any point during the process. Good luck!