Trade Show TalesBlog

Posts Tagged ‘Trade show’

Join Us at Connect Marketplace in Milwaukee, WI

July 10th, 2024 COMMENTS

Are you headed to Connect Marketplace 2024 in Milwaukee, WI? We’ll be there too! Look for Classic Exhibits in the show hall. We’ll be featuring a Symphony Portable Display, along with messaging about our private-label services to exhibit and event companies.

To schedule an appointment, contact Mel White, VP of Marketing and Business Development ( Or stop by the booth from August 27-29.

Connect Marketplace 2024

For 30 years, Classic Exhibits has been designing and building creative custom solutions for our Distributor Partners and their clients. As North America’s largest private-label exhibit manufacturer, we have the unmatched capability, capacity, and creativity to create 3D projects ranging from 10 x 10 inline displays to 60 x 80 double-deck islands. 

Find success on the trade show floor with an exhibit that reflects your marketing message. For more information, see and explore Exhibit Design Search or request a meeting with a Classic Distributor Partner.

The Symphony Portable Display Tour

June 24th, 2024 COMMENTS

For years, you asked us to create a Symphony Portable Display Demo… and we resisted. Here’s why:

  • How do we show you the simple tool-less connections?
  • The 8 frame shapes?
  • The 20+ accessories, including 8 portable counters?
  • The reusable packaging, numbered components, and detailed instructions?
  • The SEG engineered aluminum structure?

We can’t. Yet, despite our stubbornness, Symphony has become the most successful new product in Classic’s 30-year history.

You win. We designed a Traveling Symphony Display. Actually two, which are available by request from Gina Porcaro or Harold Mintz. These show how Symphony assembles, how accessories connect, and how the floating graphic attaches. The single and double-sided version packs in one roto-molded case.

Discover why Symphony isn’t just another portable display. It’s The Professional Portable!

Symphony Portable Display Tour

For 30 years, Classic Exhibits has been designing and building creative custom solutions for our Distributor Partners and their clients. As North America’s largest private-label exhibit manufacturer, we have the unmatched capability, capacity, and creativity to create 3D projects ranging from 10 x 10 inline displays to 60 x 80 double-deck islands. 

Find success on the trade show floor with an exhibit that reflects your marketing message. For more information, see and explore Exhibit Design Search or request a meeting with a Classic Distributor Partner.

Trade Show Attire: What Not to Wear

May 28th, 2024 23 COMMENTS

trade show attire

Trade shows are all about making a good impression, so what exhibitors wear matters. However, “What to Wear” is often the last checkbox on their trade show checklist. But it shouldn’t be. More than anything, trade show attire should be a conscious decision, one that mirrors your trade show strategy. It doesn’t matter if it’s formal and conservative, business casual, branded clothing, or thematic (think western wear, beach clothing, or outdoorsy). Leaving that decision to chance rarely goes well for any exhibitor.

Your trade show attire also matters to your staff. They want to know what is expected, not only during the show but also when meeting with clients before and after show hours. That doesn’t mean that everyone will agree, particularly when choosing branded apparel. Not everyone has to wear a polo or khaki pants, but everyone should wear complementary clothing that matches the booth theme or strategy.

The Importance of Professional Trade Show Attire

Your exhibit is part of a comprehensive marketing strategy to maximize your impact at the show. If that strategy doesn’t include a Trade Show Attire component, then you’ve missed a critical opportunity to promote your brand, your culture, and your theme. 

Trade show attire is important for eight key reasons:

  1. First Impressions:  At a trade show, you only have a short window to grab someone’s attention and make a positive impression. Professional attire shows you take your business seriously and are worth talking to.
  2. Brand Image: Your clothing is an extension of your brand. A polished, put-together look reflects well on your company and the products or services you offer.
  3. Credibility and Trust:  People tend to do business with those they perceive as competent and trustworthy. Sloppy or confusing booth attire can undermine that trust and make your company seem less credible.
  4. Building Relationships:  A friendly and approachable demeanor is important at trade shows. The right attire can help project that warmth and openness, making it easier to strike up conversations and build relationships.
  5. Confidence:  Feeling polished and put-together can do wonders for your confidence level. When you look good, you feel good, which translates into a more outgoing and engaging presence at the show. This can be especially helpful for overcoming nerves or shyness in these fast-paced environments.
  6. Team Cohesion:  A coordinated team look (even if it’s not identical outfits) can create a sense of unity and professionalism. This can be particularly impactful for smaller businesses trying to establish themselves.
  7. Safety and Functionality:  Depending on the trade show and your role, certain attire choices might be more practical. Closed-toe shoes are ideal for navigating crowded spaces and protecting your feet. Avoid loose clothing or dangling jewelry that could get caught on displays or equipment.
  8. Standing Out (Strategically):  While dressing professionally is key, a touch of strategic individuality can help you stand out in a positive way. This could be a pop of color in your accessories, a unique name tag design, or a conversation starter piece incorporated into your outfit.

