Trade Show Supplies: Your Complete Guide

Trade Show Trenches
May 24, 2022

Trade Show Supplies 101

Each of your trade show supplies should have one thing in common with all the others: you should know exactly how it will help you reach your goals.  If you stick with that philosophy, you can slash your stress, setup/teardown time, and budget. Here are some simple, often-overlooked trade show supplies that can’t go out of style. (One of them is even free…. )

Trade Show Supplies to Give You an Edge

1. Extra Business Card Dispensers

Don’t be shy when it comes to your business cards. Feel free to make them matte-coated, extra thick, grainy and eco-friendly, or even wood or metal. Anything to make your card stand out in a stack or a memory. 

And then scatter them around your booth like cheese on pizza. Set or affix business card holders and dispensers everywhere. Different eye-catching types or a matching set, just stay on-brand and remember your aesthetics. Set up one for every ten square feet of booth space if you can make it look good. 

Don’t want to carry around business cards. Consider digital business cards which have become more popular with post-COVID exhibitors.

2. A Story

How do you make people remember you or your company? Give them a story to tell and retell themselves after they leave. Make it memorable and repeatable. Maybe you’ll be the topic of discussion over drinks with colleagues that night.

A “story” can start as simply as, “Now if you look on the back of my card, you’ll see….”

An especially charismatic or funny staff member can become a story too. Get attendees who don’t know each other talking and moderate the discussion. Ask off-the-wall questions. See if you can playfully argue someone out of an opinion and back into it again. Anything to make them think, “Huh, that was fun.”


Learn About Virtual Exhibits

In the digital era, it’s important to adapt and embrace new technologies. Learn about how virtual trade shows can help you reach and engage new customers.


3. Seating

Seating might be one of the most overlooked trade show supplies out there. Everyone’s tired; everyone’s been standing and walking for a thousand hours. A chair or two gives them a reason to be glad they found your booth and associate good feelings with it; it also gives you the easiest possible way to engage them in conversation.

4. All the Small Thngs

On the day of the trade show, you will want to come prepared with all the little things you might need because even the best-laid plans can go haywire! Write down a checklist beforehand that includes plenty of pens, business cards, extension cords, sharpies, tape, post-it notes, laptop(s), basic first aid supplies, some all-in-one tools, and any other office supplies that might come in handy. (More on this below)

5. Charging Solutions

Just like you need a cappuccino around 2 pm, your phone needs a periodic charge to keep you connected. Unfortunately, most trade shows are charging deserts. When there are public charging stations, they are often inconvenient, crowded, or expensive. Many exhibitors make charging phones, tablets, and even laptops easier for attendees by including charging stations in their booth space. It’s a great chance to talk about business opportunities while juicing up your device.


trade show supplies

Getting Noticed with Trade Show Lights

No matter how perfect your trade show booth design is, without proper trade show lights, no one will be able to appreciate what you’ve created. Don’t assume that the lighting at the event venue will be sufficient to make your booth stand out. Trade show lighting comes in many different forms, from simple lamps to branded LED lightboxes. 

The proliferation of LED lighting has transformed lighting in booths of all sizes. Consider a few of these options when designing your next trade show exhibit. 

  • Single or Double-sided Lightboxes with Fabric Graphics 
  • LED Toe-kick and Perimeter Lighting for Counters and Pedestals
  • Backlit or Edgelit Logos
  • Motion LED Lights
  • Programmable RGB LED Lights
  • Accent, Stem, and Puck Lights
  • Hanging Lighting Fixtures like Pendant Lights

You should be strategic about the type of lighting you choose and the placement in order to generate the biggest impact.

