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December 20, 2018
Trade Show Planning: 6 Important Pre-Show To-Dos
Don Harder

Trade shows present a valuable opportunity to promote your brand, schedule face time with customers and prospects, and highlight products and services – among a slew of other benefits.

As an agency, we’ve helped clients plan hundreds of trade shows ranging from small, regional events to national shows with more than 80,000 attendees. No matter what show you have on the calendar in 2019 or what budget you’re working with, developing and executing a pre-show strategy is an absolute must. Start the prep work two to three months prior to the show, making room for the following elements in your planning:

• Strategy and budgets
• Design and production
• Public relations (PR) and social media

Within those three categories, there’s a lot to be done and I know it can seem a bit overwhelming at first. But with the right planning process, executing a strong, integrated strategy is entirely possible. Here are six things you should be doing before your next trade show in order to set your company up for success.

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Think about what goals you’ve put in place for the show. Are you promoting a new product? Increasing brand awareness? It’s important to not only develop a strategy and budget around those objectives, but to discover how to measure the performance of those goals.

1. Set measurable benchmarks.

How will you know if you accomplished your sales and marketing goals if you can’t measure against them? Let’s say your goal is to drive traffic to a specific landing page of your website. Prior to the show, capture what typical traffic to the page looks like. This way, when you gather metrics during and after the show, you’ll have a benchmark to compare data and let you know whether or not you’ve reached your goal.

2. Estimate costs.

We all know trade shows aren’t a small expense. However, they can be worth every penny you put into them if you take the time to execute proper planning. To get an idea of how much you’ll be spending for the show, create a checklist of every expense, making sure to account not just for larger elements like booth design and PR, but travel for all attending, lodging, giveaways, hired talent at the booth and more.


A well-planned booth design sets you up to make the most of your trade show investment.

3. Align with external partners.

To develop an on-brand booth that attracts attendees and is consistent with your vision, be sure to share all assets such as brand standards, logo files, images, etc., with any external partners. This way, deliverables like booth messaging, social media content, digital and print ads, etc. will all remain consistent across the board.

4. Ask the right questions with your goals in mind.

Start booth development by writing down a list of questions, beginning with the most general (“What are the booth’s dimensions?”, “Where is it located on the show floor?”).

Next, strategize in terms of your overall goals and how your booth space can help you accomplish those. For example, if your goal is to develop stronger relationships with current customers and foster quality partnerships with prospects, you’ll want to plan for plenty of conversation spaces within the booth to allow for face-to-face interactions. If your goal is to promote a new product, however, allow for fewer meeting spaces in order to make room for product displays and demonstrations.


Developing a PR and social media strategy will help you create buzz prior to the show and draw even more attention to your booth presence.

5. Schedule interviews and social media content.

PR and social media are two irreplaceable elements of a pre-, during and post-trade show strategy. Most trade shows release a list of media contacts planning to attend the show, giving you a blueprint of who to reach out to beforehand to generate pre-show coverage of your new product, brand or presence at the show. You should also be reaching out to these editors to schedule interviews with experts at your booth to further promote your brand.

According to AdWeek, 50 percent of marketers say that social media brings more people to their trade show booth. Schedule social media content in advance to get attendees excited about what you have to offer, making sure to utilize the trade show’s hash tag in order to increase visibility of your content.

6. Prepare a press kit.

Editors at the show aren’t always going to remember everything they see and hear at your booth, especially if they only have a few minutes to chat. With a press kit, which is uploaded onto a branded thumb drive, editors and attendees have access to everything from a company backgrounder and executive bios to press releases, high-resolution images, videos and any marketing or sales sheets. With these press kits, editors will have everything they need to develop post-show coverage and keep the conversation going about your brand after the event.

You’re not done yet! In fact, you’re just getting started. To learn more about developing a successful pre-trade show strategy, check out our extensive trade show planning guide that’s filled with best practices for strategy development, budgets, booth development, PR and social media and more. You’ll even find a pre-show planning worksheet to kick off the process and keep you on track!

Now that you’ve mastered the pre-show planning process, it’s time to think about what needs to be done during the show and after.