Tips on How to Successfully Plan Trade Show Marketing and Logistics

Great planning does not come easy, especially if you are overwhelmed with other work.  Trade show planning is probably the last thing on your mind.

We all get hit with deadlines that we need to meet, most of which have nothing to do with an upcoming trade show. The trade show is months away, so planning doesn’t need to take place right now, right?


You have to plan show goals, logistics and marketing messages for your upcoming trade show.  This includes details like booth graphics, promotional campaigns and booth staff. If you have the right trade show plan,  you will get more of the right audience to your trade show booth.

Here are some tips for you to be successful at marketing and logistics for your next trade show. You can’t do one without the other to be truly successful.


Six months:

Review Exhibit: Take a step back and review your current trade show display. If you think that your exhibit will not keep you on target with achieving your marketing objectives (maybe it needs new graphics, or perhaps this year you think you might update your counter).  If you have a larger exhibit, then start reviewing six or more months out. If your trade show booth uses a small display, banner stand or table top display, you can start two or three months before the show. Last but least, if you are still achieving your marketing objectives and think your exhibit will help you keep achieving those objectives, then keep the exhibit you already have.  But by planning this far out in advance, you can take time to speak with your exhibit house to get the right trade show display for your needs.

Review Past Trade Show Objectives: Evaluate trade shows at which you have already exhibited at. Study how many leads converted to actual sales so that you will be able to effectively analyze your marketing ROI. This way, you can measure the success of your previous promotional campaigns and can determine if your time would be better spent marketing in a more effective way.

Set New Trade Show Objectives: Set your top two or three objectives for your upcoming trade show program.

Five months:

Set Trade Show Budget: Based on what was successful for you in the previous year, adjust your budget based on what worked. Also take into consideration your current objective, opportunities, and of course your current financial state.

Select Trade Shows and Booth Spaces: Determine which trade shows have the best target market match for the best value. If you haven’t already booked booth space, pick the booth spaces you will take in those trade shows.

Four months:

Set Appointments with Your Exhibit Consultant: If you’ve decided at this point that you need to go with a new trade show display, set an appointment with your exhibit house to meet with your marketing department/key marketing decision makers.  By making the time for some face to face planning or even a phone consultation, you will ensure that your next trade show will be successful and generate the most return for your investment.

Pick Trade Show Booth Staff: To identity the trade show booth staffers that you will want to have staffing the booth at your upcoming trade show. Take a look at last year’s qualified lead counts by each member of your trade show booth staff so that you can identify the most successful staffers. Get in touch with their managers and ask permission for them to attend the trade show. And don’t forget to ask your most successful booth staffers who else they might recommend to represent your brand.

Research Technology Trends: Think of how you can incorporate the latest in trade show technology (i.e. QR codes, charging stations). By integrating the latest technology trends into your trade show booth you will get more attention and be able to have better conversations with attendees. Your trade show booth staffers will be proud to be telling your story.

Three months:

Review the Show Book: The show book is a physical book, also found on the trade show organizer’s website (most often). This book has all the forms for you to be able to order show services. Look for the forms you need and create a list of all the deadlines for ordering. By noting the deadlines you will be able to take advantage of early bird discounts, and also ensure that you will not miss any submission deadlines, especially inclusion in the exhibitor list.

Create Promotions: Have a brainstorming session with booth staffers you have selected and any key stakeholders who you feel might be a good source of input for pre-show and at-show promotions, including promotional products. With great promotions, you will bring in great booth traffic, and greater amount of qualified leads. Your trade show booth staff will thank you for the ability to engage with attendees and hopefully generate more qualified leads.

Two months:

Order Trade Show Services: Look at the show book and your list of services you selected last month. Now is the time to order any show services you need according to your list. Don’t know where to start? ExhibitCraft can help you with a full array of trade show services, whatever your need may be for your upcoming trade show.

Choose Trade Show Booth Staff: Who have you selected for staff your trade show booth? Now is the time to finalize your trade show booth staff decisions.

Arrange Travel: Don’t wait until rates go up. Book flights and hotels for your trade show oth staff.