What Not to Wear to a Trade Show 

Navigating the Do’s and Don’ts of trade show attire can be confusing. But you don’t have to be a member of the exhibition fashion police to spot these trade show faux pas. Wear what you want if you’re an attendee, but as an exhibitor, you may want to consider these practical, time-tested suggestions.


Rule #1 – You want to look your best, so you buy new shoes. Who hasn’t made this mistake? They look great, but by 2 pm on Day 1, all you can think about is how much your feet are throbbing in pain. By Day 3, your blisters have blisters.

Rule #2 – There’s a balance between attractive and professional and casual and comfortable. Find that balance. Even if you have carpet and padding in your booth, you are probably not used to standing for hours and walking on concrete floors.

Rule #3 – Take a little initiative and shine those puppies. Or at least get them shined at the airport while you’re waiting for your plane. It’s cheap even with a generous tip.

Rule #4 – The belt is supposed to match the shoes guys! A brown belt with black shoes? Your mother would be appalled. Socks should match too.

Slacks, Dresses, Blouses, and Skirts

We all pretend we haven’t gained weight. But we have. Don’t wait until 7 am on the first day of the show to discover your clothing doesn’t fit. Unless I missed something important in Biology class, blood flow is important. Buttons and zippers are amazingly strong, but even they will eventually cry “Uncle!” – often at the most inappropriate times. Tip: If you feel the need to make “discrete” adjustments more than twice a day, you are probably wearing the wrong size.


Rule #1 – Anything you would wear to the beach, yoga class, house painting, hunting, jogging, fishing, or a play date with your toddler on a rainy day in the park is probably inappropriate. Obviously, there are exceptions, depending on your business model. However, professional does not mean formal. Dress like you are the distant relatives of the wedding couple, not the couple themselves. In general, it’s a good rule to dress at least one step above the trade show attendees.

Rule #2 – Here’s the easy way to decide on logo corporate apparel. If it looks great at a college basketball game, it looks silly at a trade show. I don’t care if it’s the latest high-tech, super-duper sweat-wicking material. There’s nothing wrong with corporate apparel. Most companies will have their employees in shirts, sweaters, blouses, etc. with the company logo but there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. Tasteful, subtle, and clever will attract more attention than garish.

Rule #3 – When you shop for corporate apparel, resist the urge to go cheap. I know. You are only wearing it for three days so why pay more? Because cheap clothing looks cheap and it looks even cheaper when embroidered. Plus, you want your staff to be comfortable and confident. Nothing undermines that more than ill-fitting, tight, baggy, or translucent clothing.

Rule #4 – Men’s clothing is designed for men. Women’s clothing is designed for women. Don’t buy men’s polo shirts, t-shirts, sweaters, and vests and give them to women. They will hate you for that and will refuse to wear it. I know. I made that mistake and am still hearing about it.

There are exceptions to every rule, but in general, just remember there’s a reason why Fortune 500 executives don’t wear golf shirts and skinny jeans to negotiate multi-million-dollar deals.


Do you remember the dirt cloud that surrounded Pigpen in the Peanuts cartoon? We all know people who douse themselves in a scent cloud. Scents should be alluring or soothing. They are less effective when they elicit migraines or seizures in others, Tip: Some advice on how much to apply – use no more than one free sample from the magazine.


Wear what you want. There are no rules, just a word of caution. Expensive, heirloom, or bulky jewelry may not be the best choice. Trade shows are all about handshakes, hugs, and distractions, all in an unfamiliar location where jewelry can get lost, damaged, or stolen.


