Tips for Preparing Your 2016 Trade Show Plan

As marketers enter the fourth quarter, it’s prime time to start planning for next year. So what are the areas event marketers should revisit as they prepare for 2016?

1) Recap What You Did This Year

Start off by preparing a year-in-review report that recaps key learnings from the current year’s trade shows. What should the report include for each event?

  • Total dollars spent

  • Photos of the overall exhibit

  • Recaps of activities, promotions and giveaways

  • Lists of sponsorships and speaking opportunities

  • Key outcome data—both quantitative and qualitative

If you prepare a recap following each show, use each executive summary and combine them into a single comprehensive report. Links to short videos are useful if you’re sharing the report with colleagues who didn’t attend the original event.

2) Understand Corporate 2016 Goals

Sit down with corporate marketing, sales and senior leadership to understand your company’s overall objectives for your trade show plan in the coming year. You’ll want to align your trade show marketing efforts with corporate goals.

For example, if you know there’s a goal to increase ROO by 10% in a certain target audience, you’ll want to work with sales to create clear-cut messaging in your exhibit that targets visitors who fit within that category.

3) Review Messaging

While you’re getting information about goals for your trade show plan, ask if there are any changes to key company messages. Is there a new tagline or communication campaign rolling out next year? If so, you’ll want to know target dates and plan accordingly to integrate the new messaging into your events.

By the way, this knowledge also helps you determine if any graphics or other exhibit properties need updating or are now obsolete.

4) Revisit Your Target Audiences

Take the time to make sure there aren’t changes to your target audiences. If there are new prospects your company is trying to reach, look for shows that those attendees attend. Alternatively, it’s helpful to know if certain audiences are no longer a priority and clarify that in your trade show plan.

5) Evaluate Your Current Event Portfolio

Review your current event portfolio, keeping in mind any updates to your goals, messaging and audiences. Just because you’ve always participated in a show, doesn’t mean you should automatically add it to the calendar until you’re sure it’s still relevant to your goals and objectives.

Read the exhibitor prospectus to understand if attendee demographics have shifted over time. Ask if the show is offering new sponsorships or advertising opportunities—or ask them to create a custom opportunity that fits your needs. You can also use sites like to identify new shows you should look into.

6) Review Your Exhibit Inventory

Ask your exhibit house to prepare a list and/or visuals of all of your current inventory – from high-level identity signage, structures and product kiosks to graphics and lighting fixtures.

Examine all components for out-of-date logos, discontinued products, or anything else that is no longer relevant. This is a perfect time to decide what to do with items you no longer need.

7) Create a Timeline of Key Due Dates and Deadlines

Get organized for the year with a timeline of key due dates and deadlines in your trade show plan, including:

  • Early bird expiration dates to get the best prices on show services

  • Shipping deadlines so you and your exhibit house are on the same page

  • Deadlines for calls for papers so you don’t miss speaking opportunities

  • Registration dates for conferences, booth selection and room reservations

8) Plan Your Promotion Schedule

Decrease the overwhelming task of coordinating communications and promotions for multiple events by mapping out a schedule or editorial calendar.

Don’t forget to share the schedule with your social media team, who can use the information to help you increase awareness and visibility pre-, at- and post-show.

9) Determine If Past Lead and Measurement Strategies Worked

Sit down with your sales colleagues and ask what worked and what didn’t in regards to event leads they received. Come to an agreement about what you’ll do differently in the future to eliminate issues and streamline the process.

If you’ve been gathering benchmark data, determine other measurement strategies or data points needed for future analyses. Next year will be here in no time!

Taking the time now to review and prepare will set you on a success path for next year.