Congratulations! You’ve selected an upcoming trade show to exhibit. Now what? Whether you’re an experienced exhibitor or the new kid on the block, a great plan can be the difference between a smash success or a show floor flop. To make your planning easier, we’ve put together a Trade Show Planning Timeline that includes important tips and deadlines.


12+ Months

Choosing a trade show can be a tricky matter. Although some trade shows look fun-filled and could attract the same clientele you’re looking for, it may not be the right one for you. Before choosing your trade show, be sure to either walk the show for yourself or speak to past exhibitors to hear about their experiences.

For some, hearing “Prepare full show marketing strategy” can sound like a daunting task. However, our pros found that by keeping a few things in mind, this can be one of the easiest parts of your planning! The first thing to keep in mind are your goals for exhibiting. If you’re launching a new product, this is your chance to get people talking about it. If you’re looking to generate new leads, find more ways to stand out in the crowd. If you’re there to meet with existing clients, be sure to include meeting spaces into your booth design. If you’re looking to do a combination of all the above, our exhibit experts can walk you through how to pick the perfect exhibit configuration.

9-12 Months Out

With an exhibit provider around every corner, choosing one is harder than you’d expect. Finding the most advantageous one relies on a few factors including: show location, whether they offer I & D and cost. If you’re travelling to the show, finding an exhibit provider in or around that city will save you time and money. Also, find a company that offers full turnkey packages, including I & D labor, to ensure all your bases are covered. If you can find a company that is dedicated to making your trade show go as smoothly as possible, within your budget and offers turnkey packages, you have found your winner!

3-6 Months

To become the talk of the trade show, you must get the conversation started early on! By launching your pre-show marketing initiatives at least 3 months out, you’ll begin attracting the attention of the right attendees. More than half of the attendees at any given trade show have already determined their “must see” booths prior to even stepping foot onto the trade show floor!

1-3 Months Out

Early Bird Discount? Sign me up! Be sure to consult your trade show specialist to determine when paperwork is due to receive an early bird discount on show services like electric and wifi.

Pro Tip: Pack a trade show kit about a month out. Your trade show kit is your personalized way of ensuring you’re prepared for whatever the show throws your way! Professional event planners pack similar kits prior to any major event. Your kit should include some of the following items:

  • Collateral materials
  • Office materials (pens, markers, post-it notes, note pads, etc.)
  • Breath mints
  • Business cards
  • Extra chargers (Phones, iPad, tablets, laptops or sample products)
  • Snacks (To avoid get hanrgy with your attendees!)

While planning your post show follow-up strategy, don’t forget to utilize your team back home. While collecting leads at the show, you may come across clients who need to be followed up with immediately. Be sure to have someone in place who can handle these leads as they roll in, so you can focus on the job in front of you.

During Show

Meeting with your booth staff daily before and after the trade show can help you keep your strategy cohesive and increase your likelihood of success. Pro tip: While collecting leads, be sure to add detailed notes about the conversations you had with the attendee. Whether it is personal or business related, showing that you cared enough to remember the small details will take you much farther than your competition. While following up, you can easily reference these conversations and create a more personalized experience.

1 Day to 1 Week After the Show

Did you know that more than 81% of trade show leads are never even followed up on? Don’t make that same mistake! Once the show is over, review your leads and begin your pre-planned follow up process immediately to ensure you’re fresh in that lead’s mind.

Determining your Return On Investment (ROI) for a trade show can be tricky if you’re new to the industry. Easily calculate your ROI with this following formula: Revenue generated – actual trade show spending = ROI. Keep in mind that you may not be able to calculate an accurate ROI until 3-6 months post show.

Although it does take time to see an ROI, persistence pays off. Experts say that consistently exhibiting the same trade show will provide a positive ROI over a 3-year span. Meaning that if you exhibit the same show three years in a row, you will see an increase in your success!


With your Planning Timeline in hand and Trade Show Supply by your side, nothing can stand in your way!

Trade Show Supply specializes in turnkey exhibit rental packages that include key components of your show, including custom graphics, exhibit hardware, A/V, furniture, professional set-up/dismantle labor and much more. For more information about our booths and capabilities, click here.