The Trade Show Manager

Exhibitor Checklist is a key to future success

It happens regularly – even with the most successful shows.  Suggestions for improvements for the next show pour in almost as soon as the show concludes.  Show management staff, the board, the exhibitor committee, marketing, exhibitors, and attendees –everyone has ideas for improving your next show.  And as I learned myself from years managing large tradeshows, it can be hard to know where to start and how to prioritize.

May I suggest a new approach?

Rather than begin your latest “To Do List” of show improvements, stop and ask two questions:

  • Who will benefit the most from improvements to the show?   
  • What is the one change that will have a major impact on the future?

Let’s start by focusing on exhibitors – improving their experience can have a huge impact on future success. Here’s a quick checklist of areas where focused improvements can make a big impact.

Pre-show planning

  • Is it easy for exhibitors to order services?
  • Can you streamline the experience?


  • Are exhibit costs clear and easy to understand at the outset or do exhibitors discover unexpected charges on their final bill? Many shows use all-inclusive package plans to manage exhibitor budget expectations and avoid surprise charges on the final bill.


  • Could exhibitors benefit from training prior to the show to ensure a successful show experience?  If you don’t have training – consider a training workshop at the show or provide on-line training as part of the exhibitor package.


  • How was security at your show?
  • Any problems reported?


  • Did exhibitors achieve expected ROI?
  • If not, review attendee levels – were they at levels expected by the exhibitors?
  • Were there sufficient activities on the show floor to attract attendees?   If attendee levels were solid, confirm that exhibitors were prepared with the right number of level of staff for the show. Exhibitor ROI is dependent on many items – some of which show operators can’t control but ensure that the show delivered everything they promised in terms of attendance, engagement, and opportunity.

Move In/Move Out

  • How did the targeted move-in plan work?  Were there damages to
  • Were there damages to the carpet, product or booths in any areas of the show floor that would signal your plan needs modifying?
  • How as the shipping process – easy or complicated?
  • Were shipments on time, damaged or lost?  Problems in move in/move out can be distractions for exhibitors and leave a final, negative impression of the show.

First Time Exhibitors

  • First-timers who receive attention from show management are much more likely to return the following year. CEIR research indicates up to 40% of exhibitors who have a bad experience will not return – ever.  Managing First Timers is an insurance policy for future year show revenue.

Food Service

  • Catering can be a flash point for exhibitors.  When food & beverage are expensive or the quality is poor – exhibitors are frustrated.  Does the show include food demonstrations?  Are f&b food regulations clearly outlined in exhibitor package – or do exhibitors get stuck with hidden fees?


  • Is signage adequate for the show? When attendees can’t find their way around the show, exhibitor sales are negatively impacted. Take time to develop a comprehensive signage plan.

Electrical & Internet

  • There’s no margin for error, make sure that electrical and internet service is dependable and that there are no outages

We can’t change everything, but if we can focus on these two questions – we can make focus our energies to make an impact and improve the show – and that’s what everyone really wants.

If you would like a copy of this checklist, click here.

Next blog post:  Improving Attendee experience

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