Trade Show Planning Timeline

Utilize a Trade Show Planning Timeline and
Checklists to Maximize Your Results

Exhibiting Checklists:
trade show check list before you go
exhibitor checklist
check list for supplies

Phase 1: 12+ Months… Set Your Strategy

  • Identify the role trade shows will serve, as part of your overall marketing and sales strategy. Then, secure buy-in within your organization.

  • Develop a detailed trade show budget and forecast your return on investment.

Phase 2: 9 to 12 Months Before Show

  • Set specific objectives for your show such as number of product sales, leads generated, publicity secured, etc.

  • Identify your booth space needs, along with your exhibitor resources for booth accessories, banners, marketing collateral, equipment, and promotional items.

  • Register and reserve your display stand space with the event sponsor and request full details on exhibit requirements.

  • Develop a trade show marketing plan that utilizes a mix of promotional methods to reach prospects. Your plan should be divided into three sections: 1. Pre-Show Marketing, 2. At-Show Marketing, and 3. Post-Show Marketing. Click here for more information marketing planning.

Phase 3: 6 to 9 Months Before Show

  • Write a compelling sales message that gets across the key points you want to communicate at your exhibit in 30 seconds or (preferably) less. You and your staff will need to rehearse this message and use it confidently at your booth to maximize your effectiveness.

  • Determine your exhibit design, layout and graphics needs. You can hire a company to handle design and production or take a more hands-on approach by using web-based exhibition design software to create the look and configuration of your display before handing it over to an exhibit producer. Take your time to select an exhibit firm that meets your needs, based on capabilities, design talent, cost and delivery timing.

  • Along with your exhibit design, consider your lighting needs. Depending on the type of product or service you are promoting at a given trade show, illumination can play an integral role in attracting attention and/or complementing the image you want to project.  For example, you may want use lighting truss to add more drama and focus to your booth area or highlight a specific product you are promoting.  

  • Identify high-impact tradeshow giveaways and promotional strategies you will use to attract visitors to your display area.

  • Determine the literature and marketing materials you will need at the show - and begin design and printing work.

Phase 4:  3 to 6 Months Before Show

  • Order your giveaways or promotional items.

  • Continue working with vendors on your display booth, exhibit items, and marketing materials. Confirm delivery dates and adherence to your trade show planning timeline. 

  • Determine staffing requirements, develop booth schedules, and plan training sessions.

  • Identify how you will ship your display and other items to the show.

  • Begin making travel arrangements, including airfare, hotel and car rental reservations, if necessary.

  • Launch pre-show marketing initiatives.

Phase 5: 1 to 3 Months Before Show

  • Put together follow-up packets to send immediately following the show to your leads.

  • Continue pre-show marketing activities 

  • Make all travel arrangements.

  • Schedule staff training.

  • Contact event sponsor for any last minutes details.

  • Finalize production of booth display, promotional items, and marketing materials – and confirm shipping dates. 

  • Finalize all travel arrangements.

  • Schedule dinners or other meetings to be held at the show with prospects, distributors and/or customers.

Phase 6: 1 Week Before Show

  • Complete staff training.

  • Confirm shipping arrival dates for your booth display, promotional items and materials.

  • Double check that all action steps on timeline have been covered.

Phase 7 – Follow-up Activities: 1 Day to 1 Week AFTER Show

  • Analyze leads, send follow-up packets, and make contact as appropriate.

  • Evaluate success of trade show participation compared with objectives from your trade show plan.

  • Review your budget compared to your actual expenses for the show. Determine your return on investment.

  • Make recommendation whether to participate in the same trade show next year. Include suggested changes, enhancements, and other trade show ideas.


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See articles below for more information on developing a trade show planning timeline and managing for success.


Related Information

Tradeshow Checklists

Final Checklist - Before You Go
List to Evaluate Event Competitors
Trade Show Supply Kit Can Save the Day

Related Information

Trade Show Planning Tips
Registration Paperwork: Getting it Done
Convention Trade Show Services
Trade Show Software Tools
Smart Tradeshow Follow Up
How to "Read" Prospect Body Language
Ziggy's Law for Trade Show Exhibits
Exhibiting Trends: What You Need to Know
Trade Show Survey
Tradeshow Sales - Knowing When the Prospect is Ready to Buy

International Exhibiting Tips

Strategies for International Trade Shows: Part One
Strategies for International Trade Shows: Part Two
Tips for Exhibiting Globally
International Trade Show Advice


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