a guide to planning successful stands or booths at exhibitions or trade shows with hints, tip and a
timeline of actions before, during and after the trade show. Page updated 4 Mar 2017

Other Guides

See our step-by-step guides to:

Hint: Keep an emailing list of interested parties so you can let them know of updates and significant milestones being reached.
Or evn better, put together a blog.

Hint:
Take a pocket digital camera with you to record moments for your in-house magazine or web site. It also can act as a useful substitute for a photocopier…

Hint: If you have an intranet or a web site - get your support department to create a page for the exhibition. Failing that, set up a  facebook account - but don't forget to restrict access to employees and other relvant parties! (e.g. health and safety consultants, selected suppliers.)

Keep it updated with progress and include lots of pictures. more...

Idea maker: Have a look at a selection of pictures to help stimulate ideas to attract people to your stand.. you will find them right here

Hint: You can trim some of the effort required by using a professional event production company.
they'll really help take the strain....

Hint: Make sure your trade show booth is fully health and safety compliant - especially pay attention to fire retardant theme furnishings and wall hangings.

Find out what to expect from decor and lighting services here

Guide to Planning Successful Exhibitions
booths / promotional stands / trade shows

A Step-By-Step Guide with Hints and Tips
© KayDeeElle 2002

 
..before you start - remember, KayDeeElle are here to give you ideas for your theme and also to let you know the various aspects of what's involved and the decisions you'll likely need to make.
Ideas about decor and design to stimulate your creativity..
..so browse around and check out what ideas we can tickle in your mind...

Having a plan is critical to exhibiting successfully at a trade show. Here's a step-by-step guide of when to do what. Use it as the basis for your plan.

And there are some hints and tips to helping make sure your exhibition stand runs smoothly.

You may not need to do everything below, and your specific circumstances might mean changing things around a bit. So just choose those things appropriate to you and shuffle things around as suits you.

Ready, Steady, Show Time!

12 Months To Go…

  • Be sure you know why you are participating - set aims.
  • Prepare budget.
  • Read contract carefully (get legal to give it the once-over): Understand terms and conditions, payment schedule, how space is assigned.
  • Select location: Consult floor plans, traffic patterns, services, and audience makeup.
  • Send in application and (first) payment.

Six Months To Go…

  • Set objectives for show.
  • Consider whether other departments are to participate. Liaise and inform, understand their needs.
  • Plan show advertising. Don't forget your website and / or intranet.
  • Research and choose primary suppliers
    • visual décor / exhibit house:
      • banner stands and exhibition stands
      • portable banner stand
      • pop up booth
      • exhibit display booth
      • trade show booth rental
    • transportation / logistics company,
    • installation / dismantle supplier.
  • Decide if new exhibit is needed. If so, begin design process.
  • Consider flamboyant décor to stand out from your competitors such as
    • inflatables,
    • branded flags,
    • anything with high visual impact, such as an exciting theme like 70s Funk, Undersea, Jungle or Hades.

Four Months To Go…

  • Select staff for show and support staff back at base.
  • Determine travel arrangements, make hotel reservations.
  • Determine exhibit needs: refurbishments, tissues, fresh wipes, storage, essential spares.
  • Choose display products and reserve them. Remember to include those for:
    • banner stands and exhibition stands
    • portable banner stands
    • pop up booth
    • exhibit display booth
  • Plan enquiry-processing procedures.
    Consider data capture, main & and alternatives, security & backup - those leads are valuable!
  • Develop floor plan for exhibit.
  • Communicate with primary suppliers (visual décor / exhibit house, shipping / logistics, installation/dismantle, after-show party) regarding services needed and dates.
  • If you are going for a theme or set, make sure the designer understands your product display requirements and any constraints like height clearance
  • Get an estimate on costs. (Remember to keep you budget spreadsheet updated.)
  • Finalize new exhibit design. Coordinate theme with show-related advertising design (including website).
  • Consider promotional gifts.
  • Carry out show-related advertising.

Three Months To Go…

  • Carefully review exhibitor manual and terms and conditions in the contract.
    Note target dates and restrictions. Review exhibit floor plan and communicate any changes to stand / exhibit designer.
  • Reserve any additional meeting rooms (hospitality events, press conferences, after-show party, etc.)
  • Research & choose portable exhibit supplier if needed.
  • Plan any in-booth presentations / demonstrations / client meetings.
  • Create list of required services, noting deadlines for early buy discounts.
  • Distribute show plan to staff.
  • Select catering menu (for hospitality events, press events, after-show party etc.)
  • Meet deadlines for free publicity in the exhibitor guide / preview.
  • Submit authorisation form if you're using exhibitor-appointed contractors.
  • Plan pre-show meeting.

