Trade Show Setup: Tips for a Successful Show

Exhibits Northwest | Trade Show Trenches
September 28, 2023

Just for fun let’s pretend you are an exhibit waiting for your trade show booth setup. For much of the year, you’re resting, perhaps a bit bored, while sitting in a climate-controlled warehouse with other trade show displays. You swap stories with the other exhibits, but let’s be honest, there’s only so many times you can talk about the windy conditions at McCormick Convention Center in Chicago or listen to a story about the brutal 110-degree weather in Las Vegas in July. 

You want action, trade show action. That all starts weeks before the show when the crate is moved to the stage area and inspected. Hopefully, there’s a trade show booth setup to ensure there are no issues and the always exciting prospect of new graphics or fun accessories like tablet stands, touchscreen monitors, or wireless charging pads. You’re pumped, anxious to be loaded on a semi, and headed to the show. You don’t care if it’s hot or cold, rainy or dry. You’re even fine if you’re sent to the Advanced Warehouse because you’ll get to mingle with other exhibits and crates from Miami, Boston, or Los Angeles. 

It’s showtime. And you’re ready to attract attention and draw crowds. Nothing is going to curb your enthusiasm. Not rough forklift journeys. Not mediocre labor crews. And most definitely not rude or nosy neighbors with snarky comments or better-than-thou attitudes. 

The Importance of a Successful Trade Show Setup 

Trade shows can be overwhelming with strict deadlines, forms to complete, variable costs, and different trade show venues. For most exhibitors, navigating trade show chaos isn’t their first priority, which is why partnering with an experienced trade show management company is so important. The right partner ensures that you’ll arrive at the show stress-free, confident, and ready to connect with your clients. 

To make that happen, there are a host of moving parts to complete both before the exhibit ships to the show and during the installation. Perhaps the most important piece of that process is staging the exhibit BEFORE it ships to the show. If you’ve already participated in multiple shows with the display, you may be asking why assemble it again. It was just set up at the last show. Here’s why:

Trade shows are expensive… but you already know that. However, at every show, there are exhibitors scrambling to assemble their booth because of unexpected problems, problems which may (and often do) jeopardize their ability to complete their display and have a successful show. The most common problems include:

  1. Missing or damaged parts. After the last show, the booth was packed but any number of parts, pieces, components, and even graphics didn’t make it back into the crate or cases. Or parts were damaged during shipping. There’s no big box exhibit store down the block in any city and missing or damaged parts can’t always be quickly shipped. 
  2. Graphics. Your booth has new graphics… but you decided not to test fit them before the show. What could go wrong? They’re just squares and rectangles. Sadly, a lot. Not only could the sizes be wrong, but there could be issues with the colors, the materials, and even the image quality or placement. Reprinting emergency graphics is stressful and all too often guaranteed to go wrong. 
  3. Layout, Instructions, Accessories, and Lighting. Often a simple change to the layout can present issues, like violating show regulations or altering the optimal flow through the booth. Instructions get lost. Now what? Confirming they were packed during the staging prevents this OMG surprise. Accessories, like everything else, can get lost, broken, or simply fail. Finally, LEDs are crazy popular, but when they are wonky or crackly, snap, and pop, there’s not an LED lighting store down the street. Testing them during staging solves that issue 99.9% of the time.


trade show booth setup

Trade Show Booth Setup: Options & Examples 

Trade shows have many moving parts and require strong organizational skills, experience, and resources. Though the show is the main event, so much work happens behind the scenes before and after. Having an experienced partner in this fast-paced environment makes a world of difference in both the outcome and your overall experience.

Pre-show Prep
  • Schedule and Manage Shipping
  • Create and Add Shipping Labels
  • Pull and Load Truck
  • Confirm Crate and Pallet Inventory
  • Photo Interior Packing
  • Stage Exhibit
  • Inspect and Clean Exhibit
  • Photo Staged Exhibit
  • Client Preview
Post Show Check
  • Inspect Exterior of Crates and Pallets
  • Photo and Report Issues
  • Quote Repairs and Replacements
  • Exhibit Storage
  • Confirm Exhibit Inventory
  • Photo Interior Packing 
  • Stage Exhibit
  • Inspect and Clean Exhibit
  • Photo Staged Exhibit
Other Services
  • Order and Manage Show Services
  • Complete Exhibit Updates and Repairs
  • Rental Inventory Add-ons
  • Show Site Supervision
  • New Layouts and Floor Plans

trade show setup ideas

10 Must have Trade Show Setup Supplies 

Trade shows are a delicate balance between order and chaos. Here’s a list of 10 often forgotten items that will make your job easier and more efficient. 

  1. White gloves for handling graphics
  2. Power strips and extension cords labeled with your company name/contact (renting them at the show will be equal to the cost of your oldest child’s first year of college)
  3. Packing Tape (for dismantling/repacking)
  4. Cleaning Supplies/Wipes/Magic Erasers (for setup cleaning and before the show opens each day)
  5. Setup Instructions/Printed Staging Photos for faster setup. It’s important to label which crate has the instruction booklet so your team knows where to start
  6. Extra Velcro for wire management or last-minute graphic add-ons
  7. Sharpies to label boxes during repacking
  8. Steamer to remove wrinkles from graphics 
  9. Lint Roller
  10. Vacuum after installation and before the show opens. This saves on cleaning costs and is faster so you don’t have to wait for the GSC cleaning services. 

Maximize Your Trade Show Setup Service Experience

Make Sure Your Booth Stands Out

Make sure your stand, booth, or exhibit is visually appealing, welcoming to attendees, and supports to your brand. You want your messaging to be eye-catching, clear, and easily understood. When designing a trade show exhibit, think of it as an immersive experience rather than simply an informational booth.

Train Your Team

Your team members are crucial to your trade show success. They should know how to approach attendees, engage them, represent your brand, qualify leads, and politely end fruitless conversations. It’s important that your team members exude energy, excitement, and confidence during the event.

Leverage Social Media

Social media presents incredible opportunities to generate interest and increase your exposure at trade shows. It’s important to use social media strategically before, during, and after a trade show. Promotional giveaways or contests are a great way to create excitement and maximize engagement with your brand. 

Quickly Convert Your Leads

You should contact leads within 48 hours, starting with the most valuable leads first. Consult your notes from the event and research each lead before you contact them so the approach is targeted and personalized. 

Measure and Track ROI or ROO

It’s great to experiment with different strategies and marketing techniques at trade shows, but be sure to track the success of your efforts. Regardless if you track your Return on Investment or your Return on Objectives, document those results and refine your strategies for the next show. 

trade show setup service

Expert Trade Show Setup with Exhibits Northwest! 

Exhibits Northwest is your trusted and experienced trade show industry partner. With three decades of experience and thousands of successful projects, we know exactly how to achieve your goals and ensure you succeed at every show. 

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.

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.