Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for November, 2023

Trade Show Planning: A Step-by-Step Guide

November 17th, 2023 COMMENTS
Trade show planning

We all know the expression, “If you fail to plan, then plan to fail.” Which, if we’re honest, isn’t always true. Some projects don’t require much planning. Trade shows, and in particular trade show marketing and exhibition, do require careful and systematic planning to be successful.

Yet, there are companies that devote less time to their trade show planning than they would to a 4-year-old’s birthday party. 

It’s nuts… especially when you consider the cost of trade shows and the lost opportunities when trade show planning is handled haphazardly. But you’re not that person, right? You want your trade show program to be professional and financially successful, which is why you’re reading this article. 

The Importance of Trade Show Planning 

Trade show planning is crucial for businesses to maximize their return on investment (ROI) or return on objectives (ROO). A clear and comprehensive plan ensures that companies maximize their sales opportunities while minimizing costs (and stress). 

Any “live event” can be unpredictable and trade shows are no exception. However, what’s often described as “unpredictable” by some exhibitors, like shipping, labor, or show services, is more often the result of poor planning. Everyone and every company that provides services to exhibitors understands that communicating deadlines, pricing, timelines, and expectations makes everyone’s job easier. They don’t want surprises any more than you do. 

Regarding what size exhibit to buy or rent, as a general rule, a 10 x 10 booth is sufficient for a small business. At 100 square feet, you can accommodate at least four people at once, two staffers and two attendees. Consider a 10 x 20 for a medium business and islands for a larger business. The size of the booth, however, depends on your goals and products. At a trade show, size matters, but it should complement, not dictate your exhibit marketing goals.

Trade Show Event Planning: The Basics

Assign one person to be in charge of timetables and scheduling. Assign another person to draw up the trade show budget and define the marketing goals. This person will have to account for the cost of renting or buying a booth, the cost of accessories such as literature racks, as well as travel expenses. Travel expenses will vary depending on the location and duration of your stay. If you decide to rent, you should expect to budget:

  • 25% on renting your booth space
  • 20% on design and graphics
  • 15% on electrical, cleaning, and drayage
  • 10% on shipping materials to and from the trade show
  • 10% on press kits and pre-show promotions
  • 20% on staffing, travel, and other miscellaneous expenses

If you decide to purchase an exhibit, you will want to work with a professional exhibit designer. Most exhibit distributors have a designer on staff or rely on their exhibit manufacturer to supply design and rendering services. You will need to follow the rules and regulations on booth design for your particular show as well as observe basics such as fire, electrical, and safety codes and provide wheelchair accessibility. Rely on your exhibit designer who understands these requirements.

trade show event planning

Trade Show Planning Guide: Key Steps to Success 

By investing in comprehensive trade show planning, businesses can maximize their chances of achieving their goals, generating new leads, building brand awareness, and securing new business opportunities.

Define Clear Goals and Objectives: Without clear goals, it’s impossible to measure the success of a trade show participation. Thorough planning helps identify specific objectives, such as generating leads, increasing brand awareness, or launching new products.

Develop a Strategic Budget: Trade shows can be costly, so creating a detailed budget is essential to avoid overspending. Planning allows for accurate budgeting for booth space, staff expenses, travel, accommodation, and marketing materials.

Design an Engaging Booth: The booth is the company’s face at the trade show, so it needs to be visually appealing, informative, and functional. Planning ensures that the booth design aligns with the brand message and effectively attracts visitors.

Prepare a Pre-Show Marketing Campaign: Trade show success often hinges on pre-show marketing efforts. Planning allows for strategic campaigns to generate interest, drive traffic to the booth, and schedule appointments with potential customers.

Train Your Staff: Trade show staff should be knowledgeable about the company’s products or services and well-prepared to engage with visitors. Planning ensures that staff is trained on sales techniques, lead capture methods, and answering common questions.

Establish Lead Capture and Follow-Up Systems: Effective lead capture is crucial for converting trade show interactions into future business opportunities. Planning involves setting up systems to capture leads digitally or on paper and establishing a follow-up process to nurture those leads.

