How to organise a trade show

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Organising a trade show can be both a thrilling and daunting experience in equal measures. From selecting the perfect venue to choosing the right insurance, the journey can be a complex one and it’s always wise to expect some bumps along the way. But with clever, structured planning, there’s no reason why your trade fair can’t leave a positive impact on everyone involved.

How to organise a trade show

If you find yourself staring at a blank screen or sheet of paper wondering where to start, take a look at these top tips to help you on your way.

Organising a trade show

Implement the following steps into your strategy to get your event-planning off to a great start.

1. Define your trade show goals

Just like any event, knowing why you're organising a trade show and what you want to achieve is the first and most important step. Are you rolling out a new product? Or perhaps wanting to engage with potential clients or expand your brand’s reach? Once you’ve established your objectives, this will set the pace for the rest of your planning.

2. Assemble your dream team

No man is an island, and nowhere is this more true than when it comes to event planning! It’s not just about having the right people in place, it’s ensuring everyone understands and is working towards the same goal.

Put together a dedicated team to handle various areas such as marketing, registration, etc., and keep the lines of communication open and flowing throughout the whole process.

3. Lock down your date and venue

This is the task that can often be the trickiest to navigate (and certainly the most frustrating!). Here’s what to consider when choosing a suitable date and venue:

  • Calendar check: avoid clashing with public and school holidays or similar industry events.
  • Venue availability: popular venues can book up months – even years – in advance; be sure to secure yours early.
  • Accessibility: ensure easy access via multiple transportation modes.
  • Facilities and amenities: opt for venues with essential in-house facilities, such as WiFi, parking on site, technology setups, breakout areas, food and beverage provisions, etc.

Remember, the venue you choose is not just a building; it sets the tone for your event. Its facilities, location and ambience all contribute to the overall impression and experience of your trade show.

4. Plan your trade show layout

Once you’ve got your venue, you then need to map out where your booths, stands and social areas will go. Start by mapping out the floor space, marking key points like entrances, exits and amenities. Strategically place high-profile booths in prime locations to attract traffic and intersperse them with social or break out areas. The layout should allow for natural, easy movement and interaction throughout the venue without bottlenecking.

5. Budget Wisely

Every aspect of your trade show – from the venue to marketing – comes with a cost. Plan your budget as accurately as possible, based on research, quotes, contracts, etc. Wherever possible, speak to other trade fair organisers who have held similar events to get an estimation of likely overall expenditure. You should also track and update your budget regularly, making adjustments as needed in the event of changes or unforeseen circumstances.

How to categorise trade show expenses

Categorising your expenditure will help you manage your budget more effectively. Separate your expenditure into different columns, such as:

  • Venue costs: Rent, utilities and services.
  • Marketing expenses: advertising, promotional material and online marketing.
  • Vendor management: costs associated with booth setups and facilities.
  • Attendee amenities: registration, freebies, badges and refreshments.
  • Operational costs: salaries, transportation and miscellaneous day-of costs.
  • Insurance: premiums for your trade show insurance.
  • Contingency: any unexpected or unplanned charges.

6. Engage your vendors and sponsors

Provide prospective vendors and sponsors with an overview of your trade show theme, expected audience and information about the general setup. Allow vendors to choose their preferred pitch, but bear in mind your sponsors will expect a larger booth space in a premium spot.

Ensure that you communicate regularly with vendors and sponsors alike so they’re in sync with the event's objectives and can contact you freely with any queries.

7. Spread the word!

Effective promotion is key to any trade show's success. Listing your event on popular platforms such as Eventbrite is a given, but to ensure as wide a reach as possible, it’s important to consider other channels such as social media, email campaigns and traditional printed advertising. 

Tailored strategies like early bird discounts, refreshments vouchers or referral incentives can also boost attendance. Remember, your goal is to ensure your target audience knows and is excited about your event well in advance and in the days leading up to the trade show itself.

8. Arrange catering

Having the right refreshments on site can significantly enhance the attendee experience at your trade show, keeping energy levels high and encouraging networking opportunities. When choosing your caterers, keep the following factors in mind:

  • Cater for all tastes: this includes considerations for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and any allergy-specific needs.
  • Quality and quantity: opt for reputable catering services with positive reviews, ensuring the food and beverages not only suffice in terms of quantity but is also of high quality.
  • Location matters: designate specific areas for catering, ensuring it's accessible but doesn't interfere with the flow of the event or booth activities.
  • Stay within budget: while fancy, lavish food can be a tempting option, ensure it aligns with your budget. Negotiate package deals or consider sponsors specifically for catering.

Remember, well-fed attendees are happier, more engaged and likely to spend more time exploring the trade show.

9. Get your trade show guide and badges ready

A successful trade show not only hinges on the main event but also on the details that enhance the attendee experience. Here's how to prep:

Trade Show guide:

  • Site map: offer a clear layout of the venue, allowing attendees to pinpoint booths, amenities and other essential locations easily.
  • Vendor and sponsor directory: feature a section on all sponsors and participating vendors, detailing their brand and booth locations.
  • Supplementary events: include any extra events, from after-parties to seminars. Add timings, locations and RSVP details.

Remember to print an ample number of brochures to cater to all attendees and keep some extra on hand. The guide not only serves as a roadmap but also as a tangible memory of the event.


These are invaluable for easy identification and networking. Ensure they're sturdy, readable and include a branded lanyard or clip. Consider incorporating QR codes on the badges for quick access to digital resources or event apps.

10. Explore public liability insurance for trade shows

Planning a trade show involves navigating various risks and responsibilities, so it’s essential to have suitable insurance in place, safeguarding you, your team, participants, attendees and the event venue against possible unforeseen complications or damages.

Our comprehensive Shows, Fairs and Exhibitions insurance is suitable for trade shows in the UK which includes options for public liability cover, employers' liability, event equipment and cancellation, with adverse weather available on request.

For example, if an attendee slips and falls on a wet floor while walking between booths, or if a vendor’s screen is damaged by a faulty power socket, public liability insurance can cover the legal costs and compensation that you might have to pay.

Whether it’s a one-off conference or multiple events, you will be covered for:

  • Accidental bodily injury to a person
  • Accidental death of a person
  • Accidental damage to third-party property
  • Accidental loss of third-party property

Ready to organise your trade show?

While we hope your trade show runs without a hitch on the day, it’s always wise to expect the unexpected –and to be prepared for it. Contact us today to find out how Events Insurance can help give you that little extra peace of mind, allowing you to focus on what’s really important – organising a successful event!

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