The Top Items for Your Trade Show Checklist

The Top Items for Your Trade Show Checklist Banner

Trade show checklists can help even a novice marketer or sales representative feel prepared to meet their goals at the next exhibit. 

A checklist may seem like a basic idea, but they literally can be the difference between life and death. Harvard Business Review reported (2017) that people in high stakes jobs, like astronauts and surgeons, often rely on checklists as a best practice. In fact, a checklist for surgery has been proven to reduce the risk of death by 47 percent! 

The point is, every human, especially the most busy amongst us, needs help with administrative planning. And those planning and organization processes can both improve your work outcomes and alleviate unnecessary stress. That is why we have compiled this guide to help you create a full checklist before your next trade show.  

3 Reasons Why You Need a Trade Show Checklist

There are three main reasons an exhibit checklist is a fantastic idea, for any industry professional.

  1. It helps you plan. Thinking through every resource you might need during your trade show will help you plan better for your event and ensure that you are prepared.
  2. It keeps you on a timeline. We all get busy in the world of work, and we tend to put off tasks that are not relevant to more immediate goals. When you create your trade show checklist a few months in advance (get started right after you sign up!), you will likely etch out milestones and deadlines which will keep you on track and alleviate stress amongst your team in the long run.
  3. It helps you define goals. When you create a checklist, you have to think through what you are hoping to accomplish at the show. If you want to bring the right number of give-aways, for example, you have to think through how many people will visit your trade show exhibit during the event. This pushes you to do the homework in advance and match your supplies and resources to your goals. 

It is a best practice to make sure your team works together throughout the planning process to organize tasks and set deadlines for progress.

Categories for Your Exhibit Checklist 

You can break down your list by categories. If you start thinking through all the items and resources you may need within those categories a few months in advance of the event, you will likely stay very organized. 

Office Supplies 

The trade show booth will be your temporary office. So it is important to include a short stack of all of the basic supplies you may need. 

  • Pencils and pens (branded if you have them) 
  • Post it notes 
  • Legal pads
  • Stapler
  • Scissors 
  • Markers
  • Tape
  • Rubber bands
  • Business cards

Technology Items

The level of tech you bring depends on your theme. The most creative booth ideas might require more equipment (games, virtual reality headsets, etc.). At a minimum you likely need the following:

  • Laptop 
  • Charger
  • Phones
  • Tablet
  • Power strips/extension cords
  • HDMI cables
  • TV/monitor
  • Audio equipment
  • Microphones
  • Zip ties for cords
  • Extra batteries
  • Mobile wifi

Make sure you check (and recheck) your devices to see if they work properly before the event. If tech is very important to you booth design, bring extra devices in case you have a problem on site. 

General “Stuff” for Marketing and Staff Comfort

There’s a full laundry list of other items you will want on hand to keep staff comfortable and to portray a professional image. 

  • Name tags
  • Uniforms
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Promotional items
  • Bottles of water
  • Snacks
  • Bags for “customers” (to pack give-aways)
  • Signage 
  • A first aid kit
  • A dustbuster or portable vacuum 
  • Cleaning solution
  • Facemasks
  • General decorations, like flowers and plants, to liven the booth
  • Took kit

An important part of a trade show checklist is the shipping and packing logistics.

Planning Checklist

An item list is important, but so is a planning list. The most successful marketers and sales representatives will start creating their timelines and checklists the moment after they sign up for an event, up to a year or more in advance. 

