Trade Show Furniture: Know Your Options

Exhibit Design | Trade Show Rentals
November 14, 2023

Choosing your trade show furniture, whether it’s a counter or a sofa, can be overwhelming. There are as many types of trade show furniture as home or office furniture. Let’s make the selection process a bit easier by dividing trade show furniture into four categories:  counters, seating, tables, and charging design. Then we’ll further narrow it down by describing whether you should purchase or rent that table, chair, lamp, or workstation (along with so much more).  

We won’t cover every option, but with this knowledge and some guidance from an experienced trade show team, you’ll be up and running (or seated) in no time. Whether you’re looking for professional trade show rentals or fully custom exhibits – we’re ready to help.

An Introduction to Trade Show Furniture

Just like in a home or office, the furniture you choose drastically changes the room’s aesthetic and use. It’s important to note that furniture not only affects the area visually but can dictate how people interact in the setting and even how they feel (comfort, color psychology, etc.) With all this in mind, it’s very important to be deliberate in your furniture selection and be sure it contributes to your vision, trade show goals, branding, and encourages your potential clients to engage with your team.

Trade Show Furniture

Trade Show Counters, Workstations, Kiosks, Monitor Stands, and Pedestals

​​You might not consider reception counters or workstations, for example, as furniture, but they’re the essential workhorses of most modern exhibits. Most have features like locking storage, shelves, and even wire management, which isn’t all that different from traditional office furniture. 

There are really two criteria to choosing the right ones for your booth. 

First, does it fulfill a practical purpose in your space? Like holding a monitor, storing literature or promotional giveaways, featuring your products (think glass showcase), or functioning as a meeting space to interact with attendees. Booth spaces are tight, and furniture for the sake of furniture is expensive and counter-productive (pun intended). 

Secondly, does it match your design objectives? Not only do you not want furniture that doesn’t serve a practical purpose, but you don’t want one that’s the wrong color, style, or shape to the overall design. You might be wondering why anyone would choose furniture that doesn’t match the design or theme of the booth. Sometimes it’s simply a lack of planning but more often it’s a decision based on cost. Imagine a beautiful island exhibit in bright, bold colors. A reception counter in those same colors would be perfect. Instead, the exhibitor chooses a portable counter with aluminum supports and a black countertop. It’s functional but an odd duck in a sea of swans. 

5 Modern Trade Show Furniture Examples

trade show booth furniture

MODN-1590 Backlit Counter:  This full-assembled custom counter includes backlit fabric graphics, locking storage, and internal shelves. 

booth furniture

MODN-1722 Modular Backlit Counter:  The MODN-1722 is an L-shaped modular counter with extensive storage and large backlit graphics. 

portable furniture

 MODN-1713 Monitor Kiosk: The MODN-1713 offers multiple benefits including backlit graphics, countertop space, and locking storage. 

kiosk modern trade show furniture

ECON-13K-A Product Kiosk:  The ecoSmart sustainable kiosk has three adjustable shelves, a header, and double-sided graphics.

portable trade show furniture

SYMN-403 Portable Counter w/ Shelf:  This practical counter combines shelves and graphics into a portable package that packs flat and assembles without tools. 

Trade Show Tables

If you’re thinking… “tables are tables,” then you haven’t explored the broad array of trade show tables available to rent. Gone are the days of heavy conference tables with dark wood and uncomfortable chairs. Tables now come in a variety of materials, sizes, colors, and styles. Some even include charging options for tablets, computers, and phones.

Trade Show Table Categories

Cafe Tables w/ or w/o Height Adjustments – Cafe tables are typically round with a 30 to 36” diameter countertop. Colors vary. For example, this 36” Cafe Table has four color options:  black, white, graphic nebula, and maple.

Bar Tables – Bar Tables are similar to Cafe Tables but are typically 42” high (vs. 29” H). This Powered Bar Table includes (1) AC and (2) USB Ports

Conference Tables – The conference table selection is impressive starting with a contemporary  36” Dia. glass and chrome Atomic Table.  Not large enough? Choose from a 5 ft. powered conference table all the up to a 10 ft. Conference Table in white, gray, or black. 

