12 Tips for Setting-Up a Tradeshow Booth!


We at Nunn Design are thick into show season. I thought it would be “fun” for you to experience what it is like to do a wholesale tradeshow. Like childbirth, tradeshows are one of those things that are hard to know how much work they are going to be until you actually do one.

Before I go into the 12 tips on setting-up a tradeshow booth, I want to acknowledge that there will be a lot of steps prior to setting-up. Here is a rough outline of the decisions you will need to make when deciding to do a tradeshow.

First, Some Decisions…

  1. Which show are you interested in attending?
    • Research
    • Apply
  2. Once you have selected your desired tradeshow, create a budget of all the costs associated. Is this going to be financially possible for you? Or are there better marketing avenues that are more in your budget?
  3. If the answer is yes – this is financially possible, then continue on with the application and set-up process on the tradeshow website. Some items are time sensitive and cost more if you delay. Fill out the forms for items such as:
    • Electrical
    • Carpet/Tables/Trash Can (yes, some shows charge for the trash can!)
    • Shipping
  4. Book your airline flight/hotel/rental car or shuttle
  5. Will you need a fire retardant certificate for any fabric in your booth? (Best to know, because it is a drag to find out from the fire marshal on the tradeshow floor!).
  6. Proof of insurance? Does the show require it?
  7. Design your tradeshow booth
  8. Ship your tradeshow booth to the show/material handling fees
  9. Arrive at the show/register
  10. Set up your tradeshow booth
  11. Selling in your tradeshow booth/marketing supplies
  12. Breaking down and shipping home your tradeshow booth
  13. Leads/follow-up
  14. Tracking your success

A lot to decide and do, isn’t there? Let’s now focus on step 10, setting up your tradeshow booth.

12 Tips for Setting Up a Tradeshow Booth.


1. Track your tradeshow booth shipment.

Before I even arrive at the tradeshow, we have been tracking our shipment with our carrier to make sure that the boxes will arrive on time. I have found that this reduces my stress level. I’d rather go onto the show floor for set-up knowing as opposed to being surprised that my shipment isn’t there. Always print our your tracking information so that if it isn’t there, you have it to easily access.

2. Double check that all your boxes arrived.

For my last tradeshow, I was missing one box. I immediately tracked the missing package to see if it was still out for delivery or if it had been accepted and not delivered to my booth. Luckily, it was still out for delivery and arrived within hours. If your carrier states that they have delivered all your boxes and you are missing one, notify the show management right away so they can start the process of locating it.


3. Tape a box cutter to the inside flap of box 1.

I often travel without checking bags, so having a box cutter sent is best for us.


4. Fabric curtains and table skirts are lightweight and easy to pack and set-up.

For our booth, we hang our own curtains and have table skirts that were made to fit the dimensions of the standard tradeshow table rentals. For the curtains, we have 12 panels of sewn muslin fabric with brass grommets on the top. I created hooks out of wire and spray painted them gold. They are getting fairly worn, but they are high up and no one can see them.


5. Tape your hooks to keep them from getting tangled.

This is a tip that I highly recommend. All the hooks in a bag can become a total jumble and will take forever to untangle. This is totally geeky, but I’m really proud of this simple tip!!!


6. Turn the spout of the steamer away from the booth while heating up.

Once the curtains and table skirts are hung, it is time to steam!! Always make sure that your steamer is facing out into the isle when it is warming up. I had the steamer spray all over the place several times…and that water is HOT!


7. When designing your space, think about box storage.

Our show supplies are shipped in 20 x 20 x 20 boxes. This size fits perfectly under the table, allowing us to store the boxes in our booth. If they won’t fit, you will need to request empty stickers and have your boxes stored. This can be a real drag because it can take forever to get your boxes back at the end of a show!!!


8. Don’t forget the floor! Bring double-sided tape to make it safe!

If you are bringing your own carpet, make sure to bring double-sided tape and make sure that all of your flaps are secure. I have had people trip and that is a scary.


9. Signage and lighting.

Signage: Next, we are ready for the signage. We use 4 wooden frames with the glass removed for our graphic (well actually, the glass broke over the years so we just removed it. It is much better without glass anyway because of the reflection of light from all the surrounding booths). Our 4 frames hang from velvet ribbon. The ribbon allows me to adjust the length up and down depending on the various tradeshows. Silly things like these give me great pleasure because it is efficient. See, my inner geek is really coming out here!

Lighting: We also travel with these vintage gooseneck lamps. Because the lamp’s “neck” is bendable and adjustable, they are super easy to pack. We always ship with our light bulbs stored in an extra box (with EXTRA bulbs!) and test our lights each time we pack our show supplies. We also include a power strip and an extension cord so I can plug everything in under the table. Make sure to put your power strip in an easy place so you can turn all of the lights off with just flick of one switch.


10. Set-up the biggest props first.

I always set-up my biggest props first to set-up a foundation of balance. Little props then are accents.


11. Let your displays tell a story!

I try to set-up my displays to tell a story. Maybe the story is based on a technique or a style, such as boho-chic. Make a statement with providing multiple examples.

12. Make sure you are ready to sell!

Before the show starts, make sure your catalogues are easy to access. Also, be sure to double check that you have ready pens, order forms (on a clipboard for easy writing), a stapler and a calculator. Let the show begin!

And there have it. You are all set-up and ready to sell.

Did we miss anything?

Did we leave anything important out? Do you have any tried and true steps or methods? Please tell us in the comments.

Be Inspired!

Be inspired by these tradeshow booth snap-shots that I took recently at CHA.


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6 thoughts on “12 Tips for Setting-Up a Tradeshow Booth!

  1. Julene says:

    Thanks Becky for sharing all this insider information! I’m in the process of thinking about doing a trade show and this is great information. How many people usually work the booth? How many catalogs do you bring?

    • beckynunn says:

      Great questions.
      1. How many people usually work the booth? Typically we sell wholesale only and write orders. In those cases, I work the booth solo. I bring snacks, water and lunch. Often my neighbors or customers will ask if I need a break to use the restroom. People are always more than happy to help out.
      2. I bring 100-150 catalogues depending on the show. I often use the catalogues to write from, so they are a great selling tool.


  2. kathay says:

    Three more items in setting up for a trade show….1. make sure you have enough money to give change before the show….2. try to have another person with you for bathroom breaks etc…..3. have business cards….and dress nicely or within theme….

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