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Pre-show Planning

Written by Amy Chan


Posted on December 17 2014

When companies assume that all they need to do in order to get the most out of their trade show is to show up, they are missing many opportunities to make good connections that can help their business boom.  The pre-show planning is probably the most important part of the process, and oddly the most overlooked.  Or if it isn’t overlooked, it’s put off until too late to really get any constructive work done.  Don’t delay, get your planning in months if not a full year ahead of the show.


There’s a fairly easy business startup checklist you can use to make sure you’ve covered all your pre-show bases.  So when you’re getting your plans in order, make sure you hit on all of these topics:

  • Show objectives
  • Preshow analysis
  • Budget planning
  • Target Market identification
  • Choosing display products
  • Advertising and promotional plans
  • Company personnel coordination
  • Determining show staff and size
  • Staff responsibilities
  • Lead generation and conversion
  • Post-show follow-up

Many of these must be taken care of before the show, and especially in terms of promotion and advertising, it must be done well in advance of the show.  And since those require being part of the over all branding strategy and part of meeting objectives, all of these pre-show planning must be done way in advance.  The good news is that recognizing that will force you to actually do that which will be great for your company.

You have an advantage when you recognize just how far out some of this work needs to be done: a strict deadline.  You can’t push back the show!  So if you lay out a checklist with time tables, you can force yourself to get the thinking and work done on time that can let you do the pre-show planning work with minimal stress or crunch of time.

If you allow yourself enough time, you can allow your budget and your timeline some flexibility which it will no doubt require on its own. 

Start with the over-arching goals of the trade show and work backwards.  Really set an actual number of either leads or sales you think your company needs, and then you can use math to determine how many people an average salesperson can realistically talk to, in what length of time, in what amount of space, with a realistic success rate.  That will allow you to better plan your budget and your overall staff needs and responsibilities.  You may think that you can wing it with the number of people to send to the show at the last minute but that is a terrible plan.  You should know months ahead of time not only how many staff members are going, but who specifically is going, and what their personal and team objectives will be.

It’s a common problem to assume that the contacts you make at the trade show will effectively suss themselves out, and that showing up is all that matters.  But if you can plan ahead and promote your business, and know whom you are trying to reach and connect with, and be properly staffed with trained and knowledgeable people, you are going to see such a huge increase in results.  Don’t just go for the line drive base hit – go for the game winning grand slam.