trade show planning checklist
Event Hacks Event Organizers Trade Show

Trade Show Planning Checklist: Leave Nothing to Chance

In the world of business, preparation is key, and when it comes to trade shows, it’s no different. Whether you’re a seasoned exhibitor or about to participate in your first trade show, there’s a multitude of tasks to manage. To help you stay on top of everything, we’ve compiled the “Trade Show Essentials: A Checklist to Ensure You’ve Got it All Covered” blog post.

This guide is your go-to resource for planning and executing a successful trade show experience. From strategic pre-show planning and booth design to visitor engagement and post-show follow-up, we’ve laid out every step in a systematic and easy-to-follow checklist format.

Trade show checklist

This detailed trades show checklist aims to help you avoid common pitfalls and ensure that no critical task falls through the cracks. Trade shows are an opportunity to make your mark, connect with potential clients, and showcase your brand in the best light. Being thoroughly prepared will give you the confidence and peace of mind to seize these opportunities.

So let’s dive in and explore this comprehensive trade show checklist, designed to turn your trade show participation into a resounding success. Keep this guide handy as you prepare for your next event, and remember, success is in the details!

Key Challenges Faced by Organizers While Planning a Trade Show

Planning a trade show can be a daunting task that presents numerous challenges. From securing a venue to promoting the event and coordinating logistics, trade show planning requires meticulous attention to detail, effective communication, and a keen sense of organization.

trade show exhibitor checklist

Here are some of the most significant challenges event organizers face when planning a trade show:

Venue Selection

Choosing the right venue for a trade show can be a major challenge. An appropriate trade show venue must provide adequate space for exhibits, booths, and attendees.

Moreover, the venue should be convenient, accessible, and affordable, which requires considerable research and negotiation.


Creating a budget is an essential element of trade show planning. It involves carefully considering all costs, including venue rental, staffing, booth construction, marketing, and other related expenses.

Ineffective budgeting can lead to overspending or underfunding, which can negatively affect the overall success of an event.

Attendee Promotion

Trade show promotion to attract attendees is another challenge for event organizers. They must identify their target audience, develop promotional materials, and share them across various channels.

Event organizers must also create an engaging agenda that appeals to attendees and encourages them to participate.

Exhibitor Coordination

Trade show success relies heavily on exhibitors; coordinating them can be challenging. Event organizers must identify potential exhibitors, pitch the event, and negotiate their participation.

Additionally, event organizers must ensure exhibitors have everything they need to succeed, including space, lighting, power, and marketing materials.

Logistics Management

Logistics play an important role in the planning of any trade show. An event organizer must ensure that all aspects of the event run smoothly, including exhibit setup, registration, and crowd management.

In addition, they should be prepared to handle any unexpected problems, such as technical issues, staffing problems, or inclement weather.

Developing an Engaging Agenda

An event organizer aims to attract attendees by developing an engaging program that appeals to the target audience.

Keynote speakers, educational sessions, networking events, and product demonstrations may be part of the program. Event organizers must also ensure their agenda is compelling, valuable, and relevant to their target audience.

Ultimate Trade Show Planning Checklist

It is essential to have a comprehensive trade show checklist that will help you stay organized and ensure that no details are missed.

Using a checklist can assist you in planning your trade show efficiently, saving time and reducing stress. Checklists can also help you identify potential problems that can arise, so you can take proactive steps to resolve them.

1. Trade Show Pre-Planning Checklist

The pre-planning stage starts with identifying the purpose of the trade show and setting specific goals and objectives. This step involves creating a checklist that includes goals, budget, booth design, promotional materials, staffing, travel arrangements, and logistics. 

Here are some essential aspects to consider during the pre-planning phase:

A. Setting goals and objectives

The first step in planning a successful trade show is to set clear goals and objectives. Your goals and objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART), such as the number of attendees or the revenue generated.


For instance, instead of setting a vague goal like “increasing attendance,” a SMART goal could be “increase attendance by 20% compared to last year’s trade show, by implementing targeted marketing campaigns, and hosting more networking events.”

