Tradeshow Marketing

The Ultimate Trade Show Checklist 2024: 25 Best Practices

Worried about whether you have a foolproof trade show plan? Here’s a 25-point trade show checklist to help ease the struggle.

Opportunities, visibility, connections, and industry innovations are vital for every thriving business. Thanks to their unique nature, a trade show is the only marketing activity that can provide a blend of these elements in the same place.

But trade show success comes to those who’ve planned the event with razor-sharp precision. To help ease the burden, I created a 25-point trade show checklist in 2022 to ensure that you don’t miss out on anything important.

However, a lot has happened in the last two years, and the trade show industry has evolved. This is why, I felt it’s important to update this checklist according to the new trends. 

So, here is the trade show checklist for 2024 now to help you have a spectacular trade show success. 

1- Know Your Trade Show Objectives

Here’s the deal:

I’ve seen many exhibitors blaming the exhibition for not delivering substantial results. A common mistake among them is the lack of fixed event objectives.

If there are no goals, how will you determine whether or not the event worked for you?

So, even before you start working on your trade show strategy plan, finalize the objectives. From choosing the trade show to marketing and engagement strategy, a lot depends on your event goals. It could be-

  • Improving awareness
  • Launching a new product/service
  • Generating leads
  • Relationship building

You can choose either of these common objectives or even a combination of all four.

2- Set Quantifiable Targets

Alright, you’ve finalized the objective/s, and now it’s time to quantify them.

For instance, let’s assume that your objective is to collect leads at the event. But how many leads are you aiming for? How many leads will it take to confirm that you achieved your trade show objective?

So, after finalizing the objective, it is equally important to set measurable targets.

It could be something like collecting 100 valuable leads, networking with 20 industry influencers, conducting 50 market surveys, or meeting 100 prospective customers.

3- Check Who Will Attend the Event

Before finalizing the event, you should also check out the event demographics to ensure that it aligns with your objectives. It’ll also help you customize your trade show event management strategy.

You can check the past data on the event's official website for these details. Some of the points you should focus on are-

  • Total number of expected attendees
  • Age and gender
  • Job function
  • Number of decision-makers

Apart from past data, you can also check the current list of exhibitors registered for the event to know about the competing brands that’ll attend the event.

If you plan to have a media cover for your event, you can contact them in advance to inform them know about your business and invite them to your booth during the event.  

4- Finalize a Trade Show Budget

Trade shows are one of the most expensive marketing endeavors. Thus,  be a budgeting savant to ensure that you're able to generate positive ROI and ROO.

Booth rental is generally the most significant expense of exhibiting at a trade show. Therefore, it is generally said that your overall trade show budget should be at least three times your booth rental. 

Here’s a budget allocation strategy that you can use as a guide-

Disclaimer: This is just an estimated budget allocation. The actual figures might change depending on various factors.

5- Reserve the Booth Space Early

If it is a popular event, the booth spaces can get sold out within a few days. This is especially true for booths in areas that receive the maximum attention, like-

  • Close to the floor entrance
  • Areas close to restrooms and food
  • Cross junctions and corners
  • Close to the event sponsors or major attractions

So, try to book your preferred booth space as early as possible. You can check the event website to know more about when the bookings will open.

As a bonus, some event organizers also offer early bird discounts.

6- Start with a Strategic Booth Design

Your trade show booth is your kingdom, and its design is the crown jewel. Craft an inviting space that not only showcases your products or services but also encourages engagement. Use eye-catching visuals and strategic placement of elements to draw attendees in and spark conversations.

[READ: 7 Signs You Need to Redesign Your Booth]

7- Arrange Vendor Presentation

This is one of the BEST ways to grab the spotlight at any trade show.

At several trade shows, you can hold a presentation for a fee. If the option is available at your event, you should not miss this opportunity as it is a surefire way to bolster your presence at the event.

At the presentation, you can conduct product demos or an engaging PowerPoint presentation that highlights the USPs of your company/product.

8- Decide Your Trade Show Message

Your booth staff will only have a few seconds to attract passersby. Thus, you need to ascertain that your introductory message is engaging and clever.

When working on the message, your goal should be to make the attendees stop at your booth.

So, it's better to use a simple and short sentence or phrase rather than something that involves a lot of explaining about your company or products.

The right ice-breakers can also help your staff initiate conversations with the attendees.

9- Start Working on Your Marketing Plan

You should also add a marketing plan to your trade show planning timeline to spread the word about your event participation. 

The plan will work as a road map to bring the maximum number of attendees to your booth and convert them into customers. And in this digital world, there are multiple ways to market your exhibit.

For instance, you can add an email marketing campaign to your B2B trade show marketing plan to let existing customers know about the event.