Work with Your Exhibit Consultant: Work with your exhibit consultant at the exhibit house you’ve selected. To ensure that your new exhibit will be completed in a timely manner, make sure that graphics requests the art department are fulfilled. Also respond quickly and thoughtfully to their questions.

Order Promotions: Choose and order any promotional products that will be going by mail before the trade show. Depending on where the items are manufactures and imprinted, Some promotional products can take only a few days, some can take over a month.

Order Corporate Apparel: If you are providing uniforms with a branded look, such as shirts and pants, order them now. ExhibitCraft has a large selection of Branded Corporate Apparel to choose from.

One month and counting…

Send Promos: Send the first wave of your pre-show promotion campaign.

Train Trade Show Booth Staff: In your first booth staff meeting, train them staffers on the profiles of your main clients. Also fill them in on any new products or services you may offer so that no one is left in the dark when an attendee has a question. If booth staffers are properly trained with the right information, they can engage trade show attendees the right way – with confidence.

Order Final Show Services: Review the show book and make sure there is no stone left unturned as to show services that you might need. If any were overlooked, now is the time to order them.

Order Trade Show Giveaways: If you will be giving away any branded promotional products at the trade show (and we highly recommend it, if you’ve chosen the right ones!), choose and order any promotional items you will be using as giveaways for the trade show. Have them shipped to the show, and have a sample overnighted to your address.
• Ship Exhibit: You will have to ship your new trade show exhibit to advanced warehouse. To save on shipping, you will have to ensure that you get it out the door soon enough.

Two weeks to the big day:

Train Trade Show Booth Staff (continued): In your second booth staffing meeting two weeks out, review how your trade show booth will be staffed with those who will be at the booth. Give them information about the exhibit, promotions, trade show technology in the booth, the city and the convention center/show hall.

Send More Promotional Items: If you are sending a second wave of pre-show promotions, make sure you mail them first class if you choose the United States Postal Service. If you ship by bulk mail, the promotional products may arrive after the trade show is over!

Ship Booth Supplies: Don’t forget the little things, like pens, staplers, clipboards, bottles of water, munchies, mints and sanitizer wipes. Ship a tub with all the administrative supplies you’ll need in your trade show booth at the show.

One week out:

Verify Exhibit Arrival: Make sure your trade show exhibit has arrived at the trade show.

Prepare Lead Fulfillment: Assign the team that will be processing leads. Create and get your your post-show lead fulfillment packets together. This will make it easier for your lead processing team to do the job.

Collect Documents and Backup: Create a folder on your network hard drive with the name of the trade show and date (i.e. c://tradeshows/SCC022312). You can also back up your data in the cloud, with a service like DropBox or Boxnet. In this folder, keep any documents you’ve needed for the show, including preparation and art files for your graphics. Prepare and pack a master book or data file with all your contacts at the trade show, including your trade show booth staffers, exhibit firm, and local show city vendors such as I&D. Carry this hard copy with you to the show. Now you have collected all of the vital documents you need, and have a place to go for reference for your next trade show.

Verify Staffers: Check in with all trade show booth staffers that they are ready to attend the show. If necessary, get a substitute.

On the big day!

Put Your Best Foot Forward: If you rest up the night before the big day, you’ll be at your best. That means you’ll be calm, hard-working, easy-going, creative and ready to face any challenges that come your way.

Execute the Plan: Now that you’ve done all the hard trade show project management planning, it’s time for execution. Execute all of the plans to accomplish your trade show goals and objectives, including trade show booth staffing, promotions, managing leads, and booth logistics.

Give yourself the opportunity to succeed: Take the time to create a solid plan, then work the plan you created, covering both logistics and marketing activities.
If you ever feel overwhelmed at any time with your trade show planning, don’t be afraid to reach out to us for help. Give us a call at (973) 686-9393 x203. We’re here to help you manage any trade show services needs to help make your next trade show a success.


About ExhibitCraft

ExhibitCraft is an award-winning trade show exhibit design, fabrication and management agency, offering customized trade show exhibit displays built in-house at its Wayne, NJ headquarters. ExhibitCraft also customizes a large selection of modular exhibit display systems, such as tabletop displays, portable trade show exhibits, pop up displays, banner stands, fabric displays, panel systems, truss systems and more.
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