Finally, whether male or female, pockets are a must. As an exhibitor, you need pockets for business cards, pens, trinkets, breath mints, etc. I’m not talking about a safari jacket with 37 pockets, but wearing a jacket, slacks, or skirt with pockets will make your life much easier in the booth.

what to wear to a trade show

What to Wear to a Conference vs a Trade Show

Before diving into “What to Wear to a Conference,” let’s review the difference between a typical conference vs. a trade show. First of all, it’s not black and white. Either one can include the other. However, in general:


  • Conferences: Focus on information exchange and professional development. They feature keynote speeches, workshops, panel discussions, and presentations on industry trends, research, and best practices.
  • Trade Shows: Primarily about showcasing products and services to potential customers and building business relationships. They feature booths from companies, product demonstrations, and opportunities to network with industry professionals.



  • Conferences: The desired outcome is for attendees to gain knowledge, new skills, and valuable connections within their field.
  • Trade Shows: The goal is to generate leads and sales, and establish business partnerships.


Think of a conference as a classroom where you learn from experts, and a trade show as a marketplace where you explore different vendors and potentially make purchases.

As discussed before, your trade show attire as an exhibitor may be dictated by your company’s trade show marketing strategy. It can change from show to show depending on the audience, but it’s generally prescriptive for everyone. 

At a conference, particularly as an attendee vs. a presenter, what you wear will depend on four factors:

The Show
Expectations of what to wear vary depending on the industry and the conference. For example, the ALA’s Annual Conference (Association of Legal Administrators) may have a more formal dress code expectation, whereas The Car Wash Show Show and Conference may have a more informal vibe. Even at casual conferences, like the Experiential Designers and Producers Association annual event, there’s a black tie/dress event on the last night. There are also shows where a specific uniform is appropriate, such as military shows. 

Your Company’s Clothing Guidelines
What you wear at a conference may not always be your choice. Your company or organization may prefer you wear business or business casual. Or logo wear. If you are unsure what to wear, check with the show organizer and your executive team.  

Your Style and or Cultural Preference
What you wear at the conference may come down to your personal preference. It can be as simple as that. However, your personal preference may be dictated by cultural norms regarding dress both for men and women. For example, West African women attending a conference may wear a pagne, a colorful wraparound skirt. An  Indonesian male may choose to wear a batik shirt with short sleeves considered informal and long sleeves more formal. 

The Events at the Show 
Even at casual conferences, like the Experiential Designers and Producers Association annual event, there’s a black tie/dress event on the last night. What’s appropriate at the educational sessions or the speaker events may be different from the meals and receptions. Again, when in doubt, ask a colleague who has attended before or contact the show organizer. 

trade show dress code

Creating Your Own Team Trade Show Dress Code or Guidelines 

So, what’s the most important thing to consider when drafting/creating your trade show dress code or guidelines? That’s easy! The people who will be attending the trade show and staffing the booth. Yes, there’s a lot more to consider, which we’ll detail below, but all that doesn’t matter if your team isn’t on board with the decision of what to wear. They have to be comfortable and confident and buy into your trade show goals and strategy. If not, then it’s a bit like dressing a six-year-old for the first day of class. If the child is unhappy, then it makes for a miserable day… for everyone. However, unlike a six-year-old, you have a much better chance of presenting the options if there’s a clear and thoughtful strategy. 

When drafting your dress code or guidelines, consider the following: 

Your Graphic Theme, Corporate Culture, and Experiential Objectives
While those are a lot to consider, all three should be the foundation of your decision. Participating in a trade show isn’t an excuse for a vacation. It’s a business event with a purpose and a goal (typically to increase sales). Treat it with the same attention to detail you would invest in creating/reviewing an annual budget. It’s that important. 

Level of Formality:
Industry-standard: Is your industry typically formal (suits), business professional (dress pants and blazers), or business casual (slacks and collared shirts)? 

Comfort and Practicality:
Trade shows involve a lot of standing and walking. Ensure footwear is comfortable and clothes allow for movement. Consider the climate and venue. Will it be hot and crowded, or cool and air-conditioned?

Branding and Professionalism:
Make sure attire reflects your company’s brand image. For example, a tech startup might have a more relaxed dress code than a financial services firm. Clothes should be clean, ironed, and wrinkle-resistant.

Additional considerations:

Company Logo: Will employees wear logo shirts or branded accessories? If so, consider appropriate logo wear specifically designed for women and men. 