Pre-Show Planning

  • Start up to a year before an event, ideally at least 3-6 months. 
  • Establish a team to plan and attend the event. 
  • Create a full action plan with your team and identify each person’s roles and task areas. 
  • Make a cheat sheet/one-pager of relevant information about the show. 
  • Identify if the show has official planners or support staff and make contact if so. You will likely need their help to align your audio and visual equipment and coordinate logistics. 
  • Establish your event goals and contact targets. 
  • Start building a budget.
  • Identify if you’ll need professional help designing a custom trade show exhibit.
  • Market the fact that you will be there, to your audiences and to local audiences as relevant. 
  • Make travel arrangements for your staff. 
  • Confirm shipping arrangements of your materials to and from the event. (Usually you can save if you ship materials to a pre-staging center or warehouse a month or more before an event.)
  • Confirm when you are allowed to get to the show floor before and after the event. 
  • Design multiple pitch options to be flexible for an audience and their reception to your marketing efforts. 

Checklist for During the Show

  • Show up early or the day before and make sure your booth is exactly as planned and organized how you like it. 
  • Make sure at least one or two staff are always on site at the booth, with a predetermined schedule for taking turns to man the booth, work the floor, and take breaks. 
  • Keep checking your tech to make sure it is working smoothly, at regular intervals. 
  • Label all your equipment, boxes and containers before laborers take them to a warehouse. Double check that your inventory is correct. 
  • Test different pitches. 

Post-show Priorities

  • Complete a Material Handling Agreement (MHA) if event staff are supporting take down and shipping of your materials. 
  • Organize all of your contacts immediately upon office return (or on your off-day between shows if you are headed to another exhibit).
  • Get in contact as quickly as possible with your top leads. 
  • Write a report for your executives on show outcomes and indicators. Did you meet your goals? Analyzing why or why not right after an event with a staff debrief is a best practice to improve upon your performance. 
  • Ask staff members to rate the show and to journal on any take-aways from competitors or key learning they achieved while attending conference sessions or speaker events. 

FAQs Regarding Trade Show Checklists

How should we organize our exhibit checklist?

You can organize your checklist in a number of ways, starting with your planning first. You need to determine what your goals for the event are and what your booth strategy will be before you can develop a solid idea of the materials, resources and action steps that will follow. 

The first step, of course, is researching your event options and choosing an event calendar for the year. Which shows will be priorities? Spend the most time organizing and allocate the largest budgets for your most lucrative events. Then, list all of the necessary tasks you can think of before, during and after the event. Prioritize those tasks and assign team members to be responsible for each, with set milestones and dates for completion of different task areas. You will want to have regular team meetings to review progress and delegate any new checklist items that arise throughout the process. 

How do we write an exhibition checklist?

First, you need to have a plan and a booth strategy. Then you can start extrapolating all of the support items you will need. 

Brainstorm with your team to create a resource list of all of the materials and tech you will need to complement your booth and help you achieve your goals. How many promotional materials do you need? Do you need artwork or plants to complement your booth design? What office supplies and materials for staff comfort and branding should you bring (i.e. company shirts, pens, etc.)? 

Establish how you will get those materials to the event and back to your office or warehouse afterwards, and how. Make sure you assign tasks to staff for during the event, such as cleaning up before and afterwards and packing up materials. 

What are the basics for a trade show booth?

There are hundreds of amazing trade show booth design ideas to choose from. You can opt for a more technological design, or apply a minimalist aesthetic. The booth needs to be visually appealing and align with your desired brand alignment. Most importantly, it needs to adequately and engagingly draw attention to your highlighted products and services. 

Staff, from both your sales and marketing departments, should be in attendance. You want the people who know the most about your products and services to be the ones to “sell” your brand at these events. Staff should be available to hand out promos and giveaways to visitors (to help them remember you afterwards) and support visitors in engagement activities. Those can include games, videos, participation with product samples, selfie photo walls, and dozens of other potential activities. 

Blazer Exhibits is Here to Help with Your Trade Show Checklist!

If you think you need professional support, you are not alone. Most companies, from the smallest startups to the largest corporations, seek guidance from professional firms like Blazer Exhibits to help them plan their event calendar, create work plans and trade show checklists, and design booth plans to make the most of the exhibition space. We look forward to you hearing from you to learn about your special needs and help you make your next event a success!

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