Measure and Evaluate Results: After the trade show, it’s important to evaluate the results and identify areas for improvement. Planning facilitates the collection of relevant data, such as lead generation, booth traffic, and customer interactions, to measure the success of the event.

trade show planning guide

Trade Show Management: Ensuring a Smooth Experience 

Who is trade show management? It’s less straightforward than it appears. At most shows or events, there are three management teams, each with different responsibilities. Knowing who does what will make your life considerably easier if you encounter issues or simply need answers to questions. 

Exhibition, Convention, or Show Hall Management:  Every exhibit hall or event venue has a team that handles sales and marketing, schedules shows, maintains the facility, and negotiates contracts with unions, food vendors, and janitorial services. They are responsible for the management and success of the building. For smaller shows, meetings, or events, they may even serve as the show management. 

Show Management:  Whether it’s a local boat show or the annual trade show for the American Cardiology Association, the “show” is owned and managed by a company or an association. They are responsible for everything associated with the show without necessarily handling every activity. For example, they identify the location for the show and negotiate space and services with the facility management. They also contract with a General Show Contractor to handle drayage, electrical, pipe and drape, signage, labor, etc. However, the show management devotes much of their time to marketing the show, developing education sessions, scheduling speakers, creating social events, soliciting sponsors, and registering attendees and exhibitors. 

General Show Contractor (GSC); Most exhibitors interact primarily with the General Show Contractor and often confuse the GSC with both Show Management or Show Hall Management. As mentioned before, the GSC handles a variety of functions for exhibitors, depending on the show. These may include moving and storing freight, electrical services, cleaning, labor, sign rigging, rental furniture, and in some cases even renting exhibits. The GSC has a contract with Show Management and when an exhibitor hits a wall resolving a problem with the GSC, they should contact Show Management, who typically has a temporary office in the show hall. 

The Exhibitor Advocate:  The Exhibitor Advocate is a non-profit advocacy group that provides exhibitors with education, resources, and assistance with trade show challenges. They’re not show management nor are they at the show. Instead, they are a valuable partner who can help exhibitors address challenges and prominent pain points to ensure your events remain a valuable and irreplaceable marketing channel.

The Exhibitor Advocate’s mission is to amplify the voice of exhibitors to ensure the enduring success of exhibitions and events by collaborating with all stakeholders to promote and cultivate open communication, consistent standards, and industry best practices.

trade show management

Seamless Exhibit Planning with Classic Exhibits! 

Successful trade show marketing doesn’t happen by accident. There’s always a strategy and a plan. The key is identifying the right strategy and executing the right plan. For over 30 years, Classic Exhibits has been a reliable source of expertise for new and seasoned trade show marketers. 

The Classic Exhibits Distributor Network includes over 200 exhibit houses and display professionals in North America. Find success on the trade show floor with an exhibit that reflects your marketing message. For more information, see and explore Exhibit Design Search or request a meeting with a Classic Distributor Partner.

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November 17th, 2023 COMMENTS

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Your Complete Trade Show Checklist

November 16th, 2023 COMMENTS
Trade Show Checklist

You’re either a planner by choice or a planner by necessity. Or you “wing it.” We’ll ignore the “wing it” group since they probably clicked to “5 Easy Steps to Trade Show Success” once they read the word “planner.”  

When it comes to trade shows, someone has to be the master planner. They don’t have to make every decision, but they do have to own the list, including additions, revisions, and due dates. In other words, someone has to be the adult about your trade show planning

So why keep a trade show checklist? Trade shows are expensive, often as much as 30-40% of a company’s annual marketing budget, and trade show costs keep rising as freight, labor, travel, and show services increase often at double-digit rates.

The person who manages the Trade Show Checklist will be able to maximize your budget by ensuring the timely booking of travel, lodging, freight, and promotional materials and the completion of show forms during the less expensive early bird dates. Honestly, it’s a thankless job, but one that’s just as important as the creative, sales, and marketing tasks required for a successful trade show program.  

Why You Need a Trade Show Checklist

Start by searching the internet for a “trade show checklist.”  There’s no shortage of examples. Some are free. Others have a cost. None are identical, because no shows, companies, or individuals are identical. Ideally, create your own or ask your exhibit house if they have a template. 