Cultural Sensitivity: Be mindful of cultural norms around dress code, especially for international events.

Feedback and Fashion Faux Pas from the Floor

Let’s be honest. Everyone has their own opinions about trade show attire dos and don’ts. And those opinions are evolving in a post-pandemic environment. However, the basics still ring true. Clean, comfortable, and appropriate shoes are a must. Unisex clothing rarely gets rave reviews from the trade show staff. And when it comes to jewelry and cologne, a little goes a long way. One final piece of advice (from experience). Don’t forget to bring a belt. Having to purchase a $145 belt from a designer store in a Vegas casino is a painful lesson.  

My sincere thanks to the fashion-forward exhibitors for their suggestions, some of which cannot be printed without an R or X rating. Suffice to say that the term “athletic wear” was a contentious topic.

What did we miss? Add your “What Not to Wear” suggestions and comments. 

For 30 years, Classic Exhibits has been designing and building creative custom solutions for our Distributor Partners and their clients. As the largest private-label exhibit manufacturer in North America, we have the unmatched capability, capacity, and creativity to create 3D projects ranging from 10 x 10 inline displays to 60 x 80 double-deck islands. 

Find success on the trade show floor with an exhibit that reflects your marketing message. For more information, see and explore Exhibit Design Search or request a meeting with a Classic Distributor Partner.

What did we miss? Add your “What Not to Wear” suggestions and comments .

–Mel White

Additional Articles:

What Smells? The Top 10 Trade Show Odors
Love on Aisle #600 — Trade Shows and Events
Trade Shows as First Dates

Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or


Exploring Your Modular Trade Show Booth Options

January 22nd, 2024 COMMENTS
Modular Trade Show Booth

The trade show exhibit industry loves the word “modular.” And specifically, the phrase “modular trade show booth (or exhibit).” It’s a flexible term (pun intended), which can describe a $3000 portable inline display or a $300,000 custom island exhibit. Both are technically modular since they can be built using modular components or designed to reconfigure to another size or shape. 

In other words, modular, as a feature and/or a benefit, depends on the context. Understanding the context is important when shopping for an exhibit and knowing what questions to ask the display provider – whether you’re shopping on a display website or meeting face-to-face with a local exhibit house. 

Modular Trade Show Booth Options: An Overview

While modular exhibit designs have always been popular, more exhibitors are requesting modularity as one of their purchase requirements because of tight marketing budgets and rising trade show costs. They need solutions that offer more “bang for the buck.” This typically comes down to two things:  1. The ability to expand or contract a display depending on the show and 2. The ability to pack and assemble a display quickly and efficiently using a catalog of interchangeable and replaceable components.   

Ask yourself, how much modularity do you really want? If all you really want is a 20 ft. inline display that configures down to a 10 ft. display . . . that’s easy. There are lots of choices from basic to boffo. However, if your goal is to transform a 20 x 30 island into a  20 x 20 island, a 10 x 20 inline, a 10 x 10 inline, and a tabletop display, then it gets considerably more complicated.

There are multiple ways to achieve that goal. The end result, however, may resemble a hippo-elephant-donkey-cat. And, if you’ve ever spent any time breaking down an exhibit at the end of a show, you know that the best-laid plans of organizing all those parts and pieces for the next “smaller” show is often sacrificed to make your 7:15 p.m. flight.

modular trade show examples

Understanding the Modular Definition in the Context of Trade Shows

Let’s consider modular from a different perspective — portable modular vs custom modular. In case you didn’t know, a portable trade show display can ship via UPS or FedEx. A portable modular display typically has more features than just a portable exhibit, such as modular counters, monitors, shelves, workstations, backlighting, etc. In other words, it’s more than just one big graphic.

A custom modular gets a little trickier depending if the emphasis is on “custom” or “modular.” Modular exhibit builders are often taking modular components and putting them on steroids. The parts may be bigger, fancier, and generally packed in small wood crates or roto-molded tubs. Each component tends to be lightweight to save on shipping but there may be lots of components. Custom builders are taking large custom components and either breaking them into smaller components or rearranging them to work in multiple pre-configured displays. Generally, there are more shipping crates, but the assembly time may be reduced. It will cost more to ship it, but you may save time on installation and dismantling.

