Exhibitor Trade Show Guide and Checklist

Exhibitor Trade Show Guide & Tips

Popular Trade Shows 2024 > Trade Show Guides > Exhibitor Trade Show Guide & Tips

Why do exhibitors attend trade shows? Why are trade shows important? If you have a business, you probably already know; visibility, new opportunities, industry innovations, making connections, and more! If you’ll be attending a trade show this year as an exhibitor, there’s a lot to prepare for, but if you do it right, you can enjoy the show and reap the benefits of a successful booth all year long.

Simply showing up unprepared is not an option. Taking the time to plan, develop marketing strategies, prepare your representatives, and create booth displays and materials is essential. To help you get a handle on it all (especially if it’s your first time), we’ve written this guide for trade show exhibitors, complete with tips and checklist points. Use it as a sort of trade show exhibitor manual to kick off your journey!

Exhibitor booths at a trade show.

General Planning - Trade Show Exhibitor Checklist

You should typically start your pre-show planning 3-6 months before the event. When it comes to planning for an expo, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Get registered - Verify that you’ve registered. Also, try to book your space at Early Bird rates. You may need to plan six months or more ahead, but booking early can get you up to a 10% discount.
  • Create an event and marketing strategy - think about how you want to promote your business before, during, and after the event. Also, consider how you want to drive people to your booth and how to convert those visitors into sales.
  • Set specific, trackable goals - consider goals, such as the number of people you want to bring into your booth and how many of those people you want to convert into sales. Goals will hold you accountable during the event.
  • Marketing - there will be plenty of people walking by your booth at the show, but you can improve engagement by marketing to people prior to the event. Announce the event in your newsletter, share it multiple times on social media, and promote the event on your website. The people you reach in the pre-marketing activities will come to the show to seek you out.
  • Advertise with the show - most conferences offer advertising services to further promote exhibitors, such as premium listings on their website or featured listings in show booklets.
  • Know your inventory and decide what products or services you’ll highlight at the show
  • Decide on any sales or deals you should promote - if you need to print anything out for these promotions, have those ready before the show. You also want to make sure that your website is updated and that your team is ready to handle these promotions during the event.
  • Print materials - consider any specific materials that you might need for these promotions. Think about brochures, catalogs, and business cards you want to hand out.
  • Prepare giveaways - giveaways can be a great way to get people into your booth and to get their contact information for later. If you have larger items to give as prizes, consider shipping those to the show with your booth materials rather than bringing them yourself.
  • Design your exhibit/booth (custom life-size cardboard cutouts are a great option!). Start this process early so that you can test the setup and the takedown and make revisions as needed. The last thing you want to deal with at the event is issues with your exhibit.
  • Outline a budget for the booth (purchasing or renting), booth materials (flooring, electrical, furniture rental, etc.), accommodations, meals, employee salary, travel, material transport, and marketing. 
  • Organize meetings with other vendors or note those you want to network with - make the most of your stay by having a plan, making appointments, and creating a schedule.
  • Get floor plans of the building and expo set up. You’ll want to know where electrical drops are (if you need them) if there are beams to hang items from, meeting spaces if you need them, and where the break areas and restrooms are located.
  • Make all necessary reservations for hotels, dinners, speaker slots, etc.
  • Train employees

You want to be as thorough as possible to ensure you’re making the most of this opportunity.

Giving yourself enough time to do all of this will ensure that everything goes smoothly and potential customers get the best first impression of your business.

Marketing Goals & Efforts - Checklist for Trade Show Exhibitors

You may have already set your sales goals, but you’ll also want to build out your marketing goals. You’ll want to know your inventory and promotions, but your marketing research should go beyond this.

Meet with clients when exhibiting at a trade show.

Your trade show marketing efforts should include (at minimum) the following:

  • Analysis of leads, costs, and conversions from past shows
  • Audience research
  • Social media campaigns
  • Creation of marketing material and promotional items
  • Networking efforts
  • Booth design

You’ll want to plan ways to reach potential customers before and during the show. It isn’t enough to only prepare for the show. If you’re well prepared, there are some people who will attend the expo simply because they know you are there.

Booth Space, Design & Personnel

Your booth is your first impression. You need it to attract attention and draw people in. Creative and interactive displays tend to draw in more customers. For example, if you’re attending a craft brewer conference as a vendor, incorporating custom beer cutouts with your booth design would really create an impact!

In conjunction with the branding and designing of your booth, you’ll want to ensure the right people are manning it. They will be the ones informing your potential customers of your business, so it’s important they have the patience and personality for the job. In addition, they should decide what to wear to a trade show beforehand – taking into consideration: how they will present themselves to reflect your company, industry culture, branding, and comfort level throughout the day and its activities.

Exhibitor Trade Show Tips for During the Show and After

Here are a few more general trade show exhibitor tips to make sure you’re getting everything you can out of any expo or convention:

  • Interact with everyone, even if it’s just a hello
  • Build warm relationships based on genuine conversations and trust, not sales
  • Focus on branding, not selling
  • Draw people in with a strong presence and demonstration
  • Use visuals to naturally draw people in, as well as to help them remember you and your business
  • Connect with prospects on social media

These pointers will help you be successful during the show, but your efforts shouldn’t stop once it’s over. Always remember to follow up with your leads afterward, as it’s one of the most important factors in turning those potential customers you met into actual customers.

One way to do this that may set you apart from your competitors is to use any pictures or media you may have taken or shared with your booth visitors as a way to connect with them after the show. For example, if your visitors took photos at your table with a lifesize Cardboard Cutout Standee, ask them to share the photos on social media, tag your company and write a review along with the photo.


You can establish yourself as an influential industry participant and build your customer base by attending trade shows. The more often you go, the more practiced you’ll get and (hopefully) the more fun you’ll have. Building relationships and staying on top of new innovations is great for business, so get out there and make connections at your industry’s hottest expos this year!

Cardboard Cutout Standees has your back when it comes to ensuring your booth catches everyone’s eye with life-size cutouts of your product for all to see. Contact us now to get started.