It’s been said that the best way to predict the future is to plan for it in the present. In the trade show world exhibitors can do just that by following a trade show timeline. This post will help you plan for your event with a concrete trade show timeline that is designed to aid you in staying on schedule when planning for your event.
Trade Show Timeline: 12 Months Out — To Exhibit or not to Exhibit
Smart event marketers begin planning for their trade show up to a year in advance in order to maximize event marketing success and minimize trade show disasters. If you want to make the biggest impact possible at your event, you should also start planning at least 12 months prior to your trade show.
Your trade show timeline should begin with figuring out whether or not exhibiting is in your best interest, and if attending an industry event aligns well with your organizations overall marketing plan for the year. If the answer to this question is yes, you need to then set about the business of finding a show that suits your overall marketing objectives best.
One of the most effective means of determining which show to attend is by requesting show statistics from events you are interested in attending. Compare attendee numbers, demographic information, average booth space cost, travel expenses and a list of competitors who attended. Comparing different shows will help you make the smartest exhibiting decision possible.
Trade Show Timeline: 9 Months Out — Goals, Exhibit and Budgeting
After you determine whether or not your organization should exhibit, and you have decided which show will best help your brand, it’s now time to create trade show goals and objectives. At the 9 month mark on your trade show timeline, you will need to meet with your team to set realistic and obtainable trade show goals, trade show booth requirements and a solid budget estimate.
Objectives and Goals:
Setting goals and objectives can be difficult, especially if you are planning to attend your first event and don’t have historically data to go on. That being said, you can set goals that you believe are reasonable given your resources. Your goals should be set with your overall trade show objective in mind. If you are attending your event to sell product, set your goals to revolve around the number of products sold. If your objective is to generate public interest and create new customers, then your goals should be centered on lead generation and creating publicity in the media.
By the 9 month mark on your trade show timeline it’s time to plan for your exhibit. When planning and designing a trade show exhibit, you need to first identify how much space you will need to meet your trade show goals and objectives. When the dimensional requirements for your exhibit are hashed out, figuring out the graphics and design components to fit within the your space is next. Experienced exhibitors should also decide if their existing trade show exhibit can get the job done– or if they need to rent or purchase a new asset. It is also wise around this time to figure out which exhibit provider you will go with and what logistical challenges lay ahead. Remember, taking care of your exhibit needs early is the best way to have a painless exhibiting experience.
Your trade show budget will determine much of what you can and cannot achieve, so solidifying a solid budget or a close approximation early on in your trade show timeline is crucial. Since you have already created your goals and understand your trade show booth needs, it should be easier to set an overall budget for your event. It’s best practice to over-estimate your budgeting needs before you bring them to your higher-ups for approval. More often than not, your approved budget will be cut or reduced from your estimate, so overestimating will help you get closer to the number you feel you need to achieve trade show success.
Trade Show Timeline: 6 Months Out — Creating Buzz
Once you hit the 6 month mark on your trade show timeline it’s time to start thinking about the marketing campaign you surrounding your event. Planning your advertising, direct mail, email marketing, promotional items and giveaways around the 6 month period will give you plenty of time to build the pre-event buzz essential for trade show success.
Advertising, Direct Mail and Email Marketing:
No matter what your trade show objectives are, attracting attendees to your exhibit is key. To draw attendees to your booth you will need to announce your presence to the world. Advertising online on industry sites and in industry publications can help drive attendees to your exhibit space. Around 6 months, you should outline which outlets you believe will help you best attract visitors and begin placing ads in them. Using direct mail and email can also help you build hype around your event. Sending invites and reminders to prospects via these mediums gives a personal touch to your event marketing campaign.
Promotions and Giveaways:
Promotions and giveaways are staples in drawing attendees to an exhibit space. Planning for promotions and giveaways depends on your budget, and what your event marketing goals are. If you want to build product awareness giving away product samples and having in-booth demonstrations is a sure-fire way to draw a crowd. If you want to generate leads, having contest and in-booth giveaways such pens, notebooks or treats works well. Simply have attendees fill out a lead form to receive their giveaway.
Trade Show Timeline: 1 to 3 Months Out — Finalize Details and Training
At the 3 month point, you should have all of the major details figured out, however there are many smaller task that need to be tackled before you can set sail to your event. The final stretch of your trade show timeline should be focused on finalizing these details, tying up loose ends such as travel and accommodations, training your booth staff and scheduling diners and meeting with clients and prospects for networking.
Training your Staff
A well-trained booth staff is the greatest asset an event marketer could ask for, so making sure your team is briefed and primed for the event is essential. Rehearse sales pitches, train staff members on products, discuss the branded messaging your organization wants put across and create a list of goals and procedure for your team to follow. Beginning this process 3 months out gives your staff enough time to train and get comfortable with their roles.
Travel and Accommodations:
Traveling for trade shows can be difficult if you don’t make sure you have all of your ducks in a row. If at all possible, try to get a bundle on airfare and hotel rooms. Making accommodations at least 3 months in advance gives you a leg up in securing room and flight bundles, while also taking care of one of the more stressful parts of event planning by taking it off your plate early.
Attending face-to-face marketing events is all about networking and creating connections. To help your organization better network, consider sending invitations to current clients attending your event. These invites can be for a consultation or a dinner in appreciation of your ongoing relationship. You can also reach out to prospects you are courting. Extending invites to prospects may help seal the deal or sweeten the pot. You should send out invites about a month in advance of your event. This gives your invitees enough time to respond confidently and also allows you time to secure reservations for diner or the ability to create a personalized packet for consultations.