1. Identify Your Target Audience:

Knowing your target audience is crucial for setting goals and objectives for a trade show. It helps you understand their interests, motivations, and expectations and allows you to tailor your goals to meet their needs. You can gather information about your audience by conducting surveys or researching industry trends.

For example, suppose your target audience is primarily millennials interested in technology. In that case, your goals might include providing more interactive and innovative exhibits, featuring keynote speakers who are thought leaders in the tech industry, and utilizing social media to promote the event.

2. Highlight Your USPs: 

You must identify what makes your trade show stand out from others in the industry to attract attendees and achieve your goals. You can emphasize your event’s unique features, such as the venue location, keynote speakers, exhibitors, and networking opportunities.

To draw the attendees’ interest in a specific sponsor or exhibitor, you can promote it in your marketing efforts if your trade show is the only one featuring it.

3. Understand Exhibitor Objectives: 

It is imperative to understand your exhibitors’ objectives while setting goals and objectives for a trade show. Exhibitors use trade shows as a platform to increase brand awareness, introduce new products or services, and generate leads

You can help them meet their goals and increase their satisfaction with the event only when you understand their objectives. You can promote their presence at the event through your marketing campaigns, ensure that their booth is in a high-traffic area, or provide them with lead capture tools.

B. Developing a budget

It is essential to develop a budget plan for your trade show to ensure that you stay within your financial limits and achieve your goals.

trade show budget planning

Here are some essential points to remember when developing a budget for your trade show.

1. Identify Your Overall Budget: 

The first step is to determine the total amount of money you can spend on the trade show. This includes funding sources such as grants, sponsorships, or exhibitor fees. Knowing your total budget upfront will help you allocate resources and make informed decisions.

2. Determine Fixed Costs: 

Fixed costs are expenses incurred regardless of the number of attendees, such as venue rental fees, insurance, utilities, and security.

These costs should be listed separately from variable costs, as they are non-negotiable and must be factored into your budget. Consider location, size, and amenities when choosing a venue.

trade show exhibitor checklist

3. Estimate Variable Costs: 

Variable costs include marketing and advertising, transportation, catering, audiovisual equipment, and décor.

These costs will vary based on the expected number of attendees and the services and products being offered. It’s important to estimate these costs accurately to avoid unexpected expenses. Consider partnering with vendors to negotiate favorable rates.

4. Develop a Revenue Plan: 

Once you have identified your expenses, the next step is to develop a revenue plan. This should include potential income from registration fees, sponsorships, exhibitor fees, and other sources of revenue. 

Be realistic and consider factors such as the target audience, competition, and overall market conditions. Consider offering early-bird registration discounts and sponsorship packages to attract more revenue.

5. Establish a Contingency Fund: 

It’s always a good idea to establish a contingency fund to cover unexpected expenses or emergencies during the trade show.

This fund should be a part of your budget and set aside for unforeseen situations. You can look at past event performance or industry benchmarks to guide your budget allocation decisions. 

C. Select a Venue

Selecting a venue is the most crucial aspect of trade show planning and should be handled as early as possible. There are a few factors to consider when selecting the ideal venue.

trade show checklist

1. Determine the Date: 

The date of the event can have a major impact on its success. When selecting a date and time, it would be best to consider the venue’s availability, your target audience’s availability, and any competing events in the area.

Source venues early and have several date options if your preferred choice is no longer available. It’s also advisable to visit the venue before committing to ensure it meets your requirements.

2. Destination: 

Consider the destination’s value to exhibitors and attendees. Nowadays, many people combine business and leisure travel, so choosing a destination that balances both is essential.

Ask about options for early check-in at transportation hubs and partner hotels to avoid bottlenecks and create a seamless arrival experience.

3. Space and layout: 

When selecting a venue, it’s also essential to consider its layout and available space to avoid overcrowding.

Ask yourself questions like, “Will the exhibition hall allow ample space between booths?,” “Is there enough room for all the check-in pods required for onsite registration?,” and “Where will the pods be placed throughout the venue?” 

