7 Ways Trade Show Planning Can Increase Your Event’s Success

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Trade show planning success

There’s no doubt about it: trade shows are back and bigger than ever! This is because so many companies are planning to attend conferences and trade shows over the next few years. And the trade show planning industry is booming, too. As a result, the job outlook for these event planners is growing by 18%, which is far faster than average.

Trade show planning is even more indispensable than ever before. Attendance for these events is up by nearly 28% in 2021 as businesses are scrambling to make up for a lost time during the Pandemic of 2020.

This means that there is way more pressure on trade show planners than ever before to make a good impression. In addition, there will be lots of other companies attending and showcasing at these events. So, the sooner your team gets on top of its planning, the better.

Meet Your ROI with Realistic Goal-Setting

Businesses allocate large portions of their marketing budget towards trade shows. Most companies will spend between 10% – 12% of their event marketing budget entirely on trade shows! So, it is very important that this spending doesn’t go to waste.

However, meeting your intended ROI is next to impossible unless you practice strategic trade show planning. It’s not going to happen by accident – you need to be intentional and carefully plan out your spending to reach your goals.

Set Reasonable Budget

Set reasonable budget

First, it is important to plan out a realistic budget and allocate funds appropriately. Typically, around 20% to 30% will go towards the exhibit space rental and attendance tickets. Another 20% will need to be put towards travel and accommodations, such as meals, taxis, and hotel reservations. The remaining portion should be broken down as much as possible into promotion strategies, design costs, and any outsourced assistance.

If you’ve attended trade shows before, look at your past receipts to get a more accurate idea of how much you’ll spend.

Set ROI and Goals

Set roi and goals

Once you’ve determined your budget, you’ll want to discuss realistic ROI goals. Remember that the return on a trade show is not necessarily monetary. Sure, you might get a few sales directly from attendees. But the primary purpose of these events is to build exposure and awareness.

So, set some realistic return goals that you can measure, such as:

  • Social media followers
  • Online traffic
  • Lead lists
  • Recognition

Be sure to measure these numbers before, during, and after the trade show so you can compare them to determine your ROI.

Also, keep in mind that you might not see a lot of returns right away. Trade shows are part of building awareness, which is the top portion of the sales funnel. It could be months before those contacts turn into paying customers. So, give it time and set realistic monetary goals and timelines for your returns.

Research Your Audience

Research your target audience

You should approach your trade show planning the same way you would other marketing campaigns. That means that the first step is to understand your audience and adjust your message accordingly.

It’s always useful to do some research into the attendees so you can have a better idea of who you’ll be marketing to. Take a look at the companies attending and presenting, and gather some information on the people who will be going. You want a general idea of who will attend and see who your target audience will be.

Use this data to guide your booth designs, marketing campaigns, and your messaging at the event. For example, if you’ll be interacting with mostly C-suite executives, your message will be far different than if you’re interacting with the lower-level admin.

Drive-in Leads with Creative Booth Designs

Exhibit rentals - wellnext

To attract foot traffic and generate buzz about your booth, you need to spend a lot of time figuring out creative designs. Simply slapping your logos and hanging up posters with product or company information will not attract many leads.

The goal is to make your booth look both interesting but also inviting. You’ll want to set up stations, so there are multiple entry and exit points for a more open layout. Make sure that passersby can tell exactly what product or service you offer through graphics and displays.

Since the majority of your spending will go towards your exhibit space, you want to make this money stretch as far as it can go. The key here is to maximize the amount of space you have to work with. Larger pieces of real estate are extremely expensive – but you can make a real impact with a smaller portion if you plan it right.

One tip is to use the space above your booth. You can hang up signs from the ceiling rafters or even build a multi-level layout to maximize your space.

There are also endless creative options that you can incorporate into your booth, which will catch people’s eye. Interactive media displays are a perfect way to let visitors explore your content on their own. Touchscreen kiosks can be used to introduce attendees to your brand without making them feel pushed into listening to a sales pitch.

You can also try some out-of-the-box features that will attract attention. For example, you can set up free charging stations so attendees can juice up their phones and tablets while checking out your booth.

Save Money and Time with Booth Rentals

If you are traveling far to the trade show or only attend a couple each year, renting your booth could be a smart move financially. Packing, transporting, and unloading your booth is incredibly expensive and time-consuming. You may even need to hire a crew specifically to unload and install your booth, then break it down later.

With custom booth rentals, you can outsource this entire process. You’ll still be able to build a unique exhibit and represents your brand. But you don’t need to worry about building, storing, or transporting anything.