Seating Tables – Comfortable seating has grown in popularity, along with casual tables like end tables, cocktail tables, and side tables. The Geo End Table with chrome accents and a glass top and the Twist Side Table in antique brass and black are excellent examples. 

Bars – While not strictly a table, curved bars are a popular rental option for many exhibitors. The Midtown line includes both powered and lighted versions.

 Presentation or Product Tables – Think of product tables like in an Apple store. Often called Genius Bars, these vary in width from 5 ft. to 8 ft. and can include wireless charging pads.

Banquet Tables – When covered with a branded tablecloth, these are perfect for smaller booth spaces or for tabletop displays.

Trade Show Tip #1

Wire management is one of the single biggest details overlooked when designing and preparing for a trade show because no one asks the right questions about what equipment or devices will be in the booth space. As a result, what would have been an inexpensive and inconspicuous wire management solution if handled during the exhibit build becomes an expensive, damaging, and ugly solution when handled on the show floor.

trade show booth furniture

Trade Show Seating

Seating used to be a no-no in a trade show booth, except for meetings. Not anymore. Seating is the unsung hero of trade show furniture. Stroll through any trade show, large or small, and seating is a “must-have,” for both booth staff and attendees. And it’s not just limited to large islands. Most 10 or 20 ft. inlines have seating as well. And why not? Everyone wants to be comfortable and if seating means potential clients linger while discussing their product or service needs then it’s a win-win. 

When it comes to seating, your options are extensive, whether you’re looking at bar stools or upholstered furniture. 

Seating Categories Include: 

  • Conference Chairs – Office chairs for a desk or conference table
  • Bar Stools – Elevated chairs with footrests with or without backrests 
  • Accent Chairs – Upholstered or leather chairs typically found in lobbies or offices
  • Soft Seating – The good stuff! Comfy sofas, loveseats, and chairs for lounging 
  • Group Seating – Individual chairs for large groups during presentations or events
  • Ottoman – Matching ottomans for both soft seating and accent chairs

Trade Show Furniture Tip #2

If someone tells you that seats in a booth are unprofessional, then don’t walk away – have a seat. If your booth staff is relaxing in chairs and ignoring potential clients, that’s not the fault of the chairs. It’s a training issue or you’ve simply brought the wrong team to the show. Sitting down is not a crime. Ignoring business opportunities in your booth is!

Trade Show Seating

Trade Show Charging Tables and Kiosks

Charging tables and kiosks are increasingly common in trade show booths. As an attendee, finding outlets on the show floor to charge your phone, tablet, or computer can be an adventure. How often have you seen someone sitting on the floor in the corner of an exhibition hall with their phone cord plugged into a random outlet? 

Attendees (and your staff) appreciate convenient charging options in a booth where they can sit and chat. Newer charging tables and kiosks come with both USB and wireless options. Plus they can be branded with your logo or marketing message. Not only are the tables available in a variety of shapes, like round, square, rectangle, and octagon, but they are also available in bistro, end, and coffee tables. Most have attractive LED lighting too, which can be customized to match the primary color of your booth. Gone are the days when the only charging option looked like someone stole it from the airport on the way to the trade show. 

3 Beautiful Charging Table Solutions

bistro charging table

MODN-1482 Bistro Charging Table:  This contemporary fully-assembled charging table has (4) wireless charging pads and LED Accent Lights.

charging counter for trade show

MODN-1707 Parsons Counter: Parsons counters offer exhibitors a longer yet lower countertop for showcasing products or services. This counter includes (4) wireless charging pads, locking storage, and a backlit logo. 

backlit charging counter

MODN-1701c Backlit Charging Counter:  This portable 23” x 23” x 38” counter has a backlit graphic, locking storage, and (2) wireless charging pads.