Some other options you can consider are-

  • Social media posts
  • Online ads
  • Website blogs

10- Choose Your Booth Staff and Start Training

The success of the event will abundantly depend on your booth staff. So, it is vital to assemble the right team.

You can either create a team of your employees and train them in-house or hire professional trade show temps from a staffing agency.

The number of people you’ll need for the booth will depend on your objectives and how many attendees you expect to visit the trade show.

 [READ: Trade Show Booth Staff Training Guide]

11- Designing the Trade Show Booth

It’s no secret that your exhibit stand and its design significantly impact the exhibition attendees.

While you always have the option to rent a booth, you can also consider buying a custom-designed exhibit stand, especially if you regularly attend trade shows.

Some of the leading booth designing service providers in the USA are as follows-

If you prefer the DIY approach, there are trade show design software that can help you design a custom booth. Here are some options I’d like to recommend-

12- Order Furniture, Lighting, and Display Screens

Once the booth design and layout are finalized, you’ll also need to order the booth's furniture, lighting, and display screens.

Like the exhibit stand, you can consider renting or purchasing these essentials. Several companies specialize in such products. You can check out-

13- Order Print Show Materials

While things are going increasingly digital, you cannot entirely ignore physical print materials.

In fact, compared to digital alternatives, physical materials need less cognitive load and can prove more beneficial for brands.

Some of the print materials you can add to your trade show strategy plan are-

  • Booth banners
  • Business cards
  • Product/service brochures
  • Flyers

14- Order Staff Uniform

Custom-designed staff uniform is another way to market your brand and create a positive impression.

The type of uniform you choose should depend on the trade show you’re participating in.

If it is a B2B event, attended by vendors and suppliers, go for a formal look. And if it's an event where the staff will interact with many prospective customers, you can also consider casual attire based on your brand’s theme.

Give special attention to the shoes and ensure they're comfortable, as your booth staff will be standing for most of the day.

15- Select Giveaways

Giveaways or swag also improve the overall attendee experience at your booth.

They attract traffic, make your brand memorable, and boost its image.

When selecting a giveaway, ensure that you choose something unique and thoughtful. Avoid things that are too common and available at every other booth at the event.

If you attend multiple events throughout the year, you can order the giveaways in bulk as it proves more cost-effective.

[READ: Choosing Trade Show Giveaway [10 Giveaway Ideas for 2024- Updated]

16- Choose a Booth Activity

Your booth staff already has a lot on their plates during the event. You cannot entirely rely on them to keep the visitors engaged.

Attention-grabbing booth activity can be very helpful in engaging the visitors and making them stay longer at your booth.

For instance, something like trade show games are fun and engaging and help exhibitors get closer to their event objectives.

Let’s take a look at a few top trade show games that can help you attract, engage, and sell better at trade shows. 

Trade Show Trivia Challenge 

The first on the list is a Custom Trade Show Trivia Challenge. This game scores high on audience engagement while giving you the opportunity to impart valuable insights about your brand's offerings by plugging the right questions. 

Visitors fill out a lead form to play the game and stand a chance to win a prize for scoring high. You can also include a leaderboard in the gameplay that can help attract more audience to your booth.

The game can be played on installed iPads at the trade show booth or by scanning a QR code (placed at the booth) from smartphones.

[READ: 20 Trade Show Trivia Game Examples]

Digital Prize Wheel

Next up is a Digital Prize Wheel Game. Much like a physical spin-the-wheel game, players tap on the Spin button on the devices and stand a chance to win prizes based on where the pin lands. 

For visitors, they get a chance to win great prizes, and for exhibitors, it is a great way to attract and engage with their audience in a fun way. 

While the digital prize wheel game may look very similar to its physical version, it offers many benefits over the traditional cardboard version of the game. 

[READ: 21 Digital Prize Wheel Game Prize Ideas]

Scavenger Hunt

Want to level up your trade show gamification strategy? Go for a Digital Scavenger Hunt game.

This game allows you to turn the trade show floor into an interactive discovery playground. Attendees embark on a journey to uncover clues and engage with your offerings, forging a stronger bond with your brand along the way.

This game can be played on attendees' smartphones by scanning a QR code and then completing the list of custom challenges to score points and win prizes. 

[READ: 38 Scavenger Hunt Challenge Ideas for Trade Shows]

Raffle Game

Do you wish to include a trade show game activity but low on budget? Go for the Digital Raffle Game. The simple gameplay is great for exhibitors experiencing high traffic and those who wish to increase their lead conversions at booths. Visitors fill out a lead form and enter the raffle. At the end of the day or the event, a few top winners stand a chance to win bumper prizes. 

