Quadrant2Design has compiled a first-time exhibitor checklist, divided into pre-show, during-show, and post-show tips and tricks.

Making your exhibition debut may seem daunting, but it will greatly benefit your company. Exhibiting helps you gain brand awareness, generate leads, and assess competitors, but it has to be done well! Read on for a guide to exhibiting success.

First-Time Exhibitor Checklist - Quadrant2Design


Step one: Set Clear Objectives 

A key factor in having a successful first exhibition is setting clear objectives. There are various reasons for exhibiting, such as brand exposure, lead generation, or sales. Each objective requires a different strategy.

If your goal is to maximise lead generation and sales, it’s best to opt for a larger exhibition and an inviting stand with counters for customer interaction. Whereas, if you aim to raise brand awareness and network, a smaller exhibition might allow you to make stronger, more personable connections. 

Step Two: Research the Exhibition 

Researching the show you’re attending sounds obvious, but it is paramount, especially if you have never exhibited before. Other exhibitors at the show will have attended in previous years and will have an advantage if you don’t do your thorough research beforehand. 

Ensure you are educated on the exhibitors, guest speakers, and visitors attending. Most shows release an exhibitor list ahead of time which you can use to your advantage! Research competitors on their home site and social media platforms for information on their previous events and current products. 

Some visitors and key buyers announce their attendance ahead of the event. If you have target buyers in mind, look these people up so you can be aware of who they are and what they look like ahead of the show.

Last but not least, check the show images from previous years, so you know how much wow factor your stand needs to impress. 

Exhibition general image by Quadrant2design - Used for first-time exhibitor checklist exhibition advice

Step Three: Set a Good Budget 

Speaking of wow factor, allocating a good budget will help you increase the return on investment from your first exhibition. The stand doesn’t need to be large, but it should effectively communicate who you are and what you do. 

When planning an exhibition, your exhibition stand should cost around double the cost of your floor space. The stand should use around 40% – 50% of your overall trade show budget. To reduce expenses it’s best to plan your show 9 to 12 months in advance, as last-minute arrangements like hotels, promotional items, and refreshments can be more costly. 

Additionally, it’s important to consider future shows. At Quadrant2Design, we offer a Free-Hire Plan where clients invest in graphic panels and rent the stand hardware from us free of charge. While the first exhibition involves the largest investment, future shows are reduced by up to 60%, covering project management, pre-build, stand transport, installation, and dismantling. Furthermore, our stands can be reconfigured for all stand spaces and sizes using our Lifetime Free Design!

Download our free budgeting tool here

Exhibition stand price guide by Quadrant2Design

Step Four: Choose & Train Your Staff 

One of the most important aspects of your exhibition is your team. Your team at the event should be educated on your products or services, but they also need to be friendly, approachable and confident speaking with new people. When you exhibit, you put a face to your brand and the associated person must be positive. A good mix of marketing and sales members tend to be the most successful! 

Body language is also significant. Practice your approach to guests with your team to ensure your staff are open and inviting. Nervous habits can put guests off your stand so make yourself as approachable and friendly as possible.

Step Five: Design an impactful Stand

Actiph water exhibition stand by Quadrant2Design

When it comes to exhibitions, having an impactful stand is crucial. But what exactly makes a stand impactful?

Exhibition stands don’t necessarily have to be massive to make an impression, but they should effectively communicate who you are and what you do. At Quadrant2Design, our stands are designed with a 100%  graphic look; this seamless effect makes them visually appealing and perfect for displaying marketing messages. Thanks to their modular design, our stands can be customised with various features such as high-level branding, rotating headers, and backlit graphics, all of which help attract attention and ensure visibility. If you’re showcasing a product, integrate it into your stand with showcases and highlight it with lighting! 

It’s important to avoid overloading your stand with too much text. While key messages are important, an excess of text can dilute the impact of your important messages. 

Make sure your stand matches your brand ethos. If you are a sustainable brand, choose a sustainable stand.

To view more impactful stands visit our exhibition stand ideas page! 

Step Six: Giveaways and Freebies 

Roomex exhibition stand by Quadrant2Design - First-time exhibition checklist

Giveaways and freebies draw people to your stand and help them remember you after the show which is even more important on your first show. If you’re offering freebies, be creative! Many stands give away branded pens, and there’s nothing wrong with this, but you won’t stick out from the crowd. Instead, think about your target audience and what they might appreciate. Additionally, utilising interactive features for giveaways helps draw visitors to your stand, and acts as a conversation starter. 

Many exhibitors bring some kind of refreshment for guests. If you are planning to do this, try to use branded cups to boost memorability! However, be careful, sometimes food and refreshments can attract the empty leads which can be a waste of money. Also, if you have a very crowded stand, with no real leads, you can actually deter prospective clients. Sometimes a giveaway where clients have to speak to you before receiving a freebie is more effective.

One common mistake exhibitors make is to attempt to save money by offering cheaper samples. For example, offering a diluted version of your coffee as a taster. Truthfully this is one of the biggest errors you can make as it will deter people from your products. If you are offering a sample make sure it represents or exceeds your typical product standards! 

Step Seven: Promote your appearance at a show

If you don’t tell your customers about your appearance at a show, how will they know you are exhibiting? Get your customers excited about your appearance at an event using your social media platforms and email marketing! Tell them about your promotional offers or potential samples so there is some excitement around your exhibition presence. 

Quadrant2Design offers an Event Website, which helps you turn your 3-day show into a 10-week marketing campaign! Event Websites function as a virtual exhibition stand, and detail everything happening on your stand! 

View our example Event Website here! 

Event Website


Step Eight: Engage with Visitors

When it comes to making an impact at an exhibition, engaging with visitors is essential.

While your exhibition stand may attract people, it’s your team’s responsibility to keep them engaged and interested. As soon as you notice someone showing interest in your stand, it’s important to initiate a conversation. This initial interaction can be facilitated through various means such as contests, interactive demonstrations on TV monitors, informative pamphlets, and giveaways. These can serve as effective conversation starters and draw visitors in.

It’s important to remember that visitors may be just as apprehensive as you are. If you don’t take the initiative to engage with them, you might miss out on valuable opportunities to connect and create meaningful interactions.

Step Nine: Collect Leads and Network

One of the main exhibiting benefits is generating leads and networking face-to-face. After engaging with potential clients, be sure to gather leads in a structured manner. This could involve directing leads to your Event Website, a dedicated contact page on your website, or through business cards. The key is to create opportunities for continued engagement with your clients by collecting contact details. 


Step Ten: Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up

The most important part of the first-time exhibitor checklist is following up with leads. Contact the people you have networked with to keep your show momentum going and turn your leads into real business opportunities.

Now you’ve read the guide you’re a step closer to exhibiting. No matter the stage you are at in your planning, Quarant2Design is happy to help. Call our team on 01202 723 500 or email design@quadrant2design.com for a free no-obligation design proposal or some exhibiting advice!