Trade Show Planning Timeline

We all live by a timeline, whether we are conscious of it or not. Some of us operate on multiple ones simultaneously. A timeline can be as simple as your daily routine or it can specific events that you want to accomplish throughout your lifetime.

Timelines help us rise above the chaos and form some sense of the predictable. They keep us organized and on task. Knowing how to create a timeline is an essential skill that all Show Managers need to have. Without a timeline, your actions can become confused and your priorities scattered.

Your time is valuable. Don’t waste it being unprepared.

Stick To The Script

When I’m planning a trade show I prefer to follow a timeline that I’ve designed to help me stay on track. I always keep room for flexibility in order to meet the unique needs that come with trade show planning. Not every timeline will look exactly the same but it usually follows the same basic ebb and flow (if I’m lucky).

In order to create a timeline, you need to clearly define what your goals are and have an overall strategy. It sounds overwhelming but it gets easier with time. Most future trade show timelines will generally follow a similar pattern with a little tweaking here and there so all the hard work you put into your current timeline will save you time on subsequent ones. Here are a few simple guidelines to follow…

  1. Create a list of all the actionable tasks that need to be completed. I like to place them in one of two categories I call phase one and phase two (feel free to be more creative ;). The tasks written under the phase one column should comprise of all the pre-show elements, whereas phase two are all the things that need to happen post-show.
  2. Here comes the fun part (not so much)…take all of your tasks and assign them a start date and a due date. This will take some estimation on your part. The more shows you do the easier it is to know how long specific tasks usually take. For example, I know that I need to have a final floor plan review and approval done two weeks before the start of the show.
  3. Now put all of your tasks in order of importance and when they need to be completed. Some tasks are dependent on another one being accomplished first like an exhibitor list will need to be updated and confirmed before floor plans can be finalized.
  4. Lastly, all delegated tasks (to a member of your team other than you) should be clearly noted on the timeline.

Sometimes the unexpected comes up and you will have to make minor adjustments but try your best not to deviate from the timeline you carefully crafted; trust the time and research you put into it. Give copies to your staff to ensure that everyone is operating within the same parameters.

Check It Once, Check It Twice

I love to make lists. Crossing off items feels so good, doesn’t it? It’s a great motivator. I like to create a checklist using my timeline, this way I can keep track of what I’ve already done and what is still “to do”. If you still like to use paper (like I do) make sure you have a digital copy as well (I like to use Excel).

Success From Start to Finish

Planning for a trade show (especially if you are juggling multiple at a time) doesn’t have to be overwhelming. So, take a deep breath and have fun with it knowing that completing this important step will prevent you from missing milestones and keep you on track towards the ultimate goal: a successful and profitable show.