Tradeshow Marketing

Trade Show Planning Guide for Event Managers [Checklist Included]

Searching for a trade show planning guide? Here’s a detailed guide to help event managers organize and execute a successful event.

According to research, 28% of the exhibitors start working on their trade show marketing plan 1-2 months before the event. 22% start planning 2-4 months, 18% plan 4-6 months, and 19% begin planning 6-12 months before.

While the planning timeline varies significantly, one thing is for sure-

When you’re planning for something as extensive and important as a trade show, it is wise to have adequate time on your hands.

So, what are the aspects you should focus upon in your trade show planning as you approach the D-day? It is essential to efficiently plan before, during, and after trade show activities at least a few months in advance to execute a successful event.

Here’s a detailed guide to help you out-

Before the Event

How you start planning the event will impact what you can achieve. Here’s how you can start planning your trade show appearance-

Finalize Trade Show Objectives

Once your trade show participation is finalized, it is wise to start with the event objectives. For most exhibitors, the objectives generally are-

  •         Product launch
  •         Generate new leads
  •         Boost brand awareness
  •         Retain current clients
  •         Enter a new market

Here are some tips that can help you select the right exhibition goals-

  • The objectives should be linked to the overall business goals of the organization
  • Involve all the key people in goal discussions
  • Keep the objectives specific and measurable
  • Ensure that aspects like marketing plan, booth design, staff selection, etc., revolve around the primary objective/s

Set a Budget

After selecting the goals, it is time to set a trade show budget. Statistics suggest that businesses allocate 5%-35% of their annual advertising budget to trade show expenditures. However, you can spend more or less depending on your objectives, the current finances of the company, and expected ROI.

Here’s a budget allocation strategy you can utilize for your trade show marketing plan-

You can calculate a rough estimate of the overall trade show expenses by multiplying the booth rental by three. For instance, if you plan to get a 10x10 booth that costs $10,000, the overall budget should be at least $30,000.

Booth Design

Research suggests that an attractive stand is one of the most effective ways to grab visitors' attention at a trade show.

You can consider hiring an exhibition display company to design a custom booth.

If you prefer the DIY approach, you can look for a trade show booth designing software to create a custom booth design. Once the booth design is ready, you can hand it over to an exhibit producer.

Apart from the design itself, focus on aspects such as furniture, floor coverings, and lighting as well.

Here are some tips to help you design the trade show booth-

  • Make the booth interactive and engaging with something like custom trivia
  • Keep the key message brief and print it in a larger font
  • Use the empty booth spaces
  • Use high-quality graphics
  • Avoid using more than 2-3 colors and fonts
  • Ensure consistent branding all over the booth design

Pre-Show Marketing

According to a study, 85% of the companies use at least one form of pre-show promotion to boost their trade show ROI.

The exhibition organizer will focus on getting people to the event and not your booth. You'll solely be responsible for this challenging task. That's why creating a pre-show marketing plan for a trade show makes a lot of sense. Here are three questions you should ask yourself before working on the marketing plan-

1- Who Should You Target?

Not every trade show attendee will be a potential customer. Thus, it is essential to know who you should target.

Exhibitions are also a great place to meet your existing customers. It’d be wise to send them an invite asking them to visit your booth at the event.

2- Why Should People Visit Your Booth?

While giveaways and freebies are a great incentive, not many potential customers would visit your booth just for a pen or stickers. The incentive should offer a lot of value to the potential customers and something they can only access by visiting your booth at the trade show.  

Two great options are product demos and trade show-only discounts.

Even your trade show message should offer real value and encourage people to visit your booth.

As opposed to this – “Visit us at booth 20 for free stickers.” use something like this to make it clearer to your audience why they should stop by at your booth- “Vist us at booth 20 to learn how our AI-powered chatbot can help you generate 30% more leads. Product demos every 30 minutes.”

3- How to Connect?

Once you know who to target and why people should visit your booth, the only thing left is letting them know about your event participation.

You can consider options such as-

  • Emails
  • Social media
  • Personal phone calls
  • Direct mail
  • Digital and print advertising

Due to their vast reach and cost-efficiency, emails and social media promotions are highly preferred by exhibitors. You can also create a dedicated landing page for attendees to schedule their booth appointment.

Products, Staff Training, and Giveaways

While it might not always be possible in B2B trade shows, you should try to bring your products and put them on display at the exhibition stand whenever possible.

Give your staff adequate training so that they can educate the attendees and answer their queries. Also, when you’re working on the marketing plan for a trade show, you should finalize the giveaways or promotional items as they are excellent incentives for people to visit your booth.

According to a study, 71% of the trade show attendees remembered the company's name that gave them a promotional product, with 76% having a positive outlook towards that company.

Some popular giveaway options are-

  • Backpacks
  • Sunglasses
  • USB drives
  • Pen
  • Water bottles
  • Stickers

You can also choose something related to your company, product, or service. No matter what you select, ensure that it is customized with your brand logo. Place the order in advance to avoid any last-minute rush or mistakes.

