Trade Show Planning: Creating a Timeline
Organizing your company’s participation in upcoming trade shows can be stressful and requires precision and strong organizational skills. To make it a tad less stressful, prepare a timeline of things that must get done and when they must be accomplished. This alone can help you stay on track, reduce some of the nail biting and prevent missed deadlines that can cost you down the road in lost discounts, rush fees and missed opportunities.
There are deadlines for choosing an exhibit space, for ordering show services, and for creating your exhibit. There is no one right way to create a timeline, as they can be organized in a myriad of ways (deadlines, tasks, etc.). However, once you come up with one that works for you, use it as a master template for creating timelines for all future shows.
Here are some general guidelines to help you in your planning:
12+ months out: Determine your objectives
Identify the role that trade shows will play in your overall marketing and sales plan. Will trade shows be primarily used to generate sales leads and prospective customers?
Conduct research on what shows will best achieve these objectives.
Determine a budget and project your return on investment (ROI).
9-12 month out: Initial planning mode
Compile a list of specific objectives for each show, such as number of leads, number of products sold, amount of publicity sought, etc.
Identify the booth size needed and type of display, along with marketing collateral and promotional items.
Register for the show and reserve your space with show management and request full details of exhibit requirements (deadlines, shipping information, etc.).
Create a trade show marketing plan that uses a mix of promotional methods to reach sales prospects.
6-9 months out: Fine-tuning your message
Develop your sales message that will communicate a compelling story and deliver the key points you want to make in as short a time as possible (preferably less than 30 seconds).
Choose an exhibit company to help create and deliver an exhibit that will fit your needs and budget. Research their capabilities, experience, and design talent, and be sure and check references of past clients.
Determine what promotional strategies, such as giveaways and attractions, you’ll use to draw attendees out of crowded aisles and into your booth.
4-6 months out: Tying up loose ends
Order promotional items (giveaways, takeaways, prizes, etc.)
Confirm delivery dates with your exhibit company to assure your display will be ready on time.
Determine who will be staffing your booth at the show, develop schedules, and plan training sessions.
Make travel and hotel reservations, if you haven’t already.
Determine how your exhibit and accessories will be shipped to the show.
Launch pre-show marketing initiatives.
1-3 months out: Check and double check details
Assemble packets of information for post-show marketing follow-up.
Contact show management for any last-minute details, changes, etc.
Finalize production of display, promotional items, and marketing materials and confirm shipping date.
Schedule dinners, briefings, or other meetings with customers, media, or sales staff.
Re-confirm hotel and travel arrangements. Last minute snafus are costly and can be eliminated by doing one last review of all your staff’s travel plans.
One week out: Crunch time.
Wrap up staff training of booth personnel.
Confirm shipping arrival dates for your display, marketing materials and promotional items.
There’s always going to be that one thing that completely slips your mind, however, having a timeline can help you stay focused, and more importantly, stay on schedule.