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TradeTips Blog
Effective Trade Show Planning -
Your Keys To Better Results

By Dale Harvey, Director, BCISIT

Trade shows are one of the most effective tactics for generating sales leads, influencing purchasing decisions and cultivating referral sources. Trade shows may also be the least understood marketing opportunity. Advance planning is critical. It gives you better control, saves you time and money, and provides you the opportunity to achieve significantly better results.

Effective trade show planning can be easily separated into three parts: before the show, during the show and after the show. The following is a checklist of questions and details that should be considered and resolved well before the show. Be sure to assign each item to an individual for attention, and have a completion date established and documented.

Long-Range Planning: 12 to 24 months before the show.

 1. Does this show fit our marketing needs?
 2. Are the show dates convenient?
 3. Are there any other events that conflict with that date?
 4. Is the show location suitable? (Consider transportation, accommodation, existing customers, etc.)
 5. Does data from previous shows indicate a significant percentage of attendees fall into our target  market?
 6. What percentage of attendees comes from our major service areas?
 7. What does show management do to promote the show?
 8. What is the show's past success rate?
 9. Which of our competitors also exhibit at this show?
10. Will show management provide a list of previous exhibitors to contact about the show?
11. Has someone from our organization visited the show?
12. How much will our investment need to be in this show and what return on investment can be expected?
13. What type of promotional assistance does show management offer such as show magazine, etc.?
14. What audience quality information can show management provide?


Mid-Range Planning: 6 to 12 months before the show

15. Where does this particular show fit into our present marketing strategy? Do we want to...
  • Increase existing products/services in existing markets?
  • Introduce new products/services into existing markets?
  • Introduce existing products/services into new markets?
  • Introduce new products/services into new markets?
  • Introduce company into existing markets?
  • Introduce company into new markets?
16. What products/product lines need to be displayed?
17. Who is our target audience at this show?
18. What are our exhibiting objectives?
19. Do we have a written exhibiting plan?
20. Has an exhibiting budget been established?
21. Has our space been reserved?
22. Has the necessary deposit been paid?
23. What booth design will meet our objectives?
24. Can we refurbish/use our current exhibit?
25. Do we need a new exhibit?
26. Do we need new graphics?
27. What show services need to be ordered:
  • Signage?
  • Floor covering?
  • Electricity?
  • Audio/visual equipment?
  • Plumbing/air/water/drainage?
  • Booth cleaning services?
  • Furniture?
  • Plants/floral decorations?
  • Computer?
  • Telephone?
  • Imprinter?
  • Waste bins?
28. Are security arrangements necessary?
29. Has booth installation/dismantling been organized?
30. What freight arrangements must to be organized?
31. Are there any union restrictions we need to know?
32. Has insurance been arranged?
33. Do we have a tool kit organized to take to the show?
34. Have the necessary hotel arrangements been made?
35. When is final payment due for our booth space?
36. Are credit card services needed for booth sales?
37. Is a vendor's license needed?
38. Has a lead card been designed and printed?

By answering each of the above questions carefully and completely, you will save money, avoid problems and maximize your marketing opportunity.

Dale Harvey is the former Executive Director of the British Columbia Institute for Studies in International Trade.