Growing Your Business: Preparing for Trade Shows series

grow your own business preparing for trade shows

Hello! It’s Avis from Avie Designs again with my series on Preparing for Trade Shows.

This topic is so exciting for me since it’s what I’m working on as we speak. It’s also just so much fun to design a booth. I think so anyways. Your booth execution is so important for a number of reasons. There will be a lot of people that have never heard of you before that will be wandering by. If your booth is nice and inviting, you have a greater chance of getting more of those passersby to walk into your booth and experience your product for the first time. You need the booth to be an expression of your brand so that people can get an idea of you and your product just by glancing at it. You also want to present yourself as a viable, serious company that another company wants to work with. You need to convey that you are serious about your company and it’s growth and that you can deliver.

So I’ve broken down the components of a booth and explained how you can make each one as successful as possible:

1.Tone: When you are thinking about your booth before you even start designing, you need to consider the tone you will be setting. This mostly depends on your product and it’s tone. A booth for a company that sells lifejackets should be very different than the booth for a company that sells gummy bears. You need to know the tone of your product and company and figure out a way to have your booth reflect that image. My company is modern, bright, casual and sustainable. I tend to design my booths to be set in a natural background to let the bright colors pop.

2. Walls, Floors, Tables & Chairs: Your booth, most likely, will come with curtains hung on pipes and that’s it. If a chair is free too, then you’re in luck. The hardest part of getting a booth together is figuring out walls, flooring and furniture. Especially if you don’t live in the same city as the show. The show itself will offer their services at a hefty price. This is a great option for people that would rather spend money than put in the hard work themselves. The show will sell you the walls, floors and furniture as well as install them all for you. They even do shelving. Then all you have to do is come in with your product and signage and you’re done. You can also use many other companies that will produce all types of booth displays for you. There are also unique ways that you can make your own walls and floors and ship them and assemble them yourself. There are so many ways to solve this problem that you really have to go to a show to see it for yourself. As for furniture, unless you need it for your product display, you may not really need any, but you do need chairs. You need chairs for you and possibly your customers. 4 days is a long time to stand on your feet and it’s nice to have a table and chairs in case someone does want to place an order, you can sit at a table like normal people making a deal. Flooring is important since you don’t want to display your lovely product on warehouse floors. I’ve seen everything from carpet tiles to contact paper used as flooring so the possibilities are endless.

3. Signage: You need to have your logo and booth number very prominently displayed multiple times in your booth. This is your address and you don’t want to lose a sale because someone can’t find you. Be redundant and large.

4. Product Display: Once you have your tone, you need to figure out how you will display your product. Again, this is a very personal decision that I cannot tell you the right answer to. You need to consider how your customer will interact with the product, how they want to see the product and what information they will want about the product. If you have a complicated product that needs explaining, you need to go above and beyond to explain both visually and verbally how it works. Never assume that people will understand just by looking at it. I sell hand folded stationery that has handmade envelopes that are patterned. This stationery does not look like any other stationery out there, which is a good thing, but I have to go out of my way to explain it to people because they don’t know what they’re looking at. Also, customers will want as much information about the product as you can give them. You may want to use signage in addition to your verbal explanation to assist you. Sometimes there are more people in your booth than you can talk to at one time and you don’t want to miss the opportunity of a sale because they had questions that you were too busy to answer. Customers will want to know or see how the product is packaged as well as being able to hold and feel it. Make sure that your display allows for both.

5. Lighting: It doesn’t hurt. You may have a spot that has plenty of lighting but bringing some clip on lights is a great idea. You can also purchase spotlights at the show just for your booth but at a high cost. Bringing your own is less expensive but you do need to make sure you have purchased electricity from the show.

6. Takeaways: Other non-product items you will want in your booth, available for anyone to pick up are your takeaways. These are anything you intend to give out to potential customers. Takeaways include: business cards, catalogs, press kits and consumables. You need to have a place for these out in the open, so leave room for them. Food takeaways are very popular at these shows because walking the show is exhausting, even more exhausting that participating in one. People get hungry and you do not want a customer with low blood sugar shopping with you. It’s just a good idea to have some on hand, it’s also a great marketing ploy as well.

7. Logistics: Now you need to figure out how to get your stuff to the show. If you live in the same city as the show or will be driving there, you need to find out from the show when you can drop off and start setting up. If you don’t live in the same city as the show, you need to fid out from the show when your shipments can start arriving. Shows have a great system for getting your boxes to your booth for you as long as you put the booth number and company name on the box. If you’re shipping your booth, it is wise to use light materials that are cheaper to ship. You also need to decide on investing on booth components that you will use year after year which may be heavier or single use components that will be lighter. I opt for single use mostly so that I have the excuse to design a whole new booth every year.

Designing and exacting a booth is so large an undertaking and so personal that I cannot possibly give you all the information out there. I hope this overview gives you a better idea of where to start.

Next up is “You’ve made it to the show, now what?”

– Avis Wampler, the creative force  behind Avie Designs, writes the column Growing Your Business: Preparing for Trade Shows series. Read more about her on the contributors’ page.


  1. Hello. Thank You!! so much. I attended the NSS as a non-manufacturering exhibitor just to see if it was something I could do, if my creations belonged there, etc., I left exhilirated but still lost about how to put it all together. Your postings is the only one that gives some meat to my questions. Thank you…Thank you.

  2. Hi Avis
    What an interesting article……it’s always great to see what tips people have to make trade shows easier to do……………love the idea of give away food…..isn’t that the truth people get hungry and need a little pick me up.

    thanks Crispin

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