Planning for Your Trade Show in 5 Easy Steps

Planning for Your Trade Show in 5 Easy Steps

Nov 14th 2023

Maybe you’ve got a trade show coming up, or maybe you’re just testing the waters to see whether a trade show is the right choice for your business. Either way, you’ll probably benefit from getting a better idea of how the trade show planning process works, and what it entails for potential exhibitors like yourself.

How Do Trade Shows Work?

Trade shows bring together businesses of all kinds to exhibit what makes their companies special to potential customers—on top of that, it’s a great place to network with other players in your industry.

They usually take place in large conference centers where businesses each pay for a specific ‘footprint’ of the area’s floor space—you can get really creative with what goes in that space as long as it conveys your brand and helps you make connections with attendees.

Preparing for a Trade Show in 5 Steps

No matter what you use to draw people in on the day of the trade show, it’s gonna take a lot of preparation to get your booth up and running. Most of the legwork comes in the form of registrations, logistics, and prepping your booth materials, but all of those things become infinitely easier when you allow ample time to prepare for and set expectations for those tasks.

If you’ve got a trade show coming up, here’s how we’d recommend taking on the challenge:

  1. Set Goals, Expectations & Budget
  2. Finalize Registration & Technical Details
  3. Prep Your Booth’s Media, Display, & Team
  4. Take Care of Logistics
  5. Follow Up

Set Goals, Expectations & Budget

Your business’s goals change over time, as we all know—sometimes your next goal is to launch a new product, to become more competitive in your industry, or maybe to fine-tune your brand for a new customer base. But ultimately, your presence at a trade show isn’t really about any of those things—it’s about making connections that bring you new business.

And while we all hope that our products will sell themselves, it’s easier said than done—so approach your trade show with the expectation that you and your team will be working hard to make connections, develop relationships, and hopefully, snag a few solid leads.

But what’ll really help you sell? Well, this’ll change depending on your product—for a technical product or service, maybe think about creating a demo or explanatory brochures that you could use to build interest in your product, something that makes the technical details more accessible and engaging.

Once you’ve got that tool in mind, you can set a concrete, attainable goal to determine your booth’s success: handing out 100 brochures, or getting 50 people to try your product demo, for example. Some other possible goals might look like this:

  • Get 100 people to try out an interactive experience at our booth
  • Get 50 people to sign up for our contact list
  • Give away 200 samples of our product

Budgeting for Your Trade Show Exhibit

While we’re not going to dive too deep into the average cost of exhibiting at a trade show here, it’s a good rule of thumb that your exhibit space cost (the floorplan you purchase to attend the trade show in the first place) should be a little under a third of your total trade show budget.

Finalize Registration

As you’re brainstorming the goals and approach you want to take with your booth, make sure you’re finalizing your actual registration and any of the trade show’s requirements as early on as possible (9 months to a year out from the day of is ideal, if not more!).

There are other registration and logistical steps that you can wait on for a bit, like planning to ship your booth, prepping transportation and lodging for your team, and so on, but registering for the event itself should be done as soon as possible. This helps you finalize your budget, ensure your place at the show, and hit the ground running when it comes to your actual booth’s design and execution.

Prep Booth’s Media, Display & Team

Once you’ve set your goals for the upcoming show and confirmed your spot, it’s time to start putting things together.

Prepping Your Collateral & Content

Interactive digital media? Games? Brochures? Think through what sells your product and what might be the most helpful ‘content’ for your booth. As we mentioned above, maybe you have a technical product with a lot of specifications and details that need to be conveyed in an engaging way—try a brochure, or even a product demo. If you sell a service and love to brag about the quality of your team, a game that puts your visitors face to face with your gregarious team members might be a better route.

No matter what your product needs, start prepping these assets early so you have an idea of what you’ll need from your trade show display.

Choosing a Trade Show Display Booth

Outside of your company’s name recognition, the trade show display plays the biggest part in attracting visitors to your booth in the first place. There are plenty of DIY options out there for lower-budget or unconventional display booths, but one of the quickest, simplest solutions for a lot of companies is to buy a custom display.