Two Months To Go…

  • Preview new portable display / exhibit décor / theme. Request any modifications - keep to a minimum. Take lots of photographs. As a reminder, consider:
    • banner stands and exhibition stands
    • portable banner stand
    • pop up booth
    • exhibit display booth
  • Consider having literature designed, coordinated to the theme of the exhibit.
  • Complete graphics art / copy. Order product literature.
  • Order staff badges. Consider web address and / or email address on the badges.
  • Update and liaise with other departments sharing the stand / booth.
  • Finalise enquiry-processing procedures.
  • Create and order lead forms.
  • Prepare orders for: shipping / storage, electrical, after-show party, promotional gifts, floral, etc.
  • Follow up on all promotions, making sure everything is ready to ship by target date.
  • Prepare packs for the pressroom and stand / booth.
  • Check with staff on hotel reservations and travel arrangements.
  • Develop briefing pack for booth and back-office support staff, include web and email addresses.
  • Schedule training for staff at show and back-office support staff.
  • Send reminder to upper management about briefing meetings (in office and at show); include agenda and supporting web site address.

Prior to Departure…

    Make sure you've got the following before leaving for the show:
  • Credit cards,
  • Copies of all orders and cheques for services paid in advance,
  • Phone numbers and addresses of all suppliers,
  • Tick list from above
  • Shipping manifest, return shipping labels,
  • Fire certificate, if needed and other formal documentation for exhibit,
  • Mobile phone recharger, pocket digital camera and spare memory stick(s),
  • "Essentials" box.

Upon Arrival…

  • Confirm freight has arrived and that all contractors are on schedule.
  • Check hotel reservations for staff, as well as confirming meeting room bookings and catering orders.
  • Get to know the venue and find the service areas. Meet electrician and confirm date and time for electrical installation. Confirm telecomms arrangements - phone / internet connection points.
  • Supervise booth set-up.
  • Take photos of completed exhibit.
  • Arrange staff treats such as luxury chocolates, fresh exotic fruit, designer fountain pens...
  • The day before the show hold pre-show briefing and final training for staff. Be especially positive in all aspects of staff communications at this time. You'll set the mood of the staff for the whole show.
  • Take more photos.

During Show…

  • Observe competitors, see what works for them. Conduct "mystery shopping" if you can.
  • Give staff time to visit the other exhibitors but watch out for poaching!
  • Have daily meetings with staff and unwind sessions at the end of each day. No hangovers!
  • Check after-show party arrangements.
  • Take lots of photos with that digital camera.
  • Reserve next year's space.
  • Make arrangements for booth dismantle and shipping.
  • Ensure lead forms are shipped back to the office daily for processing following your defined enquiry process.
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End of Show…

  • Supervise stand / booth dismantling. Refer to shipping manifest and tick list used to pack for show to make sure everything goes back.
  • Debrief staff.
  • Attend after-show party!

After Show…

  • Handle leads.
  • Send thank-you notes.

Finally...

You should always ensure that your supporting web site pages and email addresses appear on every single communication item used for the show:

  • Show invites and adverts,
  • Promotional gifts,
  • Brochures / flyers,
  • Visitor and press packs,
  • Staff badges,
  • Stand backdrops and signage,
  • Internal documents and communications.
It will add significantly to the effectiveness of the show. Of course, you need to provide content for the supporting web pages but that isn't covered in detail here. As a guide, things and content to consider are:
  • Separate public and internal web pages?
  • Keeping the pages updated as the show date approaches and then during the show.
  • Web cam for during the show?
  • Be online during the show using a purpose built on-line chat room?
  • Marketing directives re: company colours, branding etc.
  • Product photos and descriptive text.
  • Objectives of show entry
  • Competitions and promotions at show
  • Participating staff photos and background
  • Enquiry form
 

Fetching ...won't be a tick!

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Here's a desert island produced for a food expo.
click for bigger picture: SPAR Tropical Island exhibition set

Close up of tropical pool
click for bigger picture: Close up of tropical pool

You can rent props to add the finishing touches to your trade show stand - we guarantee it will draw more trade...

Hint: if you're looking for a job in the exhibition / trade show industry, you need to know what's in this guide.
It's essential background reading to give you the edge.

It will give you some useful ideas for asking questions at interviews. And we all know that's an ideal way to showcase things that you're on top of, that haven't come up in the interview panel's questions...

click for bigger picture: A dramatic entrance to a raised exhibition stand? click for bigger picture: Perhaps some suspended 1-2 metre fish mobiles would set the scene for your stand? or perhaps we can build a product inflatable for you like we did for McDonald's McFlurry?
get more ideas for props, decor and themes here...

Hint: If the exhibition / trade show is being held at a seasonally active time of year, book your vital services early, especially hotel reservations and stand design.

Hint:
Prepare an "essentials" box: A few spare business cards, compliment slips, stapler, 4 or 5-way power distribution block, sticky tape, scissors, bluetack, superglue, penknife, screwdriver (flat & crosshead), first aid kit.

Hint: Use a spreadsheet to prepare a budget. Allow space for actuals. Keep it updated.

Apart from forming the basis for seeking funds authority, it forms a useful cross-reference to your plan - a lot of the things on your plan will be a budget item and vice versa.

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