Trade shows are one of the best ways to increase your company’s visibility, encourage growth, and generate leads. They are also one of the most complex ways to brand your company, so you should start planning immediately. Proper organization for a low-stress trade show should start at least a year in advance, and there are several stages to consider. If you’re wondering how to plan an expo, check out our timeline detailing each stage of the planning process.
12 Months Out:
- Determine Your Goal: If you haven’t already, now is the time to determine why you’re attending, what your goals and objectives are, and what role the show will play in your company’s overall marketing strategy for the upcoming year.
- Determine Your KPI’s: Determine how you’ll measure your company’s performance at the show and what metrics you’ll use to calculate ROI.
- Set a Budget: A realistic budget should include pre-and post-show preparations, your pre-show, and trade show marketing campaign, travel, hotel, and shipping costs for your event booth and equipment.
9 Months Out:
- Secure Your Spot: The earlier you register, the better, so nine months prior is the time to do so. This is also the time to start thinking about your event booth design and develop that plan based on the space you secure. Start reviewing floor plans for any shows/conventions you plan to attend. You’ll want to check height, sound, signage regulations and the like, which will help you hone in on your booth design specifications and size limitations.
- Develop Your Marketing Plan: This is the ideal time to start developing promotional items, mailers, fliers, direct mail, and perhaps a landing page on your company website to inform your customers and prospective clients that you’ll be there.
6 Months Out:
- Design Your Booth: This is the time to carefully think through a detailed booth design and your trade show material. Since you registered and secured your space three months ago, you should know the lay of the land and floor plan by now. You’ll need to make sure your exhibit complies with the show’s sound and space regulations and design its dimensions accordingly.
- Design Marketing Material: What components and features do you want to showcase? There are a lot of things to consider for your trade show material including signage, technology, banners, and whether you’d like to rent or buy a booth. Knowing your client base and how you’d like to reach them will aid you in this process.
3 Months Out:
- Order Marketing Material: You’re getting close, and it’s time to confirm that your promotional materials are what you intended them to be based on the designs you created three months ago. Once they are approved, it’s time to place orders and confirm delivery dates with vendors.
- Create Training Material: It’s important to keep your staff up-to-date on what’s happening before, during, and after the show. This is the time to compile training materials that are well aligned with your company’s show theme and objectives.
- Book Travel: Now that everything is falling into place, you can book travel if you haven’t already. Conventions often offer discounted blocks of hotel rooms for exhibitors and attendees; it’s good to check these in advance before they fill up. This is also the time to book flights and any other transportation needs.
- Book Meetings, Meals, & Conference Rooms: Three months prior to the show is a great time to review the list of attendees. Start reaching out to vendors, members of the media, and any clients attending the show to set up meetings in advance. It’s a good idea to seek out a conference room, or a restaurant nearby to connect with your top leads.
1 Month Out:
- Train Your Staff: It is imperative for everyone attending the show is clear on the overall goals of your business and their individual plans to help you execute them. Run through your training materials and presentations several times. Train trade show staff on welcoming body language, overall etiquette, and interacting with clients and booth visitors.
- Plan Your Post-Show Follow Up: You’ll need to capture all the leads you acquire during the show. Train your employees to write notes on business cards and capture them electronically as soon as possible. Google Docs, Smartsheets, and many other forms of technology exist to aid you in capturing leads quickly and efficiently.
One Week Out:
- Confirm Everything: This is the time to tie up loose ends. That means double-checking and confirming shipping dates for all your materials, finish training your staff, and double-check the trade show’s website to make sure there aren’t any last-minute changes you need to be aware of.
- Follow Up with Leads: If you’ve captured your leads efficiently, this should be easy to execute. If possible, consider an automated system that will allow you to reach your contacts one day after meeting them, so you remain top-of-mind. Follow-up should be completed within one week; we live in the age of technology, so it is expected.
- Calculate Your ROI: Did you meet your goals and KPI’s? Why or why not? Now is the time to take notes while it’s fresh in your mind so you can determine what worked, what didn’t, and prepare for the next trade show on your list. Planning a trade show takes a lot of time, preparation, and strategizing but if you’re committed to this timeline, the process will run smoothly.