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Pre-Show Exhibitor Checklist for Trade Show Planning


Need Help Planning Your Trade Show Exhibit?

A trade show is a way for businesses to market to the public and promote new products and ideas. At trade shows, you'll find many businesses under one roof.

Are you preparing for a trade show, and wondering how you to make it profitable and productive? Check out our exhibitor guide to trade show planning below to ensure the best possible outcome for your next trade show.

Exhibiting at Trade Shows
A trade show is a perfect way to make face-to-face connections with potential customers and clients.  Promoting your brand and getting brand recognition, in addition to selling products and services is the name of the game.

Exhibit planning for trade shows will ensure that your booth looks great, your brand is well represented, and makes the best impression. Plan an exhibit at a trade show to take your business to the next level.

9 - 12 Months

Set Business Goals and Objectives

Once you have decided to exhibit at a trade show, discuss your goals and objectives with your sales team.  Consider how important the show is to your business, what competitors are attending, and how many people from your company need to be there in what capacity.  Set a budget for travel, accommodations, sponsorships, exhibit space, booth/stand rental and enhancements, shipping, promotional items and include some padding in case unforeseen expenses arise. 

Budgeting for Your Trade Show

Having realistic expectations for what a successful trade show experience looks like is key. The experience is different for everyone and expectations vary.

It’s important to set a budget and estimate the number of sales leads you want to attract to obtain the most effective ROI (return on investment). Do your homework. Include travel and hotel expenses for staff as well as items needed to create an exhibit space that is not only reflective of your brand but also will attract customers. For many companies, trade shows are the only time each year they contact directly with buyers. 

How Big is Your Exhibit?

The show organizer provides a floor plan for all exhibitors and the venue outlines exhibit space based on that plan. Plan your exhibit according to the space you contracted and determine if a package is included or if you need to rent an exhibit, carpet, furniture, or other items. Place your reception area or front of your booth where the most traffic will pass by.  Walk the show floor and take note of competitors' locations to determine if another location might be better for next year. 

Show organizers contract with venue-approved vendors to provide exhibitors enhancements to their space such as flooring, furniture, electricity, AV, lead generation, security, or internet services to name a few. The list of official vendors is usually located on the show's website. For GES shows, if the information is available, it can be found under the official contractors' section on the show's ordering site

Estimate Attendance?

Research the number of attendees from previous years, the trade show should have a projection of how many people plan to attend closer to the show date, and use that number to set a goal for how many customers you want to attract to your booth. Even a small number of the "perfect" customer for your business can make a big impact on sales. 

Trade Show Theme or Company Theme?

Will there be a theme for the trade show you are attending? If so, it might be a good idea to tie in the show theme into your booth.

Your color scheme will most likely pull from your company's logo. Using those colors for floor coverings, graphics, tablecloths, and promotional items will bring everything together and give your exhibit space a cohesive and professional look. 


6 to 9 Months

Signage or Banners

Do you have a hanging sign you can use for display over your exhibit space? A sign or banner is a great way to display your company name and logo in your booth.

Signs or retractable banners can be displayed in the front of your booth or on a table, placed on an easel, or in the back of your booth for easy viewing. 

Hanging Signs for Trade Shows

Leave No Room for Doubt

When someone walks by your booth there should be no doubt about what product your company is selling or what service you are providing. 

Brand recognition plays a major part in trade shows. This comes from displaying your logo or company name tastefully, but as visually impactful as possible.

Tables & Furniture

Tables help fill the void and can be utilized in many ways, including displaying promotional items and information on your products or brand. 

Depending on the size of your exhibit space, a skirted table might be all you have room for but if you have space, a table and chairs can offer a designated meeting area for important conversations with customers. A high-top table with stools makes for a convenient gathering spot if space is limited. 

Specialty furniture can enhance the look of the space by adding a pop of color or a sleek seating area that invites attendees to gather for rest or conversation. 