4. Technical capabilities: 

Look for venues that offer state-of-the-art broadcast studios and hybrid event spaces equipped with cutting-edge video broadcast and production studios, professional TV-quality audiovisual and lighting setups, stages with dynamic LED screens, seating capacity for onsite attendees, and the ability to accommodate virtual audiences of all sizes. 

It’s also important to ensure that the venue supports presenters, including timers, cue lights, recording, and web interface features. It also has an experienced onsite production team to assist in case of any last-minute hiccups.

trade show coordination

2. Trade Show Pre-Show Planning Checklist

Once you’ve identified your goals and selected the right venue, you can begin to plan the other event details. Here are some essential steps to consider during the pre-show planning phase:

A. Plan the Floor Layout

Planning a trade show requires an understanding of the floor plan. While planning the exhibition space layout, ensuring that each exhibitor has adequate space and visibility is essential.

trade show floor plan

When planning the floor layout for a trade show, follow these steps: 

1. Determine the space available:  

The first step is determining the available space. You must also consider the venue’s size and any guidelines or restrictions that may apply, such as fire codes or accessibility requirements. 

2. Create a floor plan: 

Once you understand the available space, you can start creating a floor plan. It includes drawing out the layout of exhibitor booths, stages, lounges, and other event elements.

3. Determine the number of exhibitor booths: 

The number of booths that can be accommodated depends on the venue’s size and the booths themselves. As you determine the number of booths, you must also consider factors such as foot traffic and placement of other key features.

4. Determine the size of the booths: 

Determining how big the exhibitor booths should be: The size of the exhibitor booths will depend on the needs of the exhibitors. Some exhibitors need larger booths to display their products or services, while others may only need a small table or banner space.

By working with them, ensure that your available space can accommodate exhibitors’ needs.

5. Consider the flow of foot traffic: 

When planning the floor layout, it is important to consider foot traffic throughout the event. Ensure attendees can easily navigate the event and that there are no bottlenecks or congestion areas.

6. Consider the placement of marketing materials: 

The placement of key features, such as stages, lounges, and information booths, is another aspect you must consider. Ensure that these features are strategically placed so attendees can easily access them.

B. Trade Show Marketing Checklist

There is strong competition at trade shows, so it can be easy for your event to get lost in the crowd. Marketing your trade show is crucial to its success. Having a multi-faceted marketing plan that targets the right audience and generates excitement is important.

Utilize email marketing, social media, paid advertising, and print media to promote your trade show online and offline. Here are some key steps to follow when developing the marketing plan for a trade show.

1. Choose your marketing channels: 

You can advertise your event through various marketing methods, such as social media, email marketing, direct mail, and public relations. You need to understand which channels are most effective for reaching your target audience and invest your marketing budget in that way.

2. Create marketing materials: 

Once you have determined your marketing channels, you must create marketing materials tailored to each channel. This can include email campaigns, social media posts, paid ads, and promotional flyers.

3. Create FOMO: 

Let the fear of missing out pump up registration. Showcase videos of great things that happened at past shows and highlights of what attendees can expect this year. Build interest by showing brief interviews with this year’s keynote speakers.

4. Boost registration with exit popups:

They appear on the user’s screen when they are about to leave the site. Keep your prospects engaged by using popup testimonials of past attendees explaining how they benefitted by attending your show.

trade show marketing checklist

5. Drive early signups: 

Many attendees today are registering at the last minute, making accurate estimates a challenge for catering, tech equipment, furniture rentals, and more. Use tiered pricing to reward attendees who sign up early.

Also, create urgency by setting an offer’s cut-off date or ticket limit. Attendees must act fast so they don’t miss out on savings.

6. Build excitement: 

Release details gradually over the days, weeks, and months leading to the show. Share updates via press releases and social media to keep interest high.

Spike attendance by offering something special – like a celebrity guest speaker or renowned expert – right before registration closes.

C. Hire Trade Show Staff

Regardless of the size of your trade show, it is crucial to have a well-coordinated team to ensure the success of your event. Organizing a trade show can be daunting, and having experienced professionals such as event planners and salespeople on board can help ease the burden and ensure that everything runs smoothly.