[ALSO READ- 5 Common Trade Show Mistakes to Avoid]

Trade Show Engagement

Ok, so you’ve got a great booth, and it is attracting a lot of traffic- now what? How do you plan to keep the attendees engaged at your booth? You don’t just want to attract the attendees but offer them something that makes them stay long enough to provide your staff the opportunity to initiate a one-on-one conversation.

Here are a few options you can consider-

  • Trade show games
  • Photo op
  • AR/VR
  • Snacks and beverages
  • Add a sitting area if possible

While there are plenty of great options to engage the attendees, gamification has an edge. Custom games don't just engage but educate, boost brand awareness, and make the lead collection a breeze.

And there are plenty of game options to choose from. For instance, you can have-

[READ: How Trade Show Games Boost Audience Engagement]

During the Event

Once you’ve got the pre-trade show event planning in place, it is time to work on things you should take care of during the event. Take a look-

Execute the Plan

You’ve aced the pre-show plan, and it is now time for its execution. Are you completely satisfied with the booth design? Is your booth staff well-versed with the show script? What about the rapport between staff members? Doing the bare minimum will only get you so far when you’re competing with hundreds of other booths.

You'll need to bring your A-game to the event to succeed. A booth with a welcoming vibe and wa2rm, smiling, friendly, and knowledgeable staff can make things work in your favor.

Send Reminders

During the event, you can use social media to reach out to the attendees. If there is a designated hashtag for the event, use it in all your updates. You can also upload photos of your booth and staff with the visitors to make others visit your booth. In the reminders, don’t forget to remind people about the value the booth visit can offer.

Spend Your Time Wisely

You’d certainly not want your staff to keep interacting with people who are not interested in what you have to offer. Thus, it is critical for the booth staff to spend their time and resources wisely at the event. For instance, giveaways should only be offered to visitors who provide their full contact details. Any of the prizes or discounts should be offered to people who are genuinely interested in your product or service.

After the Event

You executed a successful event, but your job is far from over. These are some important things you should focus upon immediately after the event-

Prompt Follow Up

This is probably the most vital part of any trade show marketing plan as several exhibitors take a lot of time to follow up or don’t follow up at all. Your sales team should start making personal phone calls to all the hot leads to build rapport and take the lead toward the sale. You can email all the other leads thanking them for their visit to your booth. In the email, clearly mention that you're available in case they have any comments or questions about your product or service. Attaching a link to set up a meeting could be a great add-on here. 

Re-Target Booth Visitors and Event Attendees

To increase the probability of people responding to your sales call, you can also consider running a remarketing campaign. The campaign should target leads and even qualified trade show attendees (if possible) through social media ads and/or email. To the leads, the campaign will help put context to your connection. For the qualified attendees who didn’t visit your booth, you can run a “We missed you” campaign on popular social platforms or by email.

Measure Your Performance

After following up on the leads, you should measure the overall results of the event. Go back to your event objectives and analyze your performance against the expectations. If the objectives were sales-based, you could calculate trade show ROI (Return on Investment). If not, you can calculate ROO (Return on Objectives) to measure the results. If you were able to achieve or outperform the goals, work on ways to optimize the strategy further. But if the results were not up to the mark, try to analyze what might have gone wrong.

[READ: How to Calculate Trade Show ROI & ROO]

Document the Event

Every aspect of the event, be it the marketing collateral, goals, interactions, or results, you should document everything. If the campaign was successful, you can use the data for strategy optimization and achieving improved results in future events. Even if the things didn’t work out as expected, you’ll still need a reference for things that should be tweaked or avoided altogether.  

Trade Show Planning Checklist

While most of the vital aspects of planning a trade show are listed above, the trade show planning checklist below offers a quick overview of the entire process. Take a look-


  • Reserve your booth
  • Pay the booth deposit
  • Book service providers
  • Order rental furniture and lighting
  • Prepare booth graphics
  • Order booth backdrop
  • Prepare additional decor
  • Confirm delivery


  • Order promotional giveaways
  • Order business cards
  • Schedule event functions/meetings
  • Email or call clients and prospects
  • Carry multiple product samples
  • Order product brochures and flyers
  • Choose a trade show booth games provider
  • Prepare product demo video


  • Travel and hotel reservations
  • Material handling (drayage)
  • Order installation/dismantle
  • Order rigging/forklift


  • Train booth staff
  • Order staff uniforms, shoes, and event badges
  • Create trade show presentation script
  • Practice product demos and presentations
  • Hire additional booth talent if required


  • Office supplies
  • Laptops and tablets
  • LED screens
  • Device chargers
  • Media player
  • Extra cords and cable wires
  • Power, HDMI, extension cords
  • Zip ties
  • Batteries
  • Snacks
  • Beverages
  • First aid kit
  • Hand sanitizer

Ready to Make a Perfect Trade Show Plan?

Even if this is your first trade show, there is no reason to be nervous or confused. If you have enough time to plan, rest assured that your event will be a grand success. Use the timeline available above and ensure that you’ve got everything from the checklist sorted well before the D-day so that the plan works out as expected. Check and double-check everything you do to avoid missing out on anything important. Don't worry; you've got this!

You can also contact us to know more about trade show games and how they can help you achieve your business objectives by making your booth attractive and engaging.

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