The Advantages of Choosing a Modular Booth

Modular trade show displays are a popular choice for exhibitors whether they’re newbies to trade shows or exhibition veterans. Here are some of the advantages and benefits:

1. Versatility and Flexibility:

Mix and match components:  Modular trade show booths are often constructed using interchangeable components, like panels, shelves, and counters. These components can be reconfigured to create customized layouts depending on the show. This flexibility offers exhibitors the ability to tailor their brand and budget to specific trade shows. 

For example, one show may necessitate lounges and meeting spaces to interact with attendees while another show may prioritize interactive gaming or product demos. Modular design allows exhibitors to shift their marketing depending on their audience. 

2. Cost-Effectiveness:

Long-term investment:  Modular displays are generally more affordable over the long term since the designs are not configuration or size-specific.  The reusability of the components means greater cost savings in the long run. 

Reduced shipping and storage costs: The lightweight and compact packaging of modular components makes them cheaper to ship and store compared to bulky booths.

3. Ease of Use:

Simple assembly and disassembly: Modular displays are designed for quick and easy setup and takedown, often without requiring professional help. This saves you time and money on installation and dismantling at trade shows. 

Freight: The lightweight components make them easy to transport, reducing shipping costs and hassle.

4. Sustainability:

Reusable components: You can reuse the same modular components for multiple events, minimizing waste and environmental impact.

Durable materials:  Modular displays are typically made from high-quality, durable materials that can withstand repeated use and transportation.

5. Contemporary  Designs:

Modern and sleek aesthetics: Modular displays offer a clean and contemporary look that can make your booth stand out from the crowd.

Customization options:  Many modular systems offer a variety of graphic panels, lighting options, and accessories to personalize your display and reflect your brand identity.

Overall, modular trade show displays offer a versatile, cost-effective, and easy-to-use solution for businesses of all sizes to make a big impact at trade shows and events.

Innovative Designs in Modular Displays

Below are examples of innovative modular trade show booths. But this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to modular design. Browse through Exhibit Design Search, a comprehensive database of over 1500 exhibit designs. But don’t stop there. Most displays can be modular if the exhibit designer understands your requirements. 

Portable Modular | SYK-1002 and SYK-2002 

modular booth

These Symphony Portable Display fraternal twins offer multiple benefits. Not only can exhibitors easily switch between 10 ft. and 20 ft. inlines, but they also allow two slightly different 10 ft. designs. In addition, the Symphony’s modular components means they can add accessories like literature trays, iPad enclosures, and counters as their marketing needs evolve. Plus, it packs in flat-pack cases for convenient shipping. 

Hybrid Modular | VK-1362, VK-2400, and VK-5124

modular displays

Like Portable Modulars, Hybrid Modulars are often portable, but not always. This design series, with 10 ft., 20 ft., and island configurations, offers roto-molded cases for the inline versions but the option of a wood crate for the island. The assembly is similar to the Symphony mentioned before, meaning largely tool-free, so installation is easy. The overhead sign for the 20 x 20 island elevates the overall design will ensuring visibility throughout the show hall. 

Sustainable Modular | ECO-1118, ECO-2118, and ECO-4118

modular trade show booths

Modern eco-friendly exhibits are popular as exhibitors blend their trade show marketing with their corporate sustainable initiatives. These contemporary ecoSmart designs make it simple to shift from an upscale inline to a beautiful 20 x 20 island. The features multiple product shelves, large graphic options, and an open, welcoming architecture. There are even iPad enclosures for client engagement. The 10 ft. starts with 

Custom Modular | VK-1367, VK-4046, and VK-5195

Modular definition

When it comes to customization and modularity, these three designs are like peanut butter and jelly. Perfect apart and together. The 10 ft. starts with a large lightbox and shelving. Then the 20 ft. expands on it with the addition of a locking closet and reception bar with locking storage. Finally, the island takes it to the next level with more shelving, more storage, and three casual meeting spaces.  

BTW – Custom Modular doesn’t happen by accident. Exhibit designers are experts at creating inline and island versions when those requirements are shared during the pre-design intake meetings. Exhibits, unlike a loaf of bread, are typically not sliceable after the fact. 

Modular Office Pods: A New Trend in Trade Shows

Modular Office Pods are a recent development for trade shows, events, sales meetings, or vendor conferences. The advent of modular wall systems, like the Gravitee One-Step, makes creating temporary private or semi-private meeting rooms much easier. These meeting pods incorporate large format graphics, locking doors, and accessories like monitor mounts, counters, literature trays, and shelving. 

