Tradeshow preparation 101

This is it, the big one, the main event. Trade show of the year, perhaps one of the central pillars in your company’s sales strategy. The C-suite are breathing down your neck, piling the pressure on, and telling you this has to be the biggest, best tradeshow presence EVER! ...Until the next one of course.

So where do you start? How do you lay all the foundations for knock-out success and minimize the risk of unpleasant surprises. Well, this article is a good place to start. Over the years EMG has helped vast numbers of clients to grow their businesses by making the most out of the unique opportunities afforded by tradeshows.

To help you out, we’ve compiled our top 10 tips to ensuring customers are buzzing around your booth like bees around a honeypot.


1. Stakeholder Cartography

Okay, that’s perhaps a fairly grandiose title for a simple principle. You’ll save yourself a huge amount of time by mapping up-front who needs to be involved in sign-off, what they need to sign-off on, and by when. That way you can minimize last minute discoveries that risk derailing months of careful planning and work. Consider creating a comprehensive RACI matrix covering roles for each task.

2. Communication Aims

Remember the whole point of attending tradeshows is to communicate—usually with partners, prospects, and the media. That means you need to lock down for each of these audiences precisely what it is that you’d like them to hear about you, and to feel about you, and to leave the show saying about you. This isn’t about the specific stories yet, it’s about your brand. The way you want your business to be perceived.

Start with a message house outlining the main messages and secondary supporting messages that you want each audience to know about you.

3. Tactics and timeline

Identify how the stories you’re ready to tell can reinforce your key messaging and remember that content may be king, but distribution is queen and she wears the trousers! When will you tell your stories? To which audiences and, using what channels? Create a timeline which plots precisely which tactics you’ll use at what time to get the results you’re seeking. From social posts to press-conferences, it must all work together to leave a lasting impression of your brand, products and services.

4. Select spokespeople

It’s easy to manage and fine-tune the wording of a white paper, blog, or social post, but tradeshows are face-to-face events, where the primary mode of communication is human interaction. Choosing the right spokespeople to communicate messages in a platform-appropriate manner is crucial.

Media training is a worthwhile investment which enables spokespeople to gain confidence in their engagement of journalists or prospective clients in this context. Importantly, it allows them to develop confidence in their own personal style of telling your corporate story with passion and an expert voice. It will put them through their paces, teach them what pitfalls to avoid, and is, at the end of the day enormous fun to partake in!

5. The Stand

As soon as you have been allocated a plot and can check its location, you can start on stand-build. It’s one of the more demanding but creative parts of the planning process. It is the most crucial thing to get right, and there are many factors to bear in mind.

Key considerations include:

  • Clear branding –will it be easy for visitors to identify?
  • Visual impact – It needs to grab attention in a loud, and crowded space
  • Different spaces – Open welcoming spaces for walk-ons, and quiet private areas for meetings. Also consider how any enclosed spaces will be ventilated, cooled or heated.
  • Storage – Very often overlooked, but crucial.
  • Lighting – Set the right mood for the right spaces—and also think about the heat created by lights!
  • Sound levels – Ambient noise will be high, how can you keep it as unobtrusive as possible? If you’re using video as part of your presentation, consider keeping them silent, as a few days of looping audio will have stand crew tearing their hair out!

6. Brief stand-crew

The human element also comes into play at the stand level. While not all stand-crew may need full media-training, it’s still important to brief them on the messaging strategy, the key points to reinforce, and any processes you wish them to follow on the day(s).

7. Promote your presence

Before the tradeshow even begins you can start drumming up interest and putting yourself on prospects’ ‘must visit’ list. Make use of all the channels that audiences might see, from social media to email to trade-press, to highlight your presence at the show and to tease what you’ll present.

8. Prepare press-kits & collateral

Journalists are usually rushed off their feet and exposed to tens if not hundreds of companies at larger tradeshows. Ensuring your message is the one that sticks in their mind is a real challenge. You can increase your chances and make their lives easier by preparing press-kits and supplying these to all journalists ahead of time. While many journalists now favour digital press-kits, there’s still value in offering the choice of a physical version for those who want it.

9. Pre-book meetings

In the months and weeks in the lead-up to your tradeshow, start to book in meetings to ensure that you make the most of your time there. Allow for some flex though, as tradeshows are unpredictable places, and it’s easy for prospects, customers and especially journalists to get waylaid on their way to you and punctuality is by no means guaranteed!

10. Follow-up

Tradeshows are a great way to meet and connect with people across the industry, but don’t forget to nurture those contacts. After the event, re-connect with the people you met—whether journalists, competitors, prospects or existing customers—follow up with additional information, offers, company news, etc. and follow them on social media to keep the conversation, and the relationships, alive.


Trade shows are great fun, and bristle with enormous opportunity, but can certainly put a lot of pressure on even the most accomplished marketing team. Hopefully this list will help you to prepare and remember that our team is always available to support and help you to sleep easy in the run up to a tradeshow, knowing that all your boxes are ticked.


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Posted by
Paul Leach 
on October 6, 2022

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