Floor Coverings 

Depending on the venue, there will either be standard carpeting or plain unfinished concrete floors in each booth. Check with show organizers to see if you can leave the flooring as is, or if carpet or flooring is required. Under carpet padding (or even double padding) make a noticeable difference in your staff's comfort level during the show.  Adding Visqueen- a clear plastic covering- over carpet or flooring will ensure it is not damaged during move-In and is in pristine condition when the show opens. 

Electrical & Lighting 

Exhibit space does not usually include electrical outlets. Those are typically ordered prior to move-In and installed before carpet is laid or an exhibit is built.  With some small shows, exhibit packages include an outlet,  so be sure to check to see what products are included. If electrical is not included, you will need to place an order for materials and labor. Include a layout of your booth so the electrician can place the outlets in the correct location before you arrive. 

Adding lighting to an exhibit can draw attention to your space and make it easier for attendees to find your company in a convention center or hotel ballroom.  Spotlighting products attracts customers and makes viewing product features easier.   


2 to 4 Months

Decorations & Displays

Placing printed information and products haphazardly on the table will not look very professional. For a more polished look use organization displays racks and finish with some decorative items such as plants or balloons that compliment your theme or color scheme.

Products, Samples & Promotional Items

Does your company sell products that you will be bringing to the trade show? The first rule is to bring multiple products to put on display and if the show organizer allows it, sell or take orders on the show floor.

If you are providing free product samples, especially consumables, it is important to have products individually wrapped and clearly labeled. Educate staff on products and ingredients before the show opens so that they can answer any questions attendees might have.

Consider bringing popular promotional items, bags, or backpacks with a company logo to distribute to attendees to create brand awareness for your company. Trendy items such as stylus pens, fidget spinners, USB drives, and water bottles drive traffic and delight both coworkers back at the office and kids at home. 

Interactive Exhibits

If you really want to captivate attendees, offer an interactive element to your booth to capture their attention and keep them in your booth for a longer time period. Some exhibitors rent photo booths or video games, offer face painting, or provide free coffee, ice cream, cookies, or beer! 

Keep them busy with a raffle wheel to spin, games to play, or short films to watch. If the venue isn't playing music, play some tunes to entertain the crowd while they are looking at your products or talking to your staff. 

Trade Show Shipping 

Once everything is ordered and ready for the show, determining the best method of shipping and when it should arrive is imperative to having a successful show. Choosing a carrier that specializes in shipping freight to and from trade shows is recommended because they are familiar with the importance of delivering on time, are familiar with trade show venues, and often combine loads with other exhibitors to provide the most cost-effective rates. 


At Show

Tips for Managing Your Booth

Bring Your A-Game
Is it enough to just show up at a trade show with your company sign and a table full of pamphlets or free stuff for people to take? Technically, you could get by doing the bare minimum.

Putting in more effort will definitely pay off. When someone walks by your booth and you are smiling, warm and welcoming, or even funny and friendly, it will make a bigger impact than if you were sitting there quietly and not engaging with visitors. If you are not the outgoing type, then bring along a coworker who is!

Come Early, Stay Late
Keep in mind that engaging with the crowd is not the only way to promote yourself at these events. Networking with other vendors helps create brand awareness, cultivates new avenues of opportunity, and helps you develop lasting connections.

Come early and stay late to talk about the show with your new friends and colleagues.


The Complete Trade Show Exhibitor Checklist

As you are planning for your next show keep these important items in mind:  start planning early to ensure the items you need are available and order before the deadline to secure the lowest pricing. 

✔ Budget

✔ Staffing, travel, and hotel accommodations

✔ Attendance goals 

✔ Exhibit design 

✔ Signage & banners

✔ Tables & furniture

✔ Flooring

✔ Electrical & lighting

✔ Products, samples & promotional items

✔ Interactive exhibits 

✔ Shipping

Perfecting Trade Show Planning
Don't be nervous about your first trade show, you've got this! Plan, and ensure that you have everything on your exhibitor's checklist ordered and packed up!

If you need more guidance or are ready to go, reach out to GES, at any time. We are here for you and cheering for your success.