Features Include:

  • Aluminum Extrusion Modular Wall Panels
  • No Tools. No Loose Parts Assembly
  • Double-sided Graphic Options (interior/exterior)
  • SEG Fabric or Direct Print Graphics
  • Flat and Curved Panels
  • Full-size Locking Door
  • Available for Purchase or Rental
  • Accessorize with Shelves, Charging Tables, Counters, iPad Kiosks, and Storage Pedestals

modular accessories for trade shows

Maximizing Your Trade Show Impact with Modular Trade Show Booths

Modular is more than a recent buzzword. It’s a fresh take on exhibit design. Classic Exhibits has hundreds of modular designs for purchase or to rent. And each can be customized to fit an exhibitor’s unique marketing goals. Just ask. 

For over 30 years, Classic Exhibits has been a reliable source of expertise for new and seasoned trade show marketers. The Classic Exhibits Distributor Network includes over 200 North American exhibit houses and display professionals. Find success on the trade show floor with an exhibit that reflects your marketing message. For more information, see and explore Exhibit Design Search or request a meeting with a Classic Distributor Partner.

Your Complete Trade Show Checklist

November 16th, 2023 COMMENTS
Trade Show Checklist

You’re either a planner by choice or a planner by necessity. Or you “wing it.” We’ll ignore the “wing it” group since they probably clicked to “5 Easy Steps to Trade Show Success” once they read the word “planner.”  

When it comes to trade shows, someone has to be the master planner. They don’t have to make every decision, but they do have to own the list, including additions, revisions, and due dates. In other words, someone has to be the adult about your trade show planning

So why keep a trade show checklist? Trade shows are expensive, often as much as 30-40% of a company’s annual marketing budget, and trade show costs keep rising as freight, labor, travel, and show services increase often at double-digit rates.

The person who manages the Trade Show Checklist will be able to maximize your budget by ensuring the timely booking of travel, lodging, freight, and promotional materials and the completion of show forms during the less expensive early bird dates. Honestly, it’s a thankless job, but one that’s just as important as the creative, sales, and marketing tasks required for a successful trade show program.  

Why You Need a Trade Show Checklist

Start by searching the internet for a “trade show checklist.”  There’s no shortage of examples. Some are free. Others have a cost. None are identical, because no shows, companies, or individuals are identical. Ideally, create your own or ask your exhibit house if they have a template. 

The person who manages the Trade Show Checklist will be able to maximize your budget by ensuring the timely booking of travel, lodging, freight, and promotional materials and the completion of show forms during the less expensive early bird dates. Honestly, it’s a thankless job, but one that’s just as important as the creative, sales, and marketing tasks required for a successful trade show program.

The checklist also ensures nothing gets forgotten or overlooked. Which can and will happen to new exhibitors. There are big “Oh No’s!” like not scheduling freight to and from the show, booking labor to install and disassemble your exhibit, and forgetting to purchase flooring. Those can be expensive to purchase at the last minute. Then there are the “Oh Darn!” tasks like not including cleaning supplies in the case/crate, sending literature at the last minute, or not ordering lead retrieval until you arrive at the show. They’re annoying but not catastrophic. 

Finally, trade shows are stressful and stress is the exact opposite of what you want before, during, and after a show. Admittedly, checklists are not stress-free since it’s all about completing tasks (which often require the assistance of others) and completing them on time and with accuracy. With each passing show, trade show checklist management becomes easier – and it’s not because the number of tasks gets shorter. The list often gets longer. Knowledge and experience make the job easier. Completing the electrical form, which gave you hives, takes minutes instead of hours. And, after a few hiccups, you understand when to schedule I&D labor vs. rigging vs. flooring. You’ve done the trade show choreography and every move, every step has a logic that seemed utterly random before. 

trade show checklist

Detailed Trade Show Planning Checklist: Preparing the Logistics

In reality, you need both a budget template (shown below) and a checklist. And while they serve two different purposes, managing costs vs. managing tasks, there’s considerable overlap. 

trade show exhibitor checklist

Your budget template can serve as your preliminary checklist, but eventually, your checklist will be longer and will include dates, names, and other details. Some companies already use designated project management software like Asana, but in reality, Excel or even Outlook are sufficient in the beginning. 

