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Trade Show Best Practices: 5 Tips You Can’t Afford to Ignore

Before the Show
How far in advance should I plan for my trade show?

The earlier you begin planning for your show, the better. Remember, there is a long list of deadlines and obligations to follow before the show, as well as options to consider, vendors to contact, and services to set up for show day. While a successful exhibit is achievable with 3-4 months of planning, the best exhibits have been planned out for 8-12 months before the show. Don’t forget – the early bird catches the worm! With more time to execute a stellar booth, reserve a prime booth space, and explore the stylistic and logistic options available to you, come show time, your company will shine on the expo floor.


Is outsourcing my trade show project management right for me?

While outsourcing your trade show management is a great way to stay organized in the pre-show planning stages, it isn’t for everyone. When researching potential trade show companies, see that you find a project manager who is organized and skilled in tracking your budget. An exemplary project manager will build a trusting relationship with you and will keep you informed on available trade show discounts. Remember, with confusing terms, figures, and services, flying solo as a trade show rookie puts your company at risk of blowing the budget and losing money.


What are some “hidden costs” that I should be aware of before exhibiting?

Exhibitors are often caught off-guard by the hidden show fees that seem to appear out of thin air. These fees are non-negotiable and are often regarded as “unspoken” costs that can be easily identified by veteran exhibitors. For the rookies, though, hidden costs that go unaccounted for can easily break the bank and leave the exhibitor feeling discouraged as a whole.

When creating your budget, keep these fees in mind (and remember to give a buffer to allow for fluctuation):

  • Labor – hourly pay begins when the labor crew arrives, NOT when the crew begins working on the booth. Schedule labor carefully, and account for both set-up and dismount hours.
  • Shipping – As with all packages, shipping costs fluctuate based on size and weight. Consolidate shipments as effectively as possible.
  • Drayage – A.K.A. material handling, or the most money you will ever pay to have your booth moved from one side of a show floor to the other. Drayage is non-negotiable and is calculated based on weight, size, and number of shipments (another good reason to consolidate your materials!)


At the Show
What types of booth designs attract the greatest traffic?

Often times, exhibitors believe that “bigger” automatically equals “better”. That is simply not true. While a larger or taller booth is more visible from across the floor, the design of the booth holds much greater importance. Your exhibit leaves an impression on every attendee that visits it, and a poorly designed booth is sure to be remembered (as is a remarkably designed one).

When designing, focus less on the size, and more on the layout. Do your colors represent your branding accurately? If so, are those colors welcoming? What about the booth itself – is the atmosphere one that encourages visitors? Symmetry and warm lighting are aesthetically pleasing elements that prove to draw people towards exhibits. Remember, the more time you allow for planning, the more design options are available to choose from.


After the Show
I finished my trade show…now what?

Congrats! You’ve made it…almost. That’s right, there’s still work to be done even after the show has ended. According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (, a whopping “79% of leads are not contacted after the show”. Failure to plan properly often translates into a loss of leads, and a loss of leads equates to a loss of the investment put into exhibiting. Before attending a show, devise a plan with your company’s sales team on fostering the leads obtained at the show. Don’t forget about the people you met at the show and the contacts you received; the leads that are fostered properly will turn into relationships built on mutual trust and respect. Whether you are a trade show rookie or an experienced exhibitor, following these trade show best practices will aid in a successful show.


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