It takes careful planning to execute a successful trade show booth; with so many details to account for, it’s easy for something to slip under the rug.

But don’t worry.

We have put together the ultimate checklist for trade show exhibitors. This trade show timeline will ensure you are checking off the most important elements to achieve trade show booth success.

At least 1 Year Before the Trade Show (When Possible)

  • Book your trade show exhibitor booth space.
    Sounds obvious, but it’s a critical step. Plus, booking as early as possible will help secure a more prime space and early bird rates.
  • Review all paperwork. Note any requirements: For example:
    • Insurance requirements
    • Forms and their corresponding deadlines
  • Decide on your objectives for this trade show.
    Why are you attending? How is a part of your long-term marketing efforts? This will, in turn, determine the other factors.
  • Outline a budget now, before spending starts.

8 - 12 Months Before Your Trade Show Exhibit

  • Get specific with your trade show goals.
    • What is the specific ROI you’re targeting.
      Are you going after leads? If so, how many?
    • What is going to be your marketing strategy to achieve these goals?
      Giveaways? Free consultations?
  • Make a plan for the trade show booth, including its design and manufacturing.This is critical. On average, companies allocate about 31.6% of marketing budgets to events and booths. However, 70% (near ¾ of companies) have no specific goal for the trade show exhibit (according to this source). Be a part of the other percent. Create a fully cohesive experience by having a booth that reinforces your trade show goals.

    Get more help with these Secrets to Great Trade Show Booth Design.

4 - 8 Months Before Trade Show

  • Assess any lighting needs.
    If you will need additional lighting to best highlight your exhibit, design and make a plan for that accordingly.
  • Get collateral ready that correspond with goals and offerings.
    If a new product or service will be launched, make especially sure to get started on this early enough.
  • Select the team who will be attending.
    • If the trade show is international, ensure each person has a passport or starts the application process in time.

The Few Months Before a Trade Show

  • Ensure all of the giveaways, products and signage are going to be designed, manufactured and ready in time.
  • Plan how you’ll get your freight to the booth and any other trade show booth items to the show itself. (e.g. logistics supplier, fedex etc..)
  • Begin critical trade show marketing activities.
    • Research competitors who’ll be attending.
    • Research and reach out to attendees. Start booking appointments.
    • Gear up pre-marketing trade show activities on social media.
  • Confirm travel details
    • Travel and transport (airplane, car, etc.)
    • Accommodations
    • Expenses plan
      What is the company covering? Do team members put meals and extras on specific company credit cards? Etc.

The Weeks Before: Things to Bring to the Trade Show Exhibit

  • Make sure all trade show booth attendees:
    • Know the trade show goals and overall strategy.
    • Are well versed in their elevator pitch and sales conversations.
    • Are ready for tough trade show questions.
    • Know trade show expectations and details.
      For example: Who will be in charge of what giveaways? Will there be a team meeting each morning? (There should be!)
    • Are trained in trade show booth strategies and skills.
      For example: Body Language Tricks Every Trade Show Booth Pro Should Know
  • Have office supplies ready.
    Items like pen, paper, scissors, velcro, multitool etc..
  • Make sure to bring items like:
    • Hand wipes, hand sanitizer and breath mints
      If a team member just ate an onion bagel, they’ll want to clean up before shaking hands!
    • Protein bars or quick, energy-packed snacks.
      If there’s a continuous stream of leads, a full lunch break isn’t always a viable option.
    • Chapstick.
      Trade show booth staff will be talking a lot, which can lead to dry and cracking lips.
    • Water.
      Hydration, hydration, hydration.

By completing this checklist, you’re well on your way to a successful trade show. As you complete these steps though, it’s inevitable that other needs will pop up. Simply add those and check them off as you go along.

Remember: After the trade show, there’s another set of steps that are critical to follow. Learn what these are at 9 Things to Do After a Trade Show to Increase ROI.