Trade Show Exhibitor Checklist: Assembling Your Exhibit & Team

Start by identifying the departments and individuals who should “own” elements of the trade show program. It’s more than just Marketing. Sales, Product Development, Customer Service, Shipping, and Accounting/Finance all have roles and responsibilities in successful trade show programs. Successful trade show marketing requires a broad-based commitment in the company, including (and especially) from Senior Management. 

In most cases, you’ll be working with an exhibit house partner on your trade show marketing strategy, exhibit design and build, freight, and storage. Their knowledge is invaluable as a resource. They may even have a generic trade show checklist available for you to use. 

Some of the preliminary items on your checklist should include

  1. Exhibition goals and strategy
  2. Budget
  3. Departmental responsibilities 
  4. Show date(s) and due dates for ordering services
  5. Exhibit design meeting(s)
  6. Graphic design meeting(s)
  7. Identifying booth staffing and responsibilities
  8. Booking travel and lodging
  9. Creating pre-show, show, and post-show marketing/sales plan, including sponsorships, mailings, invitations, and in-booth events and activities
  10. Designing and ordering promotional materials and giveaways
  11. Scheduling freight to and from the show
trade show planning checklist

11 Must have Trade Show Setup Supplies 

Trade shows are a delicate balance between order and chaos. Here’s a list of 11 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 for “Empty Crate” labels and for boxes during repacking
  8. Steamer to remove wrinkles from fabric graphics 
  9. Lint Roller
  10. Vacuum after installation and before the show opens. This saves on cleaning and is faster so you don’t have to wait for the GSC cleaning services.
  11. Small Toolbox with basic tools like screwdrivers, boxcutter, allen wrenches, measuring tape, and anything else essential to your display assembly. 

8 Personal Tips and/or Supplies for Any Exhibitor

  1. Comfortable (not new) Shoes. 
  2. Belt (if you’ve ever had to buy a belt in a casino shop, you know why you don’t want to forget it).
  3. Your “Go To” Pain Medication.
  4. Laptop, Phone, Tablet Charging Cords.
  5. Plastic Dry Cleaning Bags for Your Already Clean and Pressed Clothing. 
  6. Early Morning/Late Night Snacks
  7. Breath Mints (for you and close friends)
  8. Business Cards (yes, at least a few, for those moments when only a business card will do). 

Additional Tips for a Successful Trade Show

Trade show marketing is marketing… but a specialized form of marketing. Expertise takes time. A healthy mix of personal experience, professional advice from exhibition experts, and online resources can significantly shorten the learning curve. 

In order to make the most of your investment, it’s important to be prepared and have a plan in place. Here are some tips for a successful trade show:

1. Set clear goals and objectives. What do you hope to achieve at the trade show? Are you looking to generate leads, increase brand awareness, or launch a new product? Having clear goals will help you measure your success and make sure your efforts are aligned.

2. Choose the right trade show. There are hundreds of trade shows held each year, so it’s important to choose one that is relevant to your target audience. Research different trade shows to find one that is a good fit for your industry, size, and budget.

3. Develop a strong marketing and promotional plan. Let people know you’ll be at the trade show and what you have to offer. Use social media, email marketing, and press releases to generate interest.

4. Create a visually appealing and functional booth. Your booth is your home away from home at the trade show, so make sure it’s a good representation of your brand. Use bright colors, eye-catching graphics, and clear signage. Make sure your booth is staffed with knowledgeable and friendly representatives who can answer questions and provide information about your products or services.

5. Prepare a sales pitch. You’ll have a limited amount of time to talk to potential customers, so make sure you have a clear and concise sales pitch. Practice your pitch beforehand so you can deliver it confidently.

6. Follow up after the show. Don’t let your leads go cold! Follow up with potential customers within a few days of the trade show to thank them for their interest and schedule a follow-up meeting or call.

vendor booth checklist

Classic Exhibits is Here to Help with Your Trade Show Checklist!

For over 30 years, Classic Exhibits has specialized in trade show exhibit design, manufacturing, and exhibition marketing. That expertise comes with an obligation to educate new exhibitors and guide them toward best practices, like careful budgeting and detailed checklists. Success at a trade show isn’t haphazard or random. It happens when exhibitors have a clear strategy and execute it with discipline and precision. 

Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufactures portable, modular, hybrid, and custom exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or