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Exhibit Planning Timeline Checklist & Template


Preparing for a big trade show or event can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never attended one before. Don’t let your anxiety stop you from being proactive and planning ahead, though.

Read on for some helpful examples that explain how you can create a strong and effective exhibiting timeline and get ready for your company’s next trade show or event.

How Soon Should I Start Planning?
Most teams start making trade show booth or exhibit plans about 6 months in advance. For bigger shows, though, you may want to start planning up to a year in advance. In general, it’s better to start early rather than wait until the last minute. You’re unlikely to regret getting a head start. However, you will almost always regret procrastinating (especially when you and your team are scrambling to try and get everything done).

Sample Planning Timeline
This sample planning timeline assumes you’re starting the preparation process 12 months before your next show. If you have less time than this before the big day, you can still use our checklist and template. You’ll just need to combine some of the earlier steps to get caught up.

Here’s a breakdown of what you should be doing leading up to your trade show:

12 Months Out

  • Identify general objectives for your booth (i.e., what do you want to accomplish?)
  • Meet with your company’s finance experts to develop a detailed trade show budget
  • Meet with your company’s finance experts to forecast the ROI for your booth
  • Decide which show (or shows) you want to attend

9 Months Out

  • Identify more specific booth objectives (e.g., generate a specific number of leads, make a certain number of sales, etc.)
  • Start designing and planning booth layout
  • Identify specific booth space needs and materials needs
  • Begin getting quotes from vendors
  • Register and reserve booth space
  • Develop trade show marketing plans (pre-, intra-, and post-show marketing)

6 Months Out

  • Write and start rehearsing a compelling sales message
  • Continue making plans for the exhibit design, layout, and graphics
  • Place orders with vendors
  • Figure out lighting needs
  • Plan trade show giveaways and promotional strategies
  • Begin designing and printing booth literature and marketing materials

3 Months Out

  • Wrap up all booth and display production plans
  • Order promotional items
  • Confirm delivery dates with vendors
  • Determine trade show staffing requirements
  • Develop booth schedules for all staff
  • Plan and schedule staff training sessions
  • Make plans to ship your booth and other materials
  • Start making travel arrangements
  • Put together follow-up packets to send to leads post-show
  • Finalize booth literature and other marketing materials
  • Start implementing pre-show marketing strategies

2 Months Out

  • Continue with pre-show marketing
  • Finalize intra-show and post-show marketing plans
  • Finalize all travel arrangements
  • Begin staff training to prepare for the trade show
  • Confirm the tech that will be available at the show and figure out what you need to provide yourself
  • Begin testing booth-related technology (tablets for lead generation, TVs for video presentations, etc.)
  • Schedule networking events and meetings to take place during/after the show
  • Approve all promotional/giveaway items
  • Give final approval on booth layout, design, etc.

1 Month Out

  • Continue with staff training to prepare for the trade show (incorporate relevant tech/tools into training so staff is comfortable using them)
  • Check in with the booth shipping team to ensure plans are on track
  • Check in with all other vendors to ensure plans are on track
  • Assess results from pre-show marketing efforts and make adjustments as needed

2 Weeks Out

  • Confirm shipping arrival dates (for booths/displays and other products)
  • Continue with pre-show marketing

1 Week Out

  • Complete staff training
  • Pack and prepare for travel (double-check tickets, itineraries, hotel reservations, etc.)
  • Double-check all other action items have been taken care of
  • Continue with pre-show marketing (one last push!)

After Show Planning
The hard work doesn’t end once the show is over. After you’ve taken down your booth, shipped materials back to your office, and traveled home, there are a few more items you’ll need to check off your list, including the following:

  • Analyze all leads
  • Send out follow-up packets and make contact with leads via email or phone if appropriate
  • Meet with your team to discuss the success of show participation compared to your objectives
  • Review your budget and calculate your return on investment
  • Decide whether or not you want to participate in the show next year
  • Start brainstorming ideas for changes and enhancements for the next event

Start Working on Your Exhibit Planning Timeline Today
The sooner you start figuring out the logistics and making plans for your upcoming tradeshows and events, the easier it’ll be for you and your team to get prepared, stay on budget, and see the best results.

Have you been feeling a little daunted by the planning process? Keep this checklist in mind and you’ll have no trouble putting together an impressive booth and setting your team up for a great show.