Whether it’s your first time or you are a trade show regular, planning for a trade show can be both exciting and overwhelming. A properly planned exhibition can help you generate leads, find new suppliers, monitor the competition, work on industry networking, and generate publicity for your company. The first step in accomplishing all of your trade show goals is to create a plan.
GTS is no stranger to exhibiting at trade shows; now we want to share our experience with you. Starting with a tradeshow timeline.
It could be handwritten in a binder or carefully crafted in Excel, but creating (and following) a trade show timeline will keep your team on schedule. You will be able to rest easy knowing that you will meet your deadlines and have a backup plan in case you encounter a glitch.
6 months before trade show
- Review Prior Year - If you had exhibited before, review with your team what worked, what didn’t, and how you can improve this year.
- Outline Your Budget - Adjust your budget based on what worked last year, your current financial state, objectives, and opportunities.
- Book Your Booth – If you haven’t already, book your booth space! Based on your budget, you could have many choices on the size, layout and location of the booth. Choose carefully and remember location, location, location!
5 months before trade show
- Decide Your Main Message – Whether you are creating a show theme or picking a product/service to highlight, align your trade show message with your company initiatives.
- Outline Your Trade Show Goals – Decide as a team what you want to accomplish with this trade show. Your goals can include product sales, lead generation or even just generating awareness for your company. Most of these goals can be measured and can help you determine your event ROI (return on investment).
4 Months before trade show
- Create Staff Schedule – Make sure that your booth is staffed at all times. During busy times, such as mid-morning, try to have more staff on hand to handle visitors.
- Review Booth Design – If you are reusing a booth, now is the time to pull it out and look it over. Make sure your booth is in good shape and that your message is aligned with your trade show goals. If you are updating your booth graphics or investing in a new booth, start looking for a booth builder or designer. Large scale trade shows often have preferred builders that you can choose.
3 MONTHS BEFORE TRADE SHOW
- Order Promotional Items – People love free stuff! Give yourself plenty of time to order your branded swag to give away at your booth. You can base how much you order off of the expected attendance for the show and past experience.
- Order Uniforms – You have your staff and their schedule created, now is the time to order uniforms. Remember to dress for the show, an event in Florida may require light attire while a formal show will need a suit.
- Work with Booth Builder – If you are updating your current booth or building a new one, make sure you give enough time for revisions in the design and build time.
2 MONTHS BEFORE TRADE SHOW
- Send Invitations – Shows will often provide exhibitors with free show passes. This is an excellent way to get your prospects to your booth and in front of your team. Send out invitations to important contacts to generate excitement for the event.
1 MONTH BEFORE TRADE SHOW
- Ship Exhibit and Promotional Items - You want to make sure you leave plenty of transit time for your booth and supplies to arrive at the trade show location. A preferred booth builder may be able to help. You can also utilize a 3PL, like GTS, to stay on track with your trade show freight. Read our blog post, The 411 on Trade Show Shipping, for more details on trade show shipping.
- Promote Your Attendance at the Show – There are many ways you can publicize your presence: social media posts, traditional postcards, and even a press release. You want your prospects and customers to know where to find you and why they should visit you.
2 weeks BEFORE TRADE SHOW
- Set Up Appointments – Before you leave for the show, line up your meetings with customers and prospects. There may be meeting areas at the show, or you can treat your customer to a nice dinner.
- Prepare Lead Fulfilment – A lead process is a must to stay organized. You can print out simple lead sheets or invest in technology to collect leads electronically. Make sure you capture the valuable information to follow up after the show.
During the TRADE SHOW
All of your planning has paid off! Read our blog post, Trade Show Tip #1 – Being Remembered, for networking tips and setting yourself up for success at your trade show.
After THE TRADE SHOW
- Follow Up with Leads and Meetings – After everyone gets home and returns to their daily routine, make sure to follow up with your leads.
- After Show Reports – Post-trade show meetings are a great way for your team to review what happened during the show, what worked and what didn’t. This is the time to look back at your goals and measure your success.
Whether you love meeting new people or feel intimidated by the idea of making small talk, the key to a successful trade show is doing your research and being prepared.