Develop a Plan for Your Next Trade Show!

In the 1990’s the trend in trade show was “bigger is better”. Companies in all types of industries would spend massive amounts of money on developing custom trade show exhibits that would “one up” the competition. It was not uncommon for companies to spend a minimum of $100K on their exhibit and again that much on show services, travel and giveaways. Lavish parties with well-known bands, open bars and personal gifts were the norm.

Nowadays, the opposite is true. We live in tougher time and generally are challenged to do more with less, especially with regards to trade shows and events. The mantra for most companies is to keep it as simple as possible, efficient and cost effective and if you cannot do that “Mr. or Ms. Trade Show Manager” then we will find a replacement. This brings us to the heart of this article, which is to show you how to develop a plan for your next trade show or event.

First, you need a plan. Don’t even try to wing it because you will fail. Let’s simply start with the basics of trade show planning:

1.       Define your goals for exhibiting at the trade show

  • Is your company a player in the industry or new to the industry?

  • Are you directly selling your product or service at this trade show or is this show a chance to gain more presence in the industry?

  • How many staff members will be working the show or event? Make a schedule!

  • How are you going to measure success? (Number of Leads, Sales at the trade show, or attendance at a company sponsored event or party)

2.       Determine a budget for your company

  • Add 15% to 25% to that budget to cover any overruns or unforeseen variables at show site

  • Be Realistic! Remember numbers don’t lie!

3.       Purchase or rent a trade show property

  • What size booth space is required?

  • Do I want to purchase or rent?

  • How do I integrate my messaging and graphics

  • Is the exhibit property to be stored at an exhibit company, office or shipped show to show?

  • Find a reputable supplier such as

This is the beginning of proper planning for a trade show. Remember, trying to keep within budget is a challenge. Always use a budget range rather than a finite dollar amount. While it’s ok to define the top end amount it is always smart to have a buffer built in. This will eliminate headaches. Most additional money at trade shows is spent at show site. Extras such as refreshments and last minute graphics are budget busters. The idea behind making a defined plan is so you can stay within a budget range and even if you have a few additional items, you will be ok in the long run. Of course, if you increase your sales at the show that is optimum!

Do you need help to develop a plan for your next exhibit for a trade show or expo? Feel free to contact us, we would love to hear from you.