I love making lists and enjoy crossing things off lists even more! I create lists in both my personal and professional life. So when it comes to planning tradeshows (almost 30 a year for VerticalResponse), needless to say, I have a lot of lists. When attending a trade show, which is an excellent opportunity for all small businesses, there are two lists that everyone should use: One for event deliverables and deadlines and the second with assets that are needed for each tradeshow. Follow and create lists like these, and your tradeshow planning will be easy breezy: 

Deadlines & Deets

Event deadlines always vary and it’s important to keep track. For most tradeshows, there are a lot of things that need to be ordered in advance like furniture, electrical and internet access, as well as shipping arrivals. You usually get “early bird” discounts if you order before a certain date. I don’t know about you, but I love discounts (another pastime of mine), so keep an eye out for early bird dates and order everything, not only in advance, but also at a cheaper rate!

Here’s an example of an exhibitor checklist from NYXPO, a tradeshow I’m currently coordinating. Most tradeshows don’t provide checklists so you can always use samples like this to make your own:


The Goods

The second list you want to create is pretty standard for all tradeshows, and it’s all the items you’ll need to bring. Below is my mega-list of supplies I know I need. Keep this list up-to-date and add things you may have forgotten in the past. Your packing checklist should look a little something like this:

  • Business cards
  • Your product (if it’s tangible)
  • Laptop/charger (for demos of your products/services)
  • Data sheets (brochures)
  • Data sheet stands
  • Extension cords
  • Fishbowl to collect business cards
  • Email signup form
  • Internet (Mi-Fi)
  • iPad
  • Monitor
  • Monitor cord – mini display port adapter
  • Pens
  • Pen holder
  • Pop-up banners
  • Portable cart
  • Return shipping labels
  • Scissors
  • Shipping tape
  • Stapler
  • Swag (branded t-shirts, pens, fun stuff etc.)
  • Thin-tipped permanent markers (for writing notes on business cards)
  • Company-branded tablecloth

This might look like an intimidating list, but you don’t have to bring everything to every tradeshow. There are some staple items that you should always have, like business cards, a laptop, thin-tipped permanent markers, a stapler, data sheets, etc. but everything else on the list varies. At VerticalResponse, we attend shows with anywhere from 50 people in attendance to 50K so it depends on the needs of the show.

Making sure that everything is taken care of well before each tradeshow will undoubtedly make it seamless for everyone. There will always be last minute changes or things to do, but when everything’s crossed off your lists, your tradeshow will also be less stressful. Win-win!

Bonus tip: Looking for tradeshows to attend for your small business? Check with your local Chamber of Commerce for any tradeshows they’re hosting, or if they have a list of events in your area.

Want more in-depth info about events? We have a free guide for that too! Check out: Events 101 – Attending, Sponsoring & Hosting Events

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