The Importance of Portable Furniture for Trade Shows

Should you rent or purchase furniture for your booth? The reasons for renting are discussed below, but buying furniture, particularly portable furniture is a cost-effective option for some exhibitors. There are two options:  purchasing ready-to-assemble furniture (like IKEA) and assembling it at the show and buying furniture meant to be assembled and disassembled repeatedly. 

Ready-to-assemble furniture can be an inexpensive option, with some downsides. First, the furniture has to be shipped and assembled onsite. Unfortunately, unassembling it and packing the furniture can be challenging. Damage is common. Many exhibitors will simply leave the furniture in their booth at the end of the show. Not surprisingly, most General Show Contractors will charge a disposal fee if furniture is left in the booth which can often exceed the actual cost of the furniture. 

Instead, consider portable tables and chairs that fold or disassemble easily. These can be repacked in their existing boxes and/or packed in shippable roto-molded cases or wood crates. Exhibitors with an active trade show schedule can save considerable money by bringing portable furniture rather than renting it each time. In addition, the furniture can be branded with the company’s logo, colors, and messaging, which isn’t always possible with rental furniture. 

When deciding between renting vs. purchasing portable furniture, consider not only the short-term cost but also the long-term cost of shipping and storage.

Renting Trade Show Booth Furniture

Renting your trade show furniture as opposed to buying it can be an easy way to elevate the aesthetics of your booth space. Alternatively, starting with rentals makes it easier to make an informed purchasing decision. 

Your trade show consultant can take you through all the types of trade show furniture. Your options are extensive, whether you’re looking at bar stools, tables, or upholstered furniture. In some situations, it may make sense to purchase furniture, like chairs for a meeting room, but in most cases, renting is a smarter solution. Yes, rental furniture can be somewhat pricey, but remember, buying and shipping furniture is inconvenient and expensive, and the likelihood of damage is very high. Plus, renting furniture gives you the freedom to make changes from show to show.

Trade Show Desks and Tables

Trade Show Furniture Tip #3

Work with your exhibit house when selecting rental trade show furniture. They have relationships with multiple furniture rental companies and know which companies will have the best service and selection depending on the venue. In addition, they can often secure better pricing than what’s being offered by the show contractor, whose selection can be limited. After all, you don’t want to look the same as 15 other exhibits on the show floor.

The Finishing Touches: Getting Creative with Your Booth Furniture

Two guesses on the most popular color for trade show furniture. Here’s a hint:  It’s not black. 

White. When it comes to choosing a color, most exhibitors go with a neutral color, like white. And honestly, it makes sense. Rental booth furniture, along with flooring, is often the last decision an exhibitor makes, often long after the graphics are designed. Sometimes the booth has been built and the graphics printed when the exhibitor decides on their booth furniture. 

Whether you choose to rent or buy, furniture doesn’t have to be a blah decision. Start by sharing your vision during the exhibit design process. Exhibit designers have access to digital libraries from multiple rental furniture companies. If you give the designer the freedom to be creative while achieving your trade show marketing objectives, they’ll find furniture that matches both the theme of the booth and the vibe of your company. 

Sometimes that may require purchasing some items, but more often it means working with the furniture rental provider. Many have fabric options for ottomans, rugs, and pillows. In addition, hard surfaces can be covered with vinyl for specific colors or patterns. Even small design additions can have a big impact on the overall design.

Trade Show Charging Tables and Kiosks

Need Help Pairing the Right Trade Show Furniture with Your Booth?

We’re here to help with every intricacy of trade show exhibits, from furniture to layout to planning and beyond. Count on our well-experienced consultants to listen and come to understand your brand before making some dynamite suggestions. 

The next time you need anything to do with trade show furniture, reach out to Exhibits NW.

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If you’re ready to take your trade show exhibits to new heights, fill out this form, and we’ll contact you shortly.

Schedule a Call
If you’re ready to take your trade show exhibits to new heights, fill out this form and we’ll contact you shortly.