How to Create an Effective Trade Show Game Plan

By Emily Moorhead

In all the excitement of an upcoming trade show, it can be easy to forget to take the time for careful strategic planning. Planning isn’t fun, per say, but by being prepared for a trade show with a solid game plan, you can walk in on day 1 feeling confident and ready to enjoy yourself. Here’s how to create an effective trade show game plan.

Start ASAP

There’s no time like the present. As soon as you know that you will be exhibiting at a trade show, start strategizing and planning. It can take months to complete all the tasks, so don’t delay.

Set Goals and Objectives

What are you hoping to achieve at the trade show? Be specific with your goals and objectives. You should quantify your goals so they can be easily tracked. For example, “Get more leads” will not work as a goal. “Increase leads by 10%” is much more appropriate because it helps you determine clear, measurable results.

Develop a Marketing Strategy

This ties in directly to setting your goals and objectives. Once you determine those, create a marketing strategy to help you reach your goals. How will you gather leads? One popular option is taking along a tablet; it’s easy, tech savvy, and interactive. How will you use social media to drive people to your booth? Most trade shows use a Twitter hashtag to encourage conversations.

Build a Budget

Trade shows can be expensive – there’s no doubt about it. However, if you create a budget and a plan, you will be able to control your costs much better than if you just decide to wing it. When building your budget, make sure to factor in physical materials (promotional items, flyers), services (graphic design), travel, food, shipping, entertainment, and emergency money.

Design Your Booth

Your booth design should be drafted, reviewed, and finalized months before your trade show. Most trade shows will not allow you to alter the basic physical setup of your booth, but you will always have control over the signage and other items you bring (as long as they are up to the show’s booth standards.) Aim for a cohesive, professional booth design and hire outside help if necessary.

Create a Post-Show Plan

Once your trade show is over, you’re going to be exhausted from all of your hard work. It’s okay to take a couple days off, but it’s essential to have a plan on how to move forward with the connections you made. If you create this plan before the show, you can relax and know you are prepared to nurture your leads.

Careful strategic planning can alleviate some of the stress of a trade show and allow you to focus on networking and building your business. Your game plan is integral to having a productive trade show.