As an event organizer, you may not have all the skills and expertise to manage a trade show successfully. Hence, hiring staff with experience planning and executing trade shows is essential. A strong team can help you with marketing, logistics, booth setup, registration, and customer service tasks.

Identifying the specific skills and roles needed for your trade show and assembling a team with the right expertise is important. You may also need to outsource some tasks to professionals not physically present at the event. This can give you access to more specialized talent and can be a cost-effective option.

You can consider outsourcing tasks such as web development, graphics designing, and social media management to focus on other aspects of your trade show. Additionally, outsourcing can allow you to scale your team up or down based on your event’s needs.

Also Read – Trade Show Giveaway Ideas

3. Trade Show Onsite Planning Checklist

Once you arrive at the tradeshow venue, it’s time to implement your pre-show planning. Here are some important aspects to consider during the onsite planning phase:

A. Set up the venue

Setting up the venue for a trade show is a crucial part of event planning for organizers. Here are some steps to help you in this process:

1. Arrange for rental equipment: 

Depending on the venue and event needs, equipment such as tables, chairs, tents, lighting, and sound systems may be necessary. Arrange for rental equipment in advance to ensure availability and timely delivery.

2. Set up the booths:

Set up the booths according to the floor plan on the event day. This may involve arranging tables and chairs, hanging signage, and setting up display materials. Ensure exhibitors have clear instructions and guidelines for setting up their booths.

trade show marketing checklist

3. Install lighting and sound systems: 

Proper lighting and sound are critical for creating the right ambiance and atmosphere at the event. Set up and test all lighting and sound systems in advance to ensure they are working properly.

4. Arrange for cleaning and waste removal: 

Keeping the venue clean and presentable is important during the event. Arrange for cleaning services to clean the venue before, during, and after the event. Additionally, plan for waste removal services to ensure that trash and recycling are properly disposed of.

5. Ensure accessibility and safety: 

The venue should be accessible and safe for all attendees, including those with disabilities. Ensure to provide accessible entrances and exits, as well as accessible seating and restrooms. Additionally, ensure all safety protocols, including emergency exits and first aid stations, are in place.

B. Manage attendees

Managing attendees is a critical part of trade show planning for event organizers. A successful event depends on having the right attendees at the right place and time. Here is a detailed explanation of the trade show planning checklist for managing attendees:

1. Manage Attendee Traffic: 

Managing attendee traffic involves ensuring attendees can move around the event space easily and without confusion. Event organizers can achieve this by providing clear signage and directions to help attendees navigate the event. 

Signage should be strategically placed at key entrances, exits, registration desks, exhibitor halls, and restroom facilities. The signage should be easy to read, visible, and informative, providing clear directions and instructions for attendees.

2. Recruit Onsite Staff: 

Event organizers should ensure enough staff members or volunteers are available to guide attendees and answer any questions. Staff members should wear easily identifiable uniforms or badges to make them easily accessible to attendees.

They should be knowledgeable about the event, the schedule, and the location of exhibitors to provide accurate and helpful information to attendees.

3. Provide Access to Amenities:

To ensure that attendees have a comfortable experience, event organizers must provide access to amenities such as restrooms, food and beverages, and other necessities. 

Restrooms should be clean, easily accessible, and marked. Food and beverage stations should be located conveniently throughout the event space, providing various options catering to different dietary requirements.

4. Provide Event Information:

Event organizers should provide a clear and detailed event schedule, including keynote speakers, panel discussions, and other activities.

The location of exhibitors should be marked and available in the event map or directory provided to attendees. 

C. Handle emergencies

Handling emergencies is essential to trade show onsite planning, as unexpected incidents can occur anytime during the event. To ensure the safety of all attendees, event organizers must prepare for emergencies and have the plan to handle them effectively.

The following is a detailed explanation of the Trade Show onsite planning checklist for event organizers when it comes to handling emergencies.

1. Medical issues: 

It is essential to have a first-aid kit and trained medical personnel onsite to handle any medical emergencies. Event organizers must also have contact information for nearby medical facilities if an attendee needs urgent medical attention.

2. Weather-related incidents:

Event organizers must plan to evacuate the venue safely in case of weather-related incidents, such as lightning or heavy rain. This includes identifying safe areas to move attendees to and ensuring staff members know the evacuation procedures.

3. Security concerns: 

Various security concerns can arise during trade shows, especially if valuable products are on display. Event organizers must have security personnel onsite to handle any security-related issues. In case of a security breach, it is also essential to have emergency contact information for local law enforcement agencies.

4. Evacuating the venue:

In an emergency, event organizers must plan to evacuate the venue safely. This includes identifying safe exit routes, ensuring that attendees know the evacuation procedures, and having staff stationed at exit points to direct attendees to safety.

5. Staff training: 

It is essential to ensure that all staff members are aware of emergency procedures and know what to do in an emergency. Event organizers must conduct regular training sessions for staff members to ensure they are well-prepared to handle emergencies.

4. Post-Show Planning Checklist

Post-show planning is just as crucial as pre-planning. Evaluate the event’s success by reviewing the ROI, leads generated, and attendee feedback. 

Below are several crucial factors to take into account during the post-show planning process:

A. Analyzing performance and ROI

Analyze data from the event, such as the number of attendees, revenue generated, etc. This information can provide insights into the event’s overall success and help organizers identify areas for improvement.

1. Evaluate performance against goals: 

You should review the objectives that were set before the event and compare them to the outcomes. For example, if the goal was to generate a specific amount of revenue, you should compare the actual revenue generated to that goal.

By doing so, you can determine how successful the event was in meeting its objectives.

2. Calculate ROI: 

Another important step is calculating the event’s return on investment (ROI). To do this, you need to calculate the total cost of the event and compare it to the revenue generated.

This will provide insights into the overall profit generated through the event.

trade show checklist

3. Collect Feedback: 

Gather feedback from attendees, exhibitors, and other stakeholders using feedback forms, surveys, and social media. You can use this feedback to identify areas where you excelled and areas for improvement.

B. Review your budget

The purpose of reviewing the budget is to identify where the event organizers overspent or underspent. It can be helpful to make adjustments to the budget for future events. Below is a detailed explanation of the steps involved in reviewing the budget:

1. Collect all financial data: 

The first step in reviewing the budget is to gather all the data related to the event’s finances. It includes collecting receipts, invoices, and other financial records showing the expenses incurred during the event.

2. Compare expenses: 

The next step is to compare the expenses incurred during the trade show to the planned budget. It will help event organizers to identify the areas where they overspent or underspent.

3. Adjust the budget: 

The event organizers should adjust the budget for future events based on the budget analysis. For example, they may need to allocate more funds to catering or marketing or reduce the budget for certain expenses that were over budget.

C. Document your event

You can create promotional material for future events by documenting the event. These materials can be used on your website, social media, or email newsletters to promote upcoming trade shows. 

Here is the post-show checklist for event organizers to document an event.

1. Take photos: 

Take photos throughout the event, including pictures of the exhibition hall, individual booths, keynote speakers, and attendees. You can also hire a professional photographer to take high-quality shots that can be used for promotional materials.

2. Record videos: 

Consider recording the event, including interviews with attendees or exhibitors, footage of keynote speeches or presentations, and shots of the exhibit hall in action.

These videos can be used for marketing purposes and to provide key information to stakeholders.

3. Write a summary report: 

After the event, write a trade show summary report highlighting key metrics, such as the number of attendees, sponsors, exhibitors, and sales generated. You can also include any notable successes or challenges that arose during the event.

This report can be shared with event attendees and other stakeholders and used as a reference for future promotion.


Trade shows are a valuable marketing tool for businesses of all sizes. However, planning and executing them properly is essential to maximize their impact. This ultimate trade show planning checklist ensures you get everything and achieve your event goals. 

Remember to focus on lead follow-up and nurturing, analyzing performance and ROI, gathering feedback and making improvements, and planning for the next trade show to achieve long-term success.