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16 Trade Show Planning Tips

With the trade show season already underway, it’s time to plan for this year’s trade shows. From budgeting to creating logistical plans, individuals can begin preparing for trade show success months in advance. By performing an annual trade show performance review and updating your plans, you can incrementally increase performance through iteration. These tips are designed to make sure your next year’s shows run better than ever. Without further adieu, here are some key tips for planning a trade show in today’s high tech environment.

Review Last Year’s Budgets Against Actual SpendReview Last Year’s Budgets Against Actual Spend

Now that last year is complete, your financial records and expenditures should be available. Look through these financial records to see how much was actually spent at each event. This will allow you to:

  • See which items cost the most and figure out ways to save more money
  • Decide if an event should be on your current schedule
  • Notice where there are inefficiencies
  • Figure out if your current budget is enough
  • Calculate the return on investment for each event

2. Review Last Year’s Goals Against Actual Results

Although you will ideally be able to reach all of your goals, it is not always possible. Start by looking at the goals you achieved last year to decide:

  • If you need to modify your objectives this year
  • How to reach new markets and partners
  • Which trade shows are not worth the money
  • Which events had the best return on your investment

3. Review Last Year’s Logistical Issues and Any Post-Mortem Details

Begin considering some of the problems you experienced during trade shows last year. In particular, look for these factors:

  • Are there any trade shows that are not worth the effort?
  • Which logistical problems can you prevent?
  • Are there any logistical details you can solve or prepare for?
  • What caused your problems last year?

4. Ensure Your Lead Generation System Works

Before your shows and other events begin, make sure you have a strong lead generation system in place. While you do this, make sure to check on these things:

  • How many leads did each event produce?
  • What was the cost per lead of each event?
  • How many sales were garnered from leads in the past?
  • Were the leads from this event of a good quality?
  • What was the value of a lead from a particular show?
  • Is the event worth attending for the leads that were generated?

5. Update Budgets, Goals, and Logistical Plans for Every Show

Every show is different, so there will be a variety of logistical plans, goals, and budgets for each show. Setting goals in advance will help you determine how productive a show was and which shows are the best to attend. Among other goals, you may want to consider:

  • Setting new targets for lead generation totals
  • Improving segmentation and lead grading
  • Introducing a new product or service
  • Improving your media outreach
  • Finding new clients

6. Survey Your Customers and Previous Booth Attendees for Opinions

Your customers and participants at the show are an important source of advice for your company. They can help you determine which marketing approaches work the best. You may want to ask them about:

  • The products or services that appealed to them
  • The aspects of marketing that interested them the most
  • What they did not like about the show experience you provided
  • Ways you can improve your pitch or presentation

    Trade Show Event Schedule

7. Create a Must-Attend Event Schedule

Every budget has constraints, so you have to decide which events are the most important for you to attend. Among other factors, you may want to consider events that:

  • Provide you with the most exposure
  • Brought in the most sales or leads last year
  • Were the cheapest for the return on your investment last year
  • Take up the least amount of time
  • Provided the most client interaction and marketing options
  • Allowed you to network with other vendors or providers

8. Create a List of Other New Shows That Might Be Valuable to Look Into

New trade shows develop constantly, and some of these shows can help boost your business. Start looking at new trade shows that could help you achieve these goals:

  • Reach more customers
  • Lower the overall costs of your yearly trade show circuit
  • Provide the most networking potential
  • Position your company, product, or service as a leader in the field

9. Begin Outreach to Potential Partners

Although it may feel too early, right now is the best time to reach out to potential partners. By contacting exhibition partners, you can:

  • Find solutions to logistical problems
  • Receive recommendations for ways to lower costs or improve functionality
  • Ensure a consistent feel at each event
  • Receive help in getting the highest benefit from each dollar spent on marketing

Begin Outreach to Potential Partners

10. Plan Your Travel Arrangements for the Shows You Will Be Attending

Planning your travel in advance allows you to take advantage of lower fares and ensure you stay on budget. Among other things, you will want to arrange:

  • Hotels for the entire trip
  • Airfare and transportation to each event
  • Planned dinners for clients, customers, and/or partners

11. Look for Ways You Can Simplify and Laser-Focus Your Message

The entire point of going to trade shows is to market your product and spread your message. Before you attend a single event, take time to laser-focus your message by:

  • Tailoring your social media, e-mail, and direct mail approach
  • Figuring out which marketing messages are the most effective
  • Creating a marketing plan around a single key message (consider identifying supporting sub-messages for different audience members)
  • Asking other employees, partners, or stakeholders for advice

12. Brainstorm New Ways to Attract Traffic to Your Booth

Even if you had a busy booth last year, there is no guarantee that your booth will still receive traffic this year. Instead of maintaining the same approach, think of new ways to attract traffic. This will help you to:

  • Test new marketing strategies
  • Find new clients
  • Avoid becoming complacent or losing prospective customers

13. Assess Your Booth Design for Updates

Before you go to an event, you need to make sure your booth design is as effective as possible. You may want to:

  • Look up the latest booth design trends
  • Search best-of-show awards for your industry and related industries
  • Set up the booth at your office to see if it is effectively designed
  • Conduct an informal survey about the efficacy of the design
  • Try out new designs, techniques, or setups

14. Define Your Objectives for the Year

You already know how your goals worked out last year. Now, your job is to make sure this year is even better. Start to figure out what you plan on accomplishing this year by:

  • Setting goals for lead generation
  • Adding secondary goals (e.g., competitor analysis, lowering costs by identifying new suppliers, etc.)
  • Deciding how many customers you want to reach out to
  • Discovering ways to improve your return on investment
  • Choosing which events will serve your company the best

Trade Show Follow Up

15. Find Ways to Better Automate Your Post-Show Follow Up

Once the trade show is complete, you will need to figure out how to follow up with your various leads. This should be prepared in advance because you need to have an immediate way to transfer each lead into a sale. A high-quality CRM and/or marketing automation software can help. Consider using the following techniques:

  • Drip email campaigns that are targeted to certain types of clients
  • Social Media retargeting campaigns for customer engagement
  • Premade emails, posts, or calls that allow you to standardize your approach
  • Different approaches for cold, warm, and hot leads

16. Plan How You Can Turn Your Experience Into Content

After the trade show, you can transform your experience into content on your blog and other channels. In addition to reaching out to new clients, this approach allows you to capitalize on your exposure and success at the trade show. You can use your experience in:

  • Social media posts about the event
  • Press releases that detail your company’s position, experience, and standing in the industry
  • Blog posts about the latest developments, products, and services
  • Marketing advertisements, content, and messages


At TradeShowPlus, you will find everything needed to make your next trade show event a success. TradeShowPlus has been a top trade show display supplier for over 20 years and has over 2,500 products ready to be customized with your logo and message. Visit today to view our full range of exhibit displays, banner stands,  outdoor event products and more ranging from popup, tension fabric and many other display solutions.

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