Thankfully, LEDs have made incorporating lighting into an exhibit so much easier. For example, most backlit graphic towers and banners have attached light modules. These are mounted to the aluminum or wood frames which makes assembly easier AND more secure. There’s far less chance for damage. And unlike incandescent lights (which are fragile) and halogen lights (which are HOT), LEDs are durable, cool to the touch, and have a useful life of up to 50,000 hours.


trade show supplies and trade show lights

Utilizing Trade Show Banners

Trade show banners are one form of trade show supplies that can help bring your story to life. But an ugly or difficult-to-read banner may be worse than nothing at all! To be effective, trade show banners should be clearly legible, vibrant, simple, informational, in line with your brand, and as engaging as possible.

10 Tips for Trade Show Signage 

1. Simple Messaging

What do you do? What do you solve? What makes you unique?

2. Consistent Design

Whatever your vibe or your story, the physical structure, the graphics, and the messaging should be consistent and coherent.

3. PMS Colors Matter

Modern trade show signage uses a variety of print substrates and processes. There are direct prints, backlit graphics, fabric, vinyl, and others. Spec the PMS colors so they are the same regardless of the printing.

4. Make it Memorable

Trade shows are a brutally competitive environment. It’s not enough to catch someone’s attention. You want attendees to remember you.

5. Hire a Designer with 3D Experience

Not every graphic designer has worked on trade show exhibits. It’s a skill learned through experience.

6. Consider Your Audience

Every trade show has a distinct audience. Your message may be perfect for Show A but wrong for Show B.

7. Cleanliness

Cleanliness Is Next To…. Neither your crate nor the show floor is a hypoallergenic clean room. Stuff gets dirty and keeping it clean is important. Consider wearing medical gloves when installing or packing your graphics.

8. Printers Matter

Exhibit graphics are typically large format, requiring special coating or hardware. Choose a printer that specializes in trade show graphics.

9. Packaging Matters

Most manufacturers or builders create packing to protect the structure and hardware of your booth. Protecting your graphics is equally important.

10. Consider the Lighting

Your LED lighting options are extensive these days. However, mixing lights can create issues since the same “white” light may have ranges in warmth and output. Always consult a trade show professional about what will (or will not) work.

Trade Show Furniture

When it comes to trade show furniture, your options have improved… significantly.  There’s a broader assortment of sofas, chairs, tables, and accessories in a range of colors and prices. In addition, 3D exhibit designers are emphasizing casual seating in exhibit booth design. Trade show attendees are encouraged to sit down, get comfortable, and chat about life and business. 

While some exhibitors choose to purchase furniture, most rent from established suppliers like CORT. Exhibits Northwest makes selecting and renting rental furniture easy with two comprehensive rental galleries. 


Rental Furniture Gallery #1

This gallery focuses on casual furniture like Accent Chairs, Soft Seating, Seating Tables, and Ottomans. It includes leather and upholstered chairs, sofas, and sectionals in a variety of colors and textures. All delivered to your show booth space in immaculate condition. trade show furniture

Rental Furniture Gallery #2

This extensive gallery targets Tables (cafe and bar heights), Group Seating, Conference Tables (including wireless charging options), Conference Chairs, Bars, and Barstools. 

And in case you’re thinking, “I have an inline 10 x 20 so rental furniture isn’t an option,” well, think again. Many inlines, even 10 x 10’s, now include a table and chairs in the booth to encourage attendees to relax and chat. 

trade show furniture rentals

Purchase or Rent Your Trade Show Supplies

When selecting trade show supplies, you should think about the design of each specific object and how it fits into your overall exhibit design and aesthetic. Working with a professional trade show exhibit designer is the best way to ensure that your trade show booth is cohesive, impactful, and in line with your overall brand. 

Beautifully designed trade show supplies can get expensive. To keep costs to a minimum, consider renting out any trade show supplies you need rather than buying each and everything on your list. You can either rent out an entire trade show exhibit or just a few of the more expensive items. 

Beyond simply saving you money, exhibit rentals offer greater flexibility, allowing you to change your setup for different trade show events. You can also “try before you buy” and see how different trade show supplies work for you and which are most impactful. In addition, when it comes to sustainability, there’s no better “eco-friendly” option than renting. Most rental structures are built with aluminum and once the structures can no longer be used, they are recycled to become soda pop cans, door frames, or even extrusion for another trade show display. 

