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A Detailed Trade Show Planning Timeline to Maximize Your Results

September 05, 2019

There are so many tasks and little details to work through when planning a trade show. Where do you start? What duties can be put off until closer to the show? What are the ‘must-do’ tasks that should be done right off the bat, so your trade show planning doesn’t feel like a mad dash? Here’s a timeline that will be helpful to you in your trade show planning!


One year out:

  • Find a trade show or event that has proven to provide successful outcomes for its exhibitors in past years. Many shows will give you previous attendance outcomes. There are plenty of shows that you could attend, but oftentimes if you do the research, you will find that some are a better fit than others. Click here for tips on finding out which trade shows are worth your investment.
  • Identify the goals you’re hoping a trade show presence will achieve for your company. Are you looking for increased exposure, more qualified leads, the perfect atmosphere to do product demonstrations, to gauge new industry trends or conduct research? Figure out how it fits into your overall marketing and sales strategy.
  • Secure buy-in within your organization if you’re working to grow your company’s exhibiting presence. Gaining permission to spend a large amount of money on a trade show sometimes takes some pushing and pulling, but if you’re able to demonstrate the benefits, the decision-makers in your organization should be more than happy to trust you with taking this on. 
  • Develop a trade show budget in as much detail as you can, which will help you then plan for and forecast your expected ROI.

9-12 months out:

  • Once you’ve decided on your expected ROI, lay this out in terms of specific objectives such as product sales, generated lead counts, booth traffic numbers, etc.
  • Based on your objectives, figure out what your booth space needs will be. Determine which booth accessories, banners, marketing collateral, equipment, promotional items, samples, discount offers, etc. will help you reach your goals.
  • Register and reserve your exhibit space with the event sponsor. After you figure out what size booth you have in mind, you can then see what options you have to choose from in terms of location. For smaller booth spaces, exhibitors who are on the end of a row can sometimes create an illusion that their booths are bigger than they appear by using flooring that matches the show’s floor. There are also often bigger height allowances for end booths at many shows. This could allow you to stand taller than the booths surrounding you! It’s always a good idea to request full details on exhibit requirements before delving into any designs or structure decisions.


6-9 Months Out

  • You’ve established your trade show marketing goals, now it’s time to decide on how you’re going to execute your messaging. Decide on a compelling sales message that fits your brand and gets your point across. This should be something your trade show team can rehearse and use to maximize effectiveness in your booth.
  • Work with your internal design team if your company has the ability to use web-based exhibition design software to create a look for your booth. If you are unable to do this yourself, find a company that specializes in creating trade show exhibits to begin working on your exhibit design, layout, and graphic needs. Skyline has trade show marketing experts and designers that will be able to find a design solution that fits your goals and your budget. Feel free to contact us to get started!
  • Identify how your marketing ties into discounts, giveaways or promotions and begin deciding what is needed for this and how you will implement it into your booth layout and design.  


3-6 Months Out

  • Order the promotional items that you plan on giving away.
  • Continue to work with your exhibit marketing team and set important dates like finalization of design decisions, deliveries, install and dismantle of booth, etc.
  • Do you know who is staffing your booth? Figure out knowledge requirements and wardrobe expectations for the show. Check out this post for comfortable and professional shoe suggestions! Develop a plan and schedule for booth shifts as well as a training session to prepare your show floor team.
  • Plan travel arrangements for your team such as airfare and hotel bookings. Take advantage of group rates, be sure to set expense limits for things like dining and figure out the best mode of transportation once at the show. Here are some useful tips for budgeting when sending your trade show staff to an event.
  • Begin promoting your upcoming presence at the show you are attending. If your show is large, many attendees may not even see your booth. Be sure to let them know before the show to keep at eye out for you! Get them excited to get to your booth using social media. Here are some more tips for promoting your trade show exhibit.  

1-3 months out

  • Create a follow-up plan so you’re able to send emails and thank you notes out to leads immediately following the show.
  • Keep up your pre-show marketing activity.
  • You should have set dates for “to do” items such as final production of your booth display, deliveries, install and dismantle of booth. Now is the time to confirm these dates to make sure everything is in place and everyone is on the same page.
  • Finalize your travel arrangements if you haven’t yet.
  • If you have important prospects or customers that you intend on meeting with, schedule dinners or appointments with them.


1 week out

  • Confirm all of your shipping arrival dates, from your booth display to your promotional items.
  • Take a deep breath and take pride in planning for your trade show! It’s not easy putting together all of the daunting details that go into an event, but if you’re able to stay on track and do it confidently, you’ll have nothing to worry about.


Reach out to us if you’re starting from scratch on your booth and need some guidance, would like a quote to update your booth graphics for a more focused marketing message or for any other trade show needs!


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