The person who manages the Trade Show Checklist will be able to maximize your budget by ensuring the timely booking of travel, lodging, freight, and promotional materials and the completion of show forms during the less expensive early bird dates. Honestly, it’s a thankless job, but one that’s just as important as the creative, sales, and marketing tasks required for a successful trade show program.

The checklist also ensures nothing gets forgotten or overlooked. Which can and will happen to new exhibitors. There are big “Oh No’s!” like not scheduling freight to and from the show, booking labor to install and disassemble your exhibit, and forgetting to purchase flooring. Those can be expensive to purchase at the last minute. Then there are the “Oh Darn!” tasks like not including cleaning supplies in the case/crate, sending literature at the last minute, or not ordering lead retrieval until you arrive at the show. They’re annoying but not catastrophic. 

Finally, trade shows are stressful and stress is the exact opposite of what you want before, during, and after a show. Admittedly, checklists are not stress-free since it’s all about completing tasks (which often require the assistance of others) and completing them on time and with accuracy. With each passing show, trade show checklist management becomes easier – and it’s not because the number of tasks gets shorter. The list often gets longer. Knowledge and experience make the job easier. Completing the electrical form, which gave you hives, takes minutes instead of hours. And, after a few hiccups, you understand when to schedule I&D labor vs. rigging vs. flooring. You’ve done the trade show choreography and every move, every step has a logic that seemed utterly random before. 

trade show checklist

Detailed Trade Show Planning Checklist: Preparing the Logistics

In reality, you need both a budget template (shown below) and a checklist. And while they serve two different purposes, managing costs vs. managing tasks, there’s considerable overlap. 

trade show exhibitor checklist

Your budget template can serve as your preliminary checklist, but eventually, your checklist will be longer and will include dates, names, and other details. Some companies already use designated project management software like Asana, but in reality, Excel or even Outlook are sufficient in the beginning. 

Trade Show Exhibitor Checklist: Assembling Your Exhibit & Team

Start by identifying the departments and individuals who should “own” elements of the trade show program. It’s more than just Marketing. Sales, Product Development, Customer Service, Shipping, and Accounting/Finance all have roles and responsibilities in successful trade show programs. Successful trade show marketing requires a broad-based commitment in the company, including (and especially) from Senior Management. 

In most cases, you’ll be working with an exhibit house partner on your trade show marketing strategy, exhibit design and build, freight, and storage. Their knowledge is invaluable as a resource. They may even have a generic trade show checklist available for you to use. 

Some of the preliminary items on your checklist should include

  1. Exhibition goals and strategy
  2. Budget
  3. Departmental responsibilities 
  4. Show date(s) and due dates for ordering services
  5. Exhibit design meeting(s)
  6. Graphic design meeting(s)
  7. Identifying booth staffing and responsibilities
  8. Booking travel and lodging
  9. Creating pre-show, show, and post-show marketing/sales plan, including sponsorships, mailings, invitations, and in-booth events and activities
  10. Designing and ordering promotional materials and giveaways
  11. Scheduling freight to and from the show
trade show planning checklist

11 Must have Trade Show Setup Supplies 

Trade shows are a delicate balance between order and chaos. Here’s a list of 11 often-forgotten items that will make your job easier and more efficient. 

  1. White Gloves for handling graphics
  2. Power Strips and Extension Cords labeled with your company name/contact (renting them at the show will be equal to the cost of your oldest child’s first year of college)
  3. Packing Tape (for dismantling/repacking)
  4. Cleaning Supplies/Wipes/Magic Erasers (for setup cleaning and before the show opens each day)
  5. Setup Instructions/Printed Staging Photos for faster setup. It’s important to label which crate has the instruction booklet so your team knows where to start
  6. Extra Velcro for wire management or last-minute graphic add-ons
  7. Sharpies for “Empty Crate” labels and for boxes during repacking
  8. Steamer to remove wrinkles from fabric graphics 
  9. Lint Roller
  10. Vacuum after installation and before the show opens. This saves on cleaning and is faster so you don’t have to wait for the GSC cleaning services.
  11. Small Toolbox with basic tools like screwdrivers, boxcutter, allen wrenches, measuring tape, and anything else essential to your display assembly. 

