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The Key to a Successful Trade Show: Planning, Planning, Planning!

Your exhibit has been designed and is ready to go.  You’ve chosen your shows and committed to the schedule.  All you have to do is ship it and show up, right?  Wrong.

There is much more involved in going to a trade show than selecting your space and having your exhibit built.  The first step involves extensive planning before going to the show.  This should be done weeks, if not months, prior to the show date.  Review your exhibitor manual and place your orders prior to the advance order date deadlines.  Doing so will save you hundreds of dollars, if not more.

Trade Show Planning

Review your exhibit layout and place on the show floor.  In-line booths are fairly simple, you don’t have to worry about booth orientation, which way faces front or where the electrical drops will be placed.  You will want to know how much power you require for your exhibit lights and ancillary equipment so you order enough electrical service.  Consider things such as monitors, computers and whether staffers will need a place to plug in and charge devices.  Where will you want these plugs to be located?  Providing a layout with detailed information with your electrical order can save you a lot of hassle on the show floor.

If you are an island exhibitor, make sure to provide a booth orientation using the booth numbers around you for location placement.  What you see as the “front” of your booth may not make sense to the electrician laying the power lines or Installation and Dismantle (I&D) crew setting up your booth space.  It is imperative that you communicate this information, clearly, ahead of time.  Having to tear down a booth and re-run electrical on-site, can significantly increase I&D and electrical labor costs.

When you’re shipping your exhibit, consider shipping to the Advance Warehouse.  The deadline for delivery is about a week before the first day of install and your booth will be delivered to your space by the time you arrive.  Make sure to track the shipment to confirm the delivery.  If something seems off, you will have an opportunity to locate the shipment or prepare an alternative before the show starts.

Look at the delivery dates and post-show pick up dates.  These dates can fall on a weekend or holiday.  You’ll need to know what your delivery and shipping options are in those cases.  Be prepared to pay higher shipping rates for weekend or holidays.

Most importantly, plan for something to go wrong.  Murphy’s Law:  “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”  Be flexible and ready to go to plan B.  If your monitor shows up damaged, what are your alternatives for replacing it?  If graphics are missing or damaged, who can print them and deliver quickly?  Doing pre-show set ups of your exhibit can help you determine if hardware is missing or damaged before you arrive at the show and give you time to replace what you need.

Taking the steps to plan well before the show will help make your experience all that much better.  Add a portion of your budget dollars to a slush fund that can be available in case anything happens unexpectedly.  Don’t be afraid to ask your exhibit provider for guidance, they will be glad to help you along the way.  Following these simple tips will put you on your way to a successful show.





About the Author

Michelle Smith is a Senior Marketing Consultant with Skyline Event Services in Cleveland, Ohio. With 14 years of experience in the trade show industry, Michelle consistently strives to help her clients make the most out of their budgets and trade shows. For more information on trade show displays, trade show booths, and trade show exhibits in Cleveland, please visit

8 responses to “The Key to a Successful Trade Show: Planning, Planning, Planning!

  1. I definitely agree. Planning is everything! That includes taking the time to pre-plan how exactly your booth is going to be set up. A bit of forethought in how you want your booth to look (design, color, signage), what information you’ll be giving, and how you’re going to do it (papers, pamphlets, business cards), “goodies” (candy, promotional material like pens, keychains), etc. If you’re going to have an interactive “game” (like spin the wheel), make sure to think about that as well. What “prizes” can you give away, and how can you theme the game to your booth.

    Thank you again for these tips! It’s all about the pre-planning, right?

  2. I like that you suggested looking at the delivery dates and the post-show pickup dates. If I was going to go to a trade show then I would want to know when I would be able to get the items that I paid for. It might be a good idea to do some research beforehand so you know what kind of things will be there.

  3. Thanks for the tip to review your exhibit layout and place on the floor well before the show actually starts. I imagine that having a solid idea of not just your space, but what sorts of business would be near you, would give you an edge when planning your display and marketing approach. It could be a good idea to rent a pre-made exhibit, since that would save you some time.

  4. It’s interesting to learn that when it comes to a business going to a tradeshow to promote their business that there are some things that they need to be aware of to make sure that they make it a success. I like how you mentioned that they need to make sure that they know when the drop-off and pick-up dates are for before and after the show. This will be helpful for them to know so that they will be able to have everything set up for when the show begins.

  5. I personally believe that companies must rent an LCD projector for their trade show because this will help showcase their marketing campaign. Well, you made a pretty good point that they must use a booth number around their location too. You’re also right about the importance of checking on the delivery and product shipping from time to time so everything will run smoothly.

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