Another thing to think about when selecting trade show supplies is everything that goes on behind the scenes. When not being used, trade show supplies need to be stored and properly maintained in order to maximize their lifespan. You can either manage your trade show inventory on your own or hire a trade show support service to take care of it all for you.

event booth

Emergency Kit Items Every Event Booth Should Have

1. Pens, Sharpies, and Notepads

We’ve all gone digital but there are still situations where you’ll need to write something down. 

2. Batteries

If there’s anything in your booth that requires batteries, you need to have a backup supply. 

3. Duct Tape and Velcro

Ask show labor what two items have saved the day more often than not. 

4. Extra Light Bulbs or Lighting Strips

LED lights last months, often years, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get damaged.  

5. Glass Cleaner, Sanitizer Wipes, and Paper Towels

You’ll use them every single day before and during the show.  

6. Basic Tools

 A small bag with a tape measure, utility knife, hammer, screwdrivers, and pliers. Along with a tray of misc. nails, screws, and hooks. 

7. First-aid Kit

Just the basics. You’ll appreciate it the first time you need a band-aid, gauze, or even a plain old-fashion aspirin.  

8. Bottled Water

Many exhibitors put a 24-pack of bottled water in their crate before it ships to the show. It’s cheaper than buying it at the show and it’s convenient to have during installation and dismantling. 

9. Surge Protectors

It’s never a bad idea to have an extra surge protector.  

10. Stain Remover

You would be surprised at how often a Tide Stain Remover Stick comes in handy.

Sustainable Trade Show Supplies and Giveaways

Sustainability is another important aspect that you should think about when choosing your trade show supplies. Whenever possible, reduce, reuse, recycle, or rent! 

Use green materials whenever you can, and avoid single-use plastic at all costs. Also, if you’re buying a new trade show exhibit, you should design it in a way that will allow you to reuse it (and update it as needed) year after year. If you think you will be updating your trade show display frequently, renting your supplies and equipment can help you reduce waste. 

At Exhibits NW, we’ve been designing and building eco-smart Exhibits, Displays, and Accessories for over 15 years. These products are built with either recycled or recyclable materials (or both). The wood is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which means it meets the “gold standard” of ethical production. The wood is harvested from forests that are responsibly managed, socially beneficial, environmentally conscious, and economically viable.

Another way to reduce waste is to go digital with your banners and displays; with digital signage, you can simply update the text and graphics rather than get new signs printed every single time you want to adjust your branding or messaging.

When to Invest in a Custom Trade Show Booth

There are several misconceptions about custom trade show exhibits. First, only large Fortune 1000 companies buy custom exhibits. Second, a custom exhibit = a 20 x 20 or larger island exhibit. And third, custom exhibits are expensive. In reality, “custom” simply means a design customized for your specific trade show requirements. That could be a 10 x 10 inline or a 40 x 50 double-deck island. Don’t get stuck on the term “custom.” 

What’s more important is identifying your trade show strategy. What are your short and long-term sales and marketing goals? Those goals (and your budget) will guide an exhibit designer toward a solution. It may be a pre-configured kit or one tweaked to match your requirements. 

Then again, it may require a one-of-a-kind design. What’s important is not putting the “cart before the horse” when discussing your options. Allow your strategy to dictate the direction you need to take and then decide based on your budget. Too often, exhibitors assume a custom booth is significantly more expensive. Don’t let the cost of the exhibit deter you from hitting your sales goals. 

Need More Inspiration for Trade Show Supplies?

Of course – everyone in business knows there’s no such thing as too much inspiration.

Reach out to our team of all-stars today to start bouncing ideas around about trade show supplies, booth designs, and everything else to do with crushing it at your next trade show!

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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.