8 Personal Tips and/or Supplies for Any Exhibitor

  1. Comfortable (not new) Shoes. 
  2. Belt (if you’ve ever had to buy a belt in a casino shop, you know why you don’t want to forget it).
  3. Your “Go To” Pain Medication.
  4. Laptop, Phone, Tablet Charging Cords.
  5. Plastic Dry Cleaning Bags for Your Already Clean and Pressed Clothing. 
  6. Early Morning/Late Night Snacks
  7. Breath Mints (for you and close friends)
  8. Business Cards (yes, at least a few, for those moments when only a business card will do). 

Additional Tips for a Successful Trade Show

Trade show marketing is marketing… but a specialized form of marketing. Expertise takes time. A healthy mix of personal experience, professional advice from exhibition experts, and online resources can significantly shorten the learning curve. 

In order to make the most of your investment, it’s important to be prepared and have a plan in place. Here are some tips for a successful trade show:

1. Set clear goals and objectives. What do you hope to achieve at the trade show? Are you looking to generate leads, increase brand awareness, or launch a new product? Having clear goals will help you measure your success and make sure your efforts are aligned.

2. Choose the right trade show. There are hundreds of trade shows held each year, so it’s important to choose one that is relevant to your target audience. Research different trade shows to find one that is a good fit for your industry, size, and budget.

3. Develop a strong marketing and promotional plan. Let people know you’ll be at the trade show and what you have to offer. Use social media, email marketing, and press releases to generate interest.

4. Create a visually appealing and functional booth. Your booth is your home away from home at the trade show, so make sure it’s a good representation of your brand. Use bright colors, eye-catching graphics, and clear signage. Make sure your booth is staffed with knowledgeable and friendly representatives who can answer questions and provide information about your products or services.

5. Prepare a sales pitch. You’ll have a limited amount of time to talk to potential customers, so make sure you have a clear and concise sales pitch. Practice your pitch beforehand so you can deliver it confidently.

6. Follow up after the show. Don’t let your leads go cold! Follow up with potential customers within a few days of the trade show to thank them for their interest and schedule a follow-up meeting or call.

vendor booth checklist

Classic Exhibits is Here to Help with Your Trade Show Checklist!

For over 30 years, Classic Exhibits has specialized in trade show exhibit design, manufacturing, and exhibition marketing. That expertise comes with an obligation to educate new exhibitors and guide them toward best practices, like careful budgeting and detailed checklists. Success at a trade show isn’t haphazard or random. It happens when exhibitors have a clear strategy and execute it with discipline and precision. 

Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufactures portable, modular, hybrid, and custom exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or

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November 7th, 2023 COMMENTS
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Classic Exhibits Products + Services Summary Sheet

November 6th, 2023 COMMENTS

For years, we’ve joked that Distributors often describe Classic Exhibits based on their last order. We build “custom exhibits” or “portable displays” or “charging solutions.” Or we’re a “rental provider” … Which makes Jim Shelman very, very happy.

It’s not unusual to hear, “I didn’t know you did fill in the blank.” Which can be as simple as iPad Stands or as comprehensive as Sustainable Exhibits.

Core Products + Essential Services

To address this, we created a downloadable Products and Services Summary Sheet. Does it include EVERYTHING? No, but it’s close enough for fill in the blank.

If you’re wondering why there’s not an unbranded version, the answer is simple. This document is for you (Classic Distributors), not end-users. Franky, we don’t care if they know what we do. We only care that you know what we do. And now you do.

Please take a moment to download it. Let us know if you have an questions.

Classic Exhibits Products and Services Sheet
Classic Exhibits Products and Services Sheet

For 30 years, Classic Exhibits has been designing and building creative custom solutions for our Distributor Partners and their clients. As the largest private-label exhibit manufacturer in North America, we have the unmatched capability, capacity, and creativity to create 3D projects ranging from 10 x 10 inline displays to 60 x 80 double-deck islands. 

Find success on the trade show floor with an exhibit that reflects your marketing message. For more information, see and explore Exhibit Design Search or request a meeting with a Classic Distributor Partner.