When a show’s a year away, it may seem like you have lots of time to get ready. But appearances can be deceiving. Twelve months is not long, especially with all the pre-show planning, training, and preparation you’ve got to do. Here is a checklist of sixteen vital items that need to be done approximately one year before you set up your exhibit:

1. Identify Where The Show Fits In Your Marketing Strategy

Every show has a purpose. Do you want to introduce a new product to a new market? Increase existing services in an existing market? Increase your visibility in a new geographical region? Reinforce existing customer relationships? Knowing what you want to achieve at any given show is vital to your success.

2. Decide Which Products To Focus On

Your company may produce dozens, even hundreds of different products. Obviously, you can’t showcase all these items at a trade show. Attendees would be overwhelmed. Instead, with one eye on your marketing strategy, select those products that need to take center stage. Remember that 70% of people attending shows are looking for something NEW!

3. Identify Your Target Audience

Ideally, every show would be attended solely by consumers desperate to buy your products and services. However, things don’t always work that way. Determine who the decision makers are in your industry, and exhibit at the shows they attend. You want to spend your time talking with the people who have the power to make purchasing decisions.

4. Identify Your Exhibit Objectives

Clearly explain to your booth staff what goals you expect them to meet during the show. Make these goals quantifiable. Examples could be number of leads generated, target sales figures, gathering marketing intelligence or educating your target audience.

5. Write an Exhibiting Plan

Writing out an exhibiting plan not only clearly deliniates what needs to be done before, during and after the show, what your exhibit team need to do, and a timetable. Include every step of the show in the written plan, leaving nothing out. Re-reading this plan will allow you to identify any items you’ve overlooked.

6. Establish an Exhibiting Budget

An exhibiting budget should include every item needed for show participation. Beyond registration and space rental fees, include charges for show services and transportation. Add in the cost of your exhibit design, signage, graphic, and display materials as well as advertising, promotion and special activities. And, finally, don’t forget your exhibit team’s travel, accommodation and meal expenses.

7. Reserve Your Booth Space

Prime real estate go fast! To get the booth space you want, remember to reserve early. Avoid ‘discounted’ spaces in out of the way aisles or near the bathroom. The savings realized won’t balance out all the attendees who never get near your booth – or worse, who go by in a big hurry with other things on their mind!

8. Pay Deposits

Check in with the accounting department to make sure deposits are paid on time. This often-overlooked item can cause all kinds of headaches, not to mention high late-payment charges.

9. Ensure Booth Design Meets Objectives

There are no one-size-fits-all displays. Make sure your design meshes with your marketing plan, helping to support current objectives while maintaining your corporate image. Booth layout is vital. Make sure it contains all the needed elements, including a ‘quiet’ place to talk with hot prospects.

10. Assess Your Current Exhibit

Give your current exhibit a critical once-over. Does it still look sharp and engaging, or is it tired, faded, and worn? Signage and graphics sometimes travel around the globe several times in a year – and they don’t always look better for it. Check flooring material for wear and tear as well as your other displays.

11. Purchase New Items as Needed

Order new graphics and signage as far in advance as possible. This way, if there are any mistakes, you’ll have time to make necessary corrections. Additionally, allowing yourself extra time gives you the room to negotiate for the best deals. As you replace worn items, make sure the old ones are disposed off – you wouldn’t want your booth staff setting up last year’s signage by mistake.

12. Order Show Services

Show services should be ordered in advance. These can include electricity, signage, audio/visual equipment, booth cleaning services, plants and flowers, telephone and computer hookups, waste removal, and furniture. You’ll be sure to get everything you need, and enjoy a substantial savings over those who wait for the last minute to order these items.

Author's Bio: 

Written by Susan A. Friedmann,CSP, The Tradeshow Coach, Lake Placid, NY, author: “Meeting & Event Planning for Dummies,” working with companies to improve their meeting and event success through coaching, consulting and training. For a free copy of “10 Common Mistakes Exhibitors Make”, e-mail: article4@thetradeshowcoach.com; website: http://www.thetradeshowcoach.com