[READ: Trade Show Raffle Vs Prize Wheel - Which is Better for You?]

17- Create a Trade Show Crisis Management Plan

A crisis management plan will prepare your staff for unexpected situations, ranging from a technical glitch and power outage to something serious like a fire or natural disaster.

The plan includes detailed steps on how your booth staff should respond and communicate if any untoward incident occurs during the event.

[READ: Trade Show Crisis Management: The What and Why]

18- Sort Out Booth Logistics

You’ll also need a professional freight carrier to deliver the booth and other items to and from the event location on time.

Some shipping providers also offer storage facilities before, during, and after the show.

Apart from shipping, you should also consider the drayage, installation, and dismantling charges, as they’ll directly impact your trade show budget.

19- Make Travel and Hotel Arrangements

You’ll also have to make travel and hotel bookings for your booth staff.

If it is a popular trade show like CES in Las Vegas, finding accommodation close to the event location can be challenging.

So, try to make the bookings in advance to avoid the last-minute rush and escalated costs.

If your staff is flying to another city, prefer making a group booking over individual bookings as most air carriers offer discounts.

20- Social Media Integration

Social networking platforms now play a significant role in most people’s lives. They also offer a fantastic marketing opportunity, especially when you’re about to participate in a trade show.

Here are some of the ways to add social media to your trade show event management plan-

  • Use platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube to promote your exhibit
  • Document event experience on social platforms
  • Stream your booth live on these platforms during the event
  • Use the official event hashtag in your updates
  • Add QR codes on print materials to direct attendees to your social handles

21- Consider Additional Incentives to Attract Visitors

While booth activities like trade show trivia are great at attracting and engaging visitors, you can also consider a few add-ons to incentivize them further.

For instance, you can consider having a comfortable sitting area at your booth with some refreshments. It is a simple and effective way to show that your brand cares for its customers.

A device charging station is another effective way to make people stay at your booth longer.

22- Schedule Meetings

A trade show is the only marketing activity that allows you to get that valuable face-to-face time with hundreds of prospects in a single place.

So, maximize this opportunity by scheduling the meetings in advance. You    can consider scheduling meetings with-

  • Existing customers
  • Pre-qualified prospects
  • Magazine and newspaper reporters and editors
  • Current and potential vendors and partners

23- Create a Lead Follow-Up Plan

I've often seen exhibitors focusing strongly on the lead collection plan but not paying much attention to an effective lead follow-up plan.

What good are the leads if you cannot use them to their potential?

When working on your trade show strategy plan, create a lead follow-up plan and designate teams to manage the collected hot, warm, and cold leads from the event.

[READ: Trade Show Lead Management Plan: What Is It and How to Do It Right?]

24- Send Event Reminders

Start promoting your event participation, preferably a few months before the trade show.

But once the event is around the corner, it is wise to send reminders to everybody you’re expecting to attend the event for maximum booth traffic.

You can consider sending emails or even traditional postcard invites.  

25- Carry Trade Show Supplies

Plenty of stuff can happen on busy trade show floors. Thus, it is important to carry booth essentials to put out the fire if they arise. Here’s a trade show checklist for must-have supplies-

  • Sharpie pens
  • Pens
  • Writing pads
  • Masking tape
  • Stapler
  • Scissors
  • Paper clips
  • Extension cords
  • Rubber bands
  • Post-it notes
  • Zip-ties
  • First Aid kit
  • Multi-purpose tool (can opener, screwdriver)

Additional Trade Show Planning Tips

Here are some extra tips that can help you organize and execute a successful event-

  • Start planning for trade fairs and exhibitions as early as possible (ideally 2-3 months)
  • Avoid graphics clutter when designing the booth display
  • Ensure that the booth staff is well-versed with the sales pitch, product features, and answers to common customer questions
  • Choose reliable service providers for shipping, booth design, trade show quiz, etc.
  • Ensure that the booth is clean and welcoming without a lot of clutter
  • Keep conversations with prospects upbeat and friendly while stressing your brand’s trustworthiness
  • Focus on offering a memorable experience to the visitors
  • Designate a staff member who’ll overlook shipping of items back to the office
  • Don’t wait too long to get in touch with the leads after the event
  • Document all the critical aspects of the event for post-show analysis and optimize your strategy for future events

Trade Show Planning Done Right

Planning a trade show is an uphill task, especially if this is your first event. With so many things to take care of, it is very easy to forget something critical that could prevent you from succeeding at the event.

Use this ultimate trade show checklist to plan the event and set yourself on the right path to achieving your event objectives.

If you're looking for ways to attract and engage booth visitors, contact us for ideas on great trade show activities that are sure to up your engagement strategy. 

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