When you purchase a custom display from a vendor like us at DisplayIt, custom-printed graphics for your brand are included with the purchase, but here are some other things to consider when picking a display solution:

  • Backlit vs. Non Backlit: Backlit displays are all the rage these days thanks to their sleek look, but have a bigger pricetag than a non-backlit display. Each has its pros and cons!
  • Different Footprints: One of the most common trade show floorplan sizes is the 10’x10’, but your booth could also be set up in a 10’x20’ (or bigger) floorplan.
  • Accessories: Depending on your booth’s collateral and content, you might want to invest in monitor mounts, additional counter space, or product shelves that will help you accomplish the goals you set for your event.

The Importance of Your Team

Beyond the booth’s display and the media inside it, the most important thing your booth needs is a solid team. Remember, the point of your booth is to make connections that could turn into new business, so setting up a booth and hoping that your product will speak for itself just isn’t a fool-proof solution.

Put together a dream team of folks who are knowledgeable, sociable, and can do whatever’s needed (including help out with logistics) on the day of your trade show. And even with a solid team, don’t go in blind—set up a strategy for how you’ll approach people and what techniques you’ll use to get and keep visitor’s interest at your booth.

Take Care of Logistics

Once your booth’s design and content are set, the next thing you’ve got to think through are the actual event logistics. When attending most events or conferences, all you’ve got to worry about is getting there and getting back—but when exhibiting at a trade show, things get a little bit more complicated.


First, you’ll have to ship your trade show display to the venue itself. With displays like the ones sold through our store, this can be a pretty quick process thanks to how the displays pack down (many coming with included shipping cases), but you’ll still need to document everything you’re sending and make sure all the display’s components are accounted for—get this settled early on!


Once the display is shipped, you’ll just need to get to the show yourself. The key element here is making sure that anything you haven’t already shipped comes with you.

Installation & Dismantling

If you’re exhibiting with an easy-set-up display, assembly and disassembly should only take a few minutes, and won’t take any tools other than what’s included in your display kit. For a more complex display (especially those that are exceptionally large or custom built, like a higher-budget rental display), you may need to hire an Installation & Dismantling (I&D) team to help you out.

Follow Up

After the trade show’s done, you can take a quick breather, but don’t get too settled! The best way to ensure that your trade show was worthwhile is to capitalize on any of the leads and connections that you made at the trade show itself—for this, you may want to prep a dedicated marketing strategy (often leveraging email) to follow up with prospective customers and keep your business on their minds.

Your Trade Show Prep Checklist

All of this could be a lot to keep track of, so to help make sure you’ve got everything accounted for for your next trade show, here’s a helpful infographic of everything you’ll need for the big day:

Frequently Asked Questions

When Should I Register for a Trade Show?

In terms of registering your floorspace, businesses should register around a year before the trade show itself takes place, 9 months out at the absolute latest. Any later than that, and you may run into registration deadlines or find that all spaces have already been filled.

When it comes to registering the team that will be manning and assembling your booth, this varies based on each trade show, so we’d recommend checking in about 3 months before the day of to see what unique deadlines your trade show might have. At the absolute latest, you probably won’t be able to register your team any later than two weeks out from the day.

How Many People Do I Need for a Trade Show Booth?

With an easy set-up display (i.e., one that doesn’t require additional tools for its assembly and disassembly), you could set up and man a 10’x10’ trade show booth with as few as 2 or 3 people, depending on how many pieces your display kit has (some of our simplest kits, like a basic display backwall, can be set up by just one person!).

For larger displays with more complex set-up processes, you might need a team of 3 or 4 dedicated to setting things up, and with a complex rental display (like those sold by our High Impact Services brand) you’ll likely need to hire a separate Installation & Dismantling (I&D) team to make sure everything gets put together on time.

What Do I Need to Have in My Trade Show Exhibit?

This will obviously change based on your business, its products, and your goals for your booth, but your trade show booth really only needs three things:

  • A display that attracts visitors
  • A team that can explain your product and make sales
  • Media/Content that engage visitors to your booth

In terms of your display, there are plenty of DIY solutions that you could put together, but the simplest and fastest solution will be going with a trade show display kit of some kind.

In terms of your display’s content or media, we’d recommend tailoring it to speak to your product’s strengths—whatever’s going to help you make sales at your next show.

For a highly technical product, that might include videos, product demos, brochures, while service-based businesses that rely heavily on the character of the team might have more success featuring games or other interactive experiences at their booth.