Trade Show Preparation Timeline


Are you ready to get your trade show exhibit on the road?

Trade Show: An exhibition for companies in a specific industry to showcase and demonstrate their new products and services. —Entrepreneur

Here at Jive, we’ve done our fair share of trade shows. They’re fantastic to make connections and generate new leads, but we also realize that trade shows can also be intimidating. Whether you’re  fairly new or a seasoned veteran with trade shows, here is a timeline to help start and/or refine your preparation. By following this timeline, you will put your best exhibit forward at the next professional trade show.

This article focuses on an ideal timeline, which is about 6-8 months of preparation. In a bit of a time crunch? If you have a trade show in a week, we recommend a different timeline  featured in Planning For a Trade Show in a Crunch


Are you ready to get this trade show on the road?

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#1. Research (8–12 Months Prior)

There are a lot of trade shows out there, so make sure this is the right one for your company. The time and money investment into a trade show is significant, so make sure you’ll get a satisfactory return.  

#2. Sign Up (6–8 Months Prior)

Because prime real estate for booths goes quickly at trade shows, try to sign up for a trade show as early as possible. So after signing up, quickly reserve an excellent location.

#3. Budget (6 Months Prior)

Get that magic number so you can begin listing and shopping for the things you will need.

#4. Deciding on Message and Assembling Team (4 Months Prior)

Your trade show team often includes a whole host of individuals. You’ll likely be directing and coordinating with designers, marketing personnel, orders, salespeople, and even professional craftsmen to build or set up your booth. Each of these people need to understand their role and deadlines.jive Messaging Trade Show

#5. Arrange Travel (3 Months Prior)

Figure out the logistics for the materials, items, and people that need to be at the trade show convention center. As some trade shows may require a plane ticket and hotel reservation, it’s best to book three months in advance.  

#6. Creating Banners and Handouts (3 Months Prior)

​You should have your messaging, now put it to use. Banners and collateral are a great physical indicator of your brand, will aid a spectator’s first impression of you, and will be your best sales tool.

Jive Booth Trade Show

#7. Designing the Exhibit (3 Months Prior)

​Depending on the intensity of your booth, you may even want to start five or six months prior. Work with your designers or your builder’s designers to get your mock up just right before approval and payment.

#8. Sampling Swag (2 Months Prior)

You may need research time to browse through all of the promotional materials on websites and / or catalogs. Try to give yourself five weeks to order samples and to make final decisions on your giveaway items.

Jive Tradeshow Game Plan Before During After Ebook Banner

#9. Ordering Swag (2 Months Prior)

We’ve all heard horror stories of items not reaching their destination in time. Make sure that, even with unexpected delays, you’ll have all your promotional materials delivered weeks before the trade show.

#10. Training Booth Workers (1 Month Prior)

Begin with the purpose, goals, and messaging for this trade show, and then begin setting your employees up for success with instruction and practice. This can include nonverbal communication techniques, product reviews, scripts, etc.

For more helpful tips about trade shows, check out these blogs: