Originally published by 4imprint

If your company is exhibiting at a trade show, don’t leave home without this helpful trade show checklist. Trade shows can be a great place to interact face-to-face with current and potential customers, giving you the opportunity to build solid leads. But it’s important to have a carefully thought-out plan, from pre-show planning to post-show follow-up. This handy trade show checklist will help you make every trade show appearance a successful one.

Strategize 6 to 12 months before the show as part of your trade show planning.

6–12 Months Before: Set Your Trade Show Strategy

Start your trade show planning by creating your trade show strategy. Doing this first will make everything else easier and more focused.

  • Set goals. What objectives do you want to achieve at the trade show?
  • Set a budget.
  • Identify your target audience.
  • Develop a marketing plan for before, during and after the show.
  • Choose a trade show that fits your customer’s profile, and book a space.
  • Design your exhibit, including graphics, displays and layout. Keep in mind what you want to communicate to the customer, and consider your technology and presentation needs.


Trade show planning begins 3 to 6 months before the show.

3–6 Months Before: Start the Trade Show Planning Process

With your strategy as a guide, determine how you’re going to communicate your message most effectively. And start marketing: Building buzz early can reap great rewards later.

  • Book a block of hotel rooms, even if you don’t know who will attend. It’s easier to change attendees than to hunt for rooms at fully-booked hotels.
  • Determine what literature and marketing materials you’ll need and prepare them.
  • Order promotional giveaways. The best pieces provide value to your customer and will make your brand more memorable.
  • Start pre-show marketing: Send information to attendees with your booth contact information. Send out press releases. Promote your presence through social media.


Finalize your trade show planning 1 to 3 months before the show.

1–3 Months Before: Finalize Event Plans

Continue building momentum. Get your customers and booth staff excited about the trade show.

  • Prepare follow-up materials. If these are ready before the show, they’ll be ready to send out immediately afterward when conversations are still fresh in prospects’ minds.
  • Make travel arrangements.
  • Train booth staff.
  • Contact the event sponsor for any last-minute details.
  • Schedule meetings with prospects and other customers. They have busy agendas, so make sure they have time set aside to meet with you.
  • Finalize production of all marketing materials and booth displays.
  • Order promotional apparel for your team to give them a polished, professional look in the booth.

A trade show checklist can help you prepare for the show.

1–4 Weeks Before: Prep and Pack for the Trade Show

Finalize all the details. The more fine-tuning you do, the smoother and more effective your trade show presence will be.

  • Prep and package booth equipment and confirm shipping arrival dates.
  • Prepare a competitor trade show checklist to see how your brand messaging and strategy compare.
  • Give your team a master contacts list in case things don’t arrive on time. Include cell numbers for team members, tracking numbers, vendor information and trade show details.
  • Put together a two-bin supply kit. Place office supplies in one and team resources (cold and allergy medication, lint rollers, stain pens and mints) in the other.
  • Make cheat sheets for booth setup and quick reminders for the team, including lists of conversation starters.
  • Role-play meeting with leads. This prepares your staff for interacting with visitors.


See your trade show planning pay off the day of the show.

At the Show: Go For It!

The hard work is over. It’s time to have some fun! Be as professional as possible and make notes for every interaction. Even the smallest observation can go a long way in making a connection.

  • Smile and greet visitors. (Follow a ‘no phones’ on duty rule with your teammates to maximize interactions.)
  • Trade badge scans or business cards for promotional products. (These little workhorses are a great way to introduce yourself and put your brand in front of your prospect even after they go home.)
  • While scanning badges or collecting business cards, talk with prospects about their needs.
  • Make notes about post-show follow-up you’ll complete to turn prospects into customers.


Follow up after the show to ensure your trade show planning pays off.

Afterward: Follow Up

This is the most important part, next to the strategy. A detailed analysis of prospects, customers and the event itself will set you up for future trade show success.

  • Organize leads and follow up right away. Be sure to give 2–3 methods of response, such as a demo request, white paper download, or newsletter subscription.
  • Evaluate the show. What worked? What didn’t? What can we do better next time? And do we want to participate next year?
  • Review the budget and determine ROI.
  • Continue follow-ups throughout the year, including social media and blog posts.

We hope this trade show checklist has been useful. With a solid trade show strategy, planning and preparation, and post-show efforts, sure-fire success is in your future.

Source: A Helpful Trade Show Checklist for Sure-Fire Success


“4imprint Blue Papers: Trade show displays: Trends for exhibitors—Part 2.” 4imprint.com. info.4imprint.com, 03 August 2015. <http://info.4imprint.com/blue-paper/trending-trade-show-displays-part-2/>

Esposito, Emily. “Everything You Need to Know About Planning a Trade Show.” Smartsheet.com. Smartsheet.com, 12 March 2015. <https://www.smartsheet.com/blog/everything-you-need-know-about-planning-trade-show>

Gleeson, Brent. “7 Tricks For Tradeshow Domination.” Forbes.com. Forbes.com, 04 September 2013. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/brentgleeson/2013/09/04/7-tricks-for-tradeshow-domination/#7fd3869f4a1e>

Ostomel, Dana. “10 Lessons From A First-Time Tradeshow.” Forbes.com. Forbes.com, 14 August, 2014. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/groupthink/2014/08/14/10-lessons-from-a-first-time-tradeshow/#7a2cb2fa5be2>

Posted by Elizabeth McQuade


  1. Thanks for your step by step to help with a successful trade show. I will be sure to keep this in mind the next time I help assist with one. I especially agree with the follow up step because it is often times forgotten. Thank you!



  2. I think this guide is one of the most complete trade show guides I’ve seen! I think it’s especially important to pre-plan your booth well before the show. Booth design and coloring and placement of things like signage, promotional materials, etc., is critical. I always try to include at least one sign with a large print of our logo, along with a few promotional materials with the logo included to reinforce the brand.

    Thank you again for sharing this guide!



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