Top Tips for Planning a Successful Tradeshow

You want a successful trade show experience, but how do you make that happen? We’re going to answer that in three parts: Pre-Show Planning, During the Show, and Post-Show Follow-Up. Let’s begin with planning.


It all begins before you even step foot on the exhibit floor. Echoing a statement by Benjamin Franklin, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” You need to commit to your trade show goals and ways to achieve them with purpose. Crafting a trade show plan serves many purposes by:

  • Organizing the approach in one place.
  • Defining the overarching goal, objectives, key messaging, strategies, tactics, timelines, and budgets.
  • Providing direction when deciding on tactics.
  • Assisting with onboarding team members new to the initiative.
  • Planning can take almost more time than putting it into action. Here are a few starting points.

Start early with research.

Ask questions – a lot of questions. What “big things” will your company have to talk about at the time of the trade show? Did you have a big success to showcase your capabilities that could be demonstrated at the show? Will you be launching a new product or service? Are you debuting a rebrand? Often a company will hold releasing “big things” until trade shows to have something new and exciting to promote. This is important not only in outlining your goals and objectives but also in determining your messaging. Also ask: What does a successful trade show look like? Is it all about the sales numbers, or is it building your brand, quality leads, and fostering current relationships?

Define your budget.

You can have all the ideas in the world, but how much money you have to spend will determine which ones are feasible. Start with the booth experience. Estimate your structure expenses (renting vs. owning), graphic design needs, promotional items, sales collateral, lead retrieval systems, electrical, internet, etc. Don’t overlook the costs to be there. How many team members do you need to account for travel, lodging and meals? How will you promote your trade show presence? Include costs for trade show promotions and communications in addition to any trade show advertising and sponsorships that could boost your brand presence.

Set deadlines and delegations.

Start with the show date and then work backward, plotting out key show deadlines, such as shipping and service orders. Know registration and hotel deadlines. Fill in with dates to communicate your show presence and what channels – this can begin up to six months before a show like NPE2021! Then back up further and assign dates to complete booth messaging and establish the look. You’ll want that to infiltrate through all the trade show communication before, during, and after the show.

When the trade show plan is complete and all decision-makers have signed off, then it’s time to implement! Who will do the work? Gather your marketers, public relations, graphic designers, subject matter experts, and any other key players you need to execute your trade show plan. Is it just you? Need help? Ask Vive how we can help with trade show support. We like to say trade shows can be like Thanksgiving dinner — it takes 10 times as long to prepare than it does to devour!

Read More:

Part 2: How to Maximize Your Booth

Part 3: Trade Show Lead Follow Up Basics