17 Trade Show Planning Tips and Resources

At the beginning of each year, it’s common to try to predict what the future holds. Often, the success ratio of this exercise is on par with a game of Craps in Las Vegas. Instead, let’s think about the things you can control and directly contribute to trade show success. Here are 17 tips to assist with your trade show planning:

Tips for Trade Show Planning1.) Plan early & plan often – at least 6 months ahead of the show, if not sooner, such as 9 months. I have a handy Trade Show Timeline Worksheet, available to all, to aid in this process. Send me a message if you’d like it.

2.) Switch to LED lights, if you haven’t already. Among the benefits – brighter lights and lower costs!

3.) Set Objectives. Are you exhibiting for new leads? Brand awareness? Meetings with customers? Outline your objectives before the show and share them with all parties involved.

4.) Forecast Your Trade Show Results. If we don’t know why we’re exhibiting and what we expect to get out of it, how can we be effective when we’re at the show? We created an online forecasting calculator which is easy & effective to use.

5.) Update your graphics. – Sadly, there are a lot of bad graphics on the trade show floor. If your graphics aren’t new (as in less than 18 months old), it’s probably time for a refresh.

Tips for Trade Show Planning6.) Update your display. Like a car, if your trade show display is falling apart, it’s not going to be helpful to you, the brand or your company’s image. Make this the year that you update your display.

7.) Make all of the early discount deadlines. You’ll save money, reduce headaches and check one more item off your list!

8.) Invest in lead capture. Scanning badges or collecting business cards only gets you a list of names. We provide exhibitors with a system that not only collects contact information but also can help to qualify or disqualify prospects, share content by email in the booth and report ongoing results afterward to make informed post-show marketing decisions.

9.) Go paperless. Don’t ship a bunch of brochures. Share them digitally at your trade show.

10.) Create a booth experience. Pre-show marketing is focused on driving people to your booth. However, if there’s not a reason for them to stay or get engaged, a prospect might walk away before you have a chance to speak with them. Create an engaging experience to compel them to interact with you.

Tips for Trade Show Planning11.) Measure results. One of my favorite quotes is, “If you can measure it, you can manage it!” By measuring your trade show results, you’ll be armed with decision-making information to influence the outcomes & successes of your next trade shows.

12.) Create a post-show report. Once you measure results, share it with your team to show them the “fruit of their labor” and share it with all stakeholders to ensure they understand the benefits of trade show exhibits.

13.) Invest in training. Doing the same thing over & over will yield the same results. Take time and invest funds in training your booth staffers to be more effective in the questions they ask prospects and the focus on achieving more at your trade shows.

14.) Continue learning. Never stop learning! We live in the information age, so it’s easier than ever before to learn more new things each day. Read a little each day and you’ll gain more knowledge you can apply to your trade shows.

15.) Lower costs. Trade shows are expensive, but they’re also an investment. By using your funds wisely, you can put dollars towards the activities that are most likely to pay back. For example, you can use lighter materials to reduce shipping costs.

16.) Save time. Working with the right trade show partner will help you to save time and focus on the right stuff – the sales & marketing strategies that will affect your trade show results and company’s bottom line.

17.) Try something new! Another one of my favorite quotes is, “If you wait until all the stop lights are green, you’ll never make it to town.” In other words, if we wait for the perfect scenario to try something new, we’ll always be waiting. There’s never a perfect scenario, so now is the time to try something new – either a new display, a new pre-show marketing campaign, a new lead capture system, a new vendor or a new booth experience – just try it!

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Andrew Swyers

Andrew is a highly-skilled marketing & advertising professional that has been in the trade show and event industry for over 7 years.