How Soon Should You Start Planning for your Next Trade Show

Categories: Trade Show Tips

How Soon Should You Start Planning for your Next Trade ShowWith so many events on your schedule, it can not only be daunting, but even a bit grueling to know when to start planning for said events. With all of the products to gather and order, trade show displays and space to maximize, and other logistical minutiae, many ask, “when should all of this planning actually start?”

The simple answer is this: the sooner the better!

Chaos breeds chaos, but having all of your ducks in a row can help guarantee less stress and headache at the end of the day. Keeping Parkinson’s Law in mind is also worth to note: “work expands to fill the time available for its completion”. Basically, how much time one gives for a task to be completed, is how long it will take. While this does seem like simple advice, the more time we give for different preparation tasks, the more time we have to complete these tasks with further accuracy.

With how stressful trade shows can be to organize and execute, getting as much of a head start on it will leave you ample time to make any last minute changes or modifications you may have to endure. As the planning process is underway, it is important to note how vital organization is at this stage. Below are some tactics to keep in mind when undergoing the process of starting to plan for your next trade show.

Maintain Checklists

Lists have been a staple of all organizer’s repertoire, and trade shows are no exception to this strategy. With so many moving pieces involved, knowing when certain due dates are (like ordering electricity for your booth) makes it so nothing is left to the last minute or falls between the cracks. To-do lists will be your best friend in this regard. Even utilizing additional strategies such as color-coding the to-do list to reflect different facets of the event can be useful. For example, have tasks in green reflect tasks related to the event’s location and venue, while orange tasks all relate to suppliers and different vendors.

Speaking of supplier and vendors, having their contact information on hand can save you tons of time.  Not only that, but having detailed lists of what items need to come from what suppliers and when can save you the stress of being low on products come event day. Remember, it’s not just a matter of what you need to order, it’s also a matter of when it will get to your location, especially if it needs to be ordered from overseas. Customs can be obnoxious in this regard, so giving yourself ample time for any potential delays in customs and shipping can reduce the stress and the question of “when is this getting here?!”

If you are going to a trade show with a team, making a list of these team members or coworkers can prove useful in a pinch. Having detailed notes of which person is responsible for what task can eliminate running around asking the same question over and over in case assignments were not completed. Having contact information for the people involved means one less thing to worry about come the day of the event, as you can reach your team members quickly and easily.

Have a Google Shared Calendar

While keeping detailed written notes is excellent, technology has made organization as well as reaching out to others incredibly simple. With calendar tools such as Google’s, it truly has never been easier. Keeping a list of important dates within the digital calendar, such as when to order from the warehouse, when the last day is for specific discounts or travel deals, when signage needs to be produced in order to be available for the event, and so on means that the computer can take care of remembering these tasks for you, allowing you to focus on bigger picture items. Seeing a bird’s-eye view of the next month or two can show you if trade shows potentially overlap with each other. If this occurs, it is even more crucial to have all of the aforementioned tasks on the digital calendar done so both shows can represent your brand as best as they can. Not only can you mark down when certain tasks have to be completed by, but Google calendar can also send you reminders hours or days in advance to guarantee you are kept up to speed.

In addition, adding your team members to said calendar allows them to contribute updates as well as lets them plan their own strategies for task-execution according to what you propose on the calendar. Overall, digitizing the process makes for a more fluid and team-oriented approach to trade show planning.

Computer Organization

As mentioned above, computers can be a wonderful asset to planning, but it is only as good of a tool as you make of it. Making sure the desktop on your computer is tidy and organized is just as important as the rest of your desk or office space. Having an entire folder on your computer labeled “Trade Shows”, with subfolders within that one such as “Marketing” for your various signage or “Vendors” for contact information or contracts from suppliers keeps everything organized in your own digital file drawers.

Taking the system online can also be useful. Having online documents your team can add or collaborate on such as Google Docs or even just sharing everything via Google Drive or Dropbox keeps all the information in the “cloud” and accessible to all whether they are at work, at home, or own the road to your next successfully planned trade show.


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