If you already own exhibit elements, you can also supplement your booth with rentable add-ons. This allows you to upgrade the things you already have without spending a fortune.


If you’re on a time crunch or want to save even more money, you can also go with pre-designed rental exhibits. This means that you can choose a layout that fits into your rental space and then add marketing elements to make it your own. This will lower design expenses but still allow you to customize necessary elements like graphics, images, and finishes.

Promote Your Attendance

Social media and paid ads budget increased in 2020

All of your hard work with trade show planning will be obsolete unless people know you’re there. Seventy-five percent of trade show attendees plan out the exact booths they intend to check out during an event ahead of time. So, a lot of your planning needs to focus on promotion to build awareness and excitement before the trade show starts.

Email campaigns are a must, especially for B2B trade shows. But you can also try your hand at other reach-out strategies. For example, social media is becoming far more popular among business professionals. So, think beyond LinkedIn invitations and book some Facebook and Instagram ad spots to target attendees and let them know you’ll be there.

Another great idea is to sponsor the event in some capacity. For example, donating a bit of money to the trade show means that your logo will be posted all over on their promotional content. This means that you’ll get exposure with just about every attendee without having to put in the work!

Prepare Your Team for Better Performance

Prepare team for better performance

Preparation is the key to success in just about every situation – but it’s especially true when it comes to trade show planning. It’s important to give your team members time to practice and run through conversation points and sales pitches that they’ll need to cover at the event.

First, create an outline of the overall goal of their presence at the tradeshow. This could vary depending on the person’s role in the company. For instance, sales teams will focus on generating leads and gathering contact information. On the other hand, your market research team could be looking for feedback or even conduct some beta testing at the event.

Next, be sure to run through scenarios and help your team develop talking points so they can control the conversation. Remember that the goal here is to connect with attendees, so even highly technical conversations should be friendly and natural.

Finally, make sure that everyone is well aware of specific things they need to mention, such as current sales promotions.

Remember, the more that you practice, the more confident your team will be. This can help to calm the trade show jitters and ensure that your event is a total success.

Set Monthly Checklists

Create a monthly checklist

Trade show planning shouldn’t be pushed off until the last few weeks or even months before the event. However, to avoid the overwhelming stress of putting together a trade show booth, creating monthly checklists and breaking up responsibilities into manageable tasks is wise.

12 Months

One year before the event begins, you should decide which trade shows you will attend and reserve your space. The best high-traffic zones will go quickly, so you want to book as early as possible to get the best spot.

During this time, you should also set out your budget and goals and start brainstorming ideas. Finally, be sure to review the experience from the year before with your team to see how things went, what worked and what didn’t, and see if they have suggestions for next time.

6 Months

Once you are about six months out from the trade show, you should start nailing down the details of your booth. This includes:

  • Booking booth rentals or purchases
  • Designing booth layout and graphics
  • Coordinating booth transportation and setup
  • Booking travel, hotel accommodations, and other logistics
  • Confirming which team members will be attending the event

2-3 Months

Next, you’ll need to iron out the nitty-gritty details. Some tasks to tackle here are:

  • Ordering merchandise for giveaways and gift bags
  • Scheduling promotional marketing campaigns
  • Contacting attendees to invite them to check out your booth
  • Training your staff

Breaking down all the things that need to be done will make the trade show planning process easier and smoother.

Have a Follow-Up Plan in Place

Your work isn’t over just because the trade show is done. In fact, this is when most of the real work begins! First, you need to have a strategy for following up with all of the contacts you made during the event.

To gather contact information effectively, it is highly recommended that you have a system set up in your booths. Set out containers where attendees can drop in their business cards or tablets for them to fill out contact forms. This way, you can easily compile their data and launch a follow-up campaign.

Ready to Get Started?

If you don’t have a system in place, trade show planning can quickly take a disastrous turn. However, you can avoid unnecessary stress by focusing on the things directly related to your ultimate goals: building awareness, generating leads, and boosting your ROI.

If you want to make sure that you stand out at your next trade show, consider purchasing or renting your exhibit from Art & Display. We offer some of the most unique display designs you’ve ever seen – and we can help you customize every last detail.

To learn more about our options, contact us online or give us a call at 831-427-4700.

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Loren Gundersen

Loren Gundersen is the owner and visionary behind Art & Display, a Santa Cruz-based company specializing in innovative trade show displays and exhibit rentals. With a passion for creativity and a deep understanding of the power of face-to-face events, Loren has transformed Art & Display into a leading provider of custom-designed exhibits that help businesses stand out from the crowd. His commitment to quality craftsmanship, personalized service, and cutting-edge design has earned Art & Display a reputation for excellence in the industry.