A friend of mine ran his first marathon last fall.
He set the goal of successfully finishing the race almost two years earlier. He started with 5k races. I know the first few were more walking than running, as my friend was not an experienced runner, and had been a smoker for several years.
From 5ks, he went to 10ks and then two half marathons before tackling the final goal. When I asked why he started preparing so far in advance, he said his goals were to finish, finish with what he felt was a reasonable time, and to come away without any injuries.
He told me a big key to “no injuries” was to make sure he wore shoes that were broken in a bit. Definitely not right out of the box. That would be a recipe for blisters and disaster.
In a few months, we’re heading to a favorite destination in Arizona. In March, the Arizona weather is a nice break from the Midwest and I get to take in a Cubs spring training game or two.
Also when we visit, I make it a point to hike a few mountain trails, most notably Camelback Mountain. It’s not very difficult and many people do it, but I’ve made it a goal to hike it as long as possible, making it to the top and back down.
It is not a difficult hike, but I would definitely have trouble making the trek after four months of inactivity and hibernation in a Chicago winter. So a few weeks ago I began my preparation, working out alternately on a stationary bike, a treadmill and a StairMaster.
After all, I want to be able to hike up and down the mountain before the heat of the day sets in, without pulling a muscle or worse yet, falling and breaking something. And while it is nothing like running a marathon, for me, it definitely requires preparation. Oh, and I’m breaking in new hiking boots too.
Planning for a trade show is really no different than preparing for a long run or a strenuous climb. You can’t just show up and do it. Ok, yes you can just show up without much planning, but your chances for success are definitely reduced. There’s also the increased likelihood of a few more stumbles along the way.
Instead of hitting the treadmill, trade show veterans recommend the following pre-event timeline:
6 Months - 1 Year until Show Time
Look at what shows are on your schedule, or new shows where you may want to exhibit. Budget accordingly and book your space.
3 - 5 Months until Show Time
Dig into the exhibitor manual. Establish goals and objectives. Will you be using existing properties, purchasing new or renting? Talk with your display and graphics partner so everyone is on the same page.
2 - 3 Months until Show Time
What types of collateral material will you be sending? What other services will be needed-AV, special electrical requirements, shipping, etc.?
1 - 2 Months until Show Time
Order show services and get your EAC forms submitted. Discount deadlines are usually within this timeframe. Meet/talk with your supplier partners to make sure you have correct arrival dates and addresses, and everything else is on schedule.
2 Weeks until Show Time
Confirm, confirm and confirm. Make sure all show services are in order and everyone involved knows what is expected of them.
1 Week until Show Time
Buy new shoes and break them in. Show floors are hard on your feet!
Just like a marathon.