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Exhibition planning: a checklist for success

Did you know that 64% of trade show attendees* are fresh prospects? It’s what makes exhibitions such a rich source of new leads. And with a little planning you can build lasting relationships with new clients and achieve the best possible return on your exhibition investment.

As the army adage goes: ‘Perfect planning prevents p*** poor performance’. Many exhibitors are ahead of the game – 28% plan for an exhibition one to two months before the show. A further 40% begin preparations between four and six months in advance*. To keep up with the competition we recommend starting with your end goal in mind. Ask: what would a successful exhibition look like twelve months from now? Once you’re clear on that you can start to work backwards e.g. what tasks need to be completed ninety-days from now, one month, one week, one day …

Next, you can create an execution plan and fill in the blanks. For example, to generate leads before the event you’ll need to send out a series of teaser mailings and follow-up emails with one month to go, and then two weeks out call prospects to arrange a time to meet.   

But careful planning won’t lead to results if you don’t follow up after the exhibition. According to one research study**, just 40% of companies make contact with around 80% of the leads generated after the exhibition, and this most commonly takes place three to five days after the show**. It’s easily done, you return to a stack of emails and a line of colleagues at your desk – it’s back to business as usual – and those hard-earned leads never get pursued. The solution: get ahead of the game and plan your follow-up campaign ahead of the exhibition. Arrange to have the post-event communication designed, approved, printed and scheduled so all you need to do is add the data you captured at the event, and then watch the hot leads roll in.



We’ve got lots more ideas to help you get the best out of your next exhibition. Through careful planning and attention to detail before, during and after the exhibition you can hope for healthy results – just follow our simple checklist.


Before the exhibition 

  • Book the right space for you  

The earlier you book your exhibition space the better chance you have of snapping up the most suitable footprint and prime location. Don’t forget power points and charging stations.    

  • Have the best exhibition stand in the hall  

Ideally the design should be a memorable talking point that’s easy to find in a crowded exhibition room. The earlier you talk to a designer, and the more comprehensive your brief, the better the end result. For inspiration, click here. 

  • Pull together your exhibition toolkit 

Whether you need a counter, roller banners, leaflets or promotional merchandise for your exhibition, remember to set aside a budget for materials that will send a high quality message about your brand. Click here for ideas and a handy list of potential items.

  • Draw up a stand set-up checklist   

Remember to include timings for transporting the exhibition kit, ordering passes and arranging parking.  

  • Build momentum  

In the run up to the event use the official hashtag, join in the exhibition chat on social media and share sneak previews of your stand. Remember to let existing clients know that you’ll be there, and where, with a reminder on your email signature and website. 

  • Targeted pre-event communication  

Find out if the expo organiser has available a database of attendees and send them a welcome message introducing your company, and where to find you – you could even suggest pre-booking a meeting. If possible, a personalised direct mail piece will make you stand out in a crowded email inbox.

  • Devise an exhibition strategy and set targets 

It’s good to go to your exhibition with a goal in mind, and then you’ll know whether or not the event was a success. Consider what particular lines or services you want to promote, and if you’re launching a new product, how much dedicated space it requires. Also, set targets for data capture, sales and new leads –these things will keep you focused once the exhibition gets underway.  

  • Pick a team  

Make sure that you take the right people. A staffing plan should ensure the stand is brimming with friendly and approachable team members, but it’s worth bearing in mind that too many can be just as off-putting as too few. Ensure everyone is clear on the brief and objectives to optimise the results.


At the exhibition 

  • Focus your efforts on data capture  

Capture quality, qualified leads for an excellent return on your exhibition investment. Grab the attention of passers-by, draw them to your stand and break the ice with an interactive display, a prize draw or innovative giveaways to increase memorability and recognition.

Simplify how you gain the contact permission of prospects by using software to scan visitor badges, or even business cards. The task is done in seconds. The data can be linked seamlessly to automated marketing so you can make that first follow up straight from the exhibition hall.  

And, for those more in-depth conversations, remember to set up a digital or printed proforma to jot down notes you can refer to after the expo. 

  • Keep up the communication 

Use the official hashtag to tweet live from the exhibition, update on the latest events and share photos. Have ample supplies of useful items that can be taken away by your potential clients – brochures, flyers, promotional items and business cards are ideal for engaging and will ensure your message is carried far and wide.  


 After the exhibition 

  • As soon as you can, send a follow-up email to the leads you data captured  

We recommend making that all-important first contact the same day you meet the prospective client. At the very latest, send out a communication the next day. Either way, you can set up a pre-scripted email in advance and just add data, or use marketing automation software to do the job for you.  



  • Within a week: follow up with a direct mail piece  

Direct mail is having a resurgence because recipients take notice of it – options include ‘lumpy’ mail, such as a covering letter with a thoughtful gift, or something simple like a quality pen, or even a one-piece mailer postcard – all approaches will keep the conversation going. Personalisation is key to making your potential clients feeling valued.

  • Maintain monthly communication with your database, whether it be via email, direct mail or a combination of the two

Encourage your contacts to subscribe to your regular communication such as your blog or newsletter. 


Are you ready to start planning your next exhibition?

BISON make sure that our business clients get the most out of their exhibitions. We share the expertise, design and print materials that form our premium quality exhibition package, which includes:

  • Creative design and print of exhibition stands, including pop-ups and roller banners
  • Branded merchandise for giveaways
  • Marketing collateral such as brochures and flyers
  • Pre-show and post-show direct mail print and fulfilment
  • Bespoke business cards to make you ‘stand out’

For an informal chat, call Jenna or Claire on 01622 677541. 


* https://bit.ly/2VXJSB2
** https://bit.ly/2Vlh3RS


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