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Getting Ready for Your First Trade Show? Here's How to Prepare

Jason Heichlinger
Jason Heichlinger
Sales & Operations Director at Exponet USA

Be sure you're fully prepared for your first trade show with this checklist.

Participating in trade shows can benefit your business in a number of ways. However, in order to get the most value out of them, you need to be properly prepared.

There are a number of steps you need to keep in mind before jumping right into your first trade show. How much you want to spend, which shows to attend and how you want your booth to look are among some of the major steps you need to focus on in your planning stages.

Here is a list of the major checkpoints you need to keep in mind before going in full throttle into your first trade show: 

Setting a budget

The budget is the most crucial aspect of any marketing activity. It defines how you come across to your target audience Do you want to be seen as a stingy company, or one that doesn't mind spending some extra money for a quality display?

Keep in mind that buying all of your displays isn't a must. One way to save some money is to rent your exhibit booths, which are easily portable and easy to install. This allows you some extra room to play around with your budget. A lot of participants make the mistake of not setting up a specific budget. This often results in added expense and numerous cost overruns. 

Editor's note: Looking for the right trade show displays for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.



Choosing a location

The location of the trade show plays a vital role in attracting the right target audience. Many major trade shows have a fixed venue and do shows at the same venue repeatedly. While these shows might draw the largest audiences, they are often the most expensive to participate in.

You should start researching shows well in advance, so if you do want to participate in one of the well-known shows you can take advantage of any early bird discounts. This will make sure that you don't end up overspending at the last moment. Also, some locations are bound to close quickly so you need to seal the deal quite early.

Preparing your team

The sales and the marketing team members you send to the show are vital to your end goals, as they are the ones who are going to drive the conversation between your brand and potential customers. You should consider some added training sessions so they can brush up their skills before the actual event.

The training might range from learning how to address the questions of visitors, to managing the booth display setup during the event. They should also be ready with backup plans in case of an emergency type situation and they can’t proceed as planned.  

Developing marketing materials

You will have to create all your marketing related collateral well in advance. You must ensure that all those who visit your booth walk away with a flyer or a brochure. This will help ensure that your brand’s name is easily recalled at a later date. You might also consider building an event-specific landing page on your website to spread the word about your upcoming participation. 

Capturing new leads

The whole objective of going to a trade show is to land more business. You have to make sure you have a solid lead generation strategy in place. Your strategy should include creating a landing page on your website, printing new business cards and having some branded swag freebies you can hand out during the event.

You also should have dedicated team members who can handle all queries and categorize them as hot, warm and cold leads. This will help make sure you have them properly prioritized for follow-ups when the show is over.  

Setting your goals

Be ready with a clear picture of what business goals you want to achieve from the trade show. Your goals may be to get new leads in order to generate more business. Or your goals may be to not only land more business but also create a better brand impression.

Since you won't close all of your deals during the show, don't forget to keep revisiting your return on investment figures if you are able to close new business in the days and weeks following the event. 

Creating your booth design and displays

Your presence in the trade show has to be impressive enough to pique the interest of those walking by. The best booths feature things like pop-up displays, tension fabric displays, custom printed table throws and LED backlit displays. Using these types of display can easily create a lot of curiosity among those attending show. The more people you can get to check out the display, the easier time your sales team is going to have in converting that curiosity into some who is ready to buy.

Remember that the booth design is what essentially will represent your brand during the length of the trade. With that in mind, you need to put a lot of thought into choosing the material and conceptualizing the whole design. 


As you participate in additional trade shows, you will gain more experience and might end up creating your own unique list. Every trade show will be a new learning curve for you, which is good for your business. Also, don't be afraid to get in touch with trade show experts who have assimilated years of expertise and can guide you on how to tackle the complexities as a first-time participant. Most of them will be more than happy to give you trade show related consultation for free.

Image Credit: pcruciatti/Shutterstock
Jason Heichlinger
Jason Heichlinger
business.com Member
See Jason Heichlinger's Profile
From retractable banner stands to hanging signs, printed table throws to large printed back drops of all kinds to replacement graphics for most existing trade show display systems, I make it happen. Small businesses, non-profits, those with tight budgets, solopreneurs like me: Let's do some work together. www.exponetusa.com. I'm a US Army veteran with 15-years in the trade show industry, 10 of those on the display side and 5 managing over 500 accounts for one of the world's largest shows. Geography is no obstacle. Via established connections to well-vetted vendors throughout the U.S., I've become a go-to person for portable trade show displays and graphics, especially for those last minute jobs needed in Southern Cali, Vegas, Boston, Atlanta, Orlando, New York, DC/Baltimore, Dallas, Chicago... Where's the event? Caterers, musicians, wedding/event planners, hey DJ! Spinning a wedding or large corporate gig? Add some new visuals to your set, to 'the experience'. Throw custom-printed back drops in with your packages, that extra touch. I'm your guy. Knowing the ins and outs, the who's who in this crowded trade show display industry, I take great pride in getting customers what they need, when and where they need it. With clients all over the country from LA to Florida, Washington state to Toronto, guaranteed: I'm your marketing budget's new best friend. Love to brainstorm on advertising, enthusiastic about creative writing and welcome opportunities to apply my scribe talents to marketing projects, be it ad copy, taglines, name it. My experiences have had me in food service, distribution warehouses, on convention floors, driving armored trucks and training out in the Mojave Desert to creating and operating e-commerce sites, thus developing new and managing existing accounts from all industries. Not afraid to hit the phones or to get down and dirty on the floor to set up a trade show display, at the same time enjoying face to face with clients and prospects.