Trade Show TalesBlog

Posts Tagged ‘tradeshow’

Building a Trade Show Booth: A Professional’s Guide

September 6th, 2023 COMMENTS
Building a Trade Show Booth

Could you build your own trade show booth? Of course. But, let’s be honest. Do you really want to design and build a structure engineered to assemble quickly, pack efficiently, display graphics, and survive shipping? 

That’s not to say you couldn’t do it, but why reinvent the wheel when there are specialized exhibit houses with ten, twenty, or even fifty years of expertise in engineering displays for portable, modular, and entirely custom trade show booths?

If there’s one “truism” in trade show marketing, it’s that experience matters and mistakes are costly. You’ll avoid the most common pitfalls by conducting research online, asking questions early and often, and working with a trade show professional. That professional could be an exhibitor in your industry with years of experience, a local exhibit house, or an exhibit industry consultant who can guide you through the design, build, marketing, training, and lead management process. 

How to Go About Building a Trade Show Booth 

As with any marketing project, your trade show design and build should start with a comprehensive strategy. What are your goals, your budget, and the expected outcome? Your strategy will evolve. It does for everyone. Internal stakeholders, like sales, customer service, research and development, and your senior executive team, will share their distinctive perspectives on what success looks like for them. 

It goes without saying that most organizations want to increase sales and find lucrative clients. Challenge them beyond that. What else represents “success” for the team? Meeting with existing clients, sponsorships at educational sessions at the show, insights about competitors, or even team building. Finally, consider both quantitative and qualitative goals. For example, sales leads could be a quantitative goal. Meeting new people at the show’s opening reception could be a qualitative goal. 

Building a trade show booth is a process. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never participated in a trade show or you’re a seasoned trade show professional. Getting it right takes time and requires the input and expertise of people both within and outside your organization. 

Once you’ve established your goals, you’ll need to decide on a booth size or sizes. The size will depend on the number of shows you plan to participate in this year and whether the size of the booth will vary depending on the show. For example, your industry may have one major exhibition. At that exhibition, you want a REALLY BIG presence. Say a 20 x 30 island. Then, there’s another show three months later, which while important, doesn’t require as large of a booth. In this case, say a 10 x 20 inline. It’s time to make an important decision… which we’ll discuss in the next section. 

Planning Your Exhibition Booth Design & Layout 

It’s time to either surf the web for displays or meet with your exhibit house account executive and designer. Or both. The direction you take may depend on your budget, your knowledge of trade show booths, or your timeframe. Endlessly scrolling through display websites has its benefits. You’ll see a wide range of designs, sizes, and prices, which may narrow down your choices. It may also clarify whether you want to work with an online supplier, a local exhibit house, or a portable/modular distributor. Let’s assume you’ve chosen the second option. 

Your goals, strategy, and budget will serve as the foundation for the design. The exhibit designer will then dive deeper. Often much deeper. The designer will strive to understand your branding, your culture, your current marketing, and your products and services. They also ask about your previous trade show experiences and examples of what others have done that you admire or that make you cringe. They’ll also request a  budget, which can be a specific number or a range. Many exhibit designers won’t even begin the process without a budget. It makes no sense for them to create the perfect $85K booth only to discover your budget is closer to $30K. 

Armed with that information, the designer will get to work. Ideally, the initial booth design will fulfill all the requirements and “Wow!” you, but it’s not unusual to go through several iterations to fine-tune the exhibit design. Once you’ve decided on your design, it’s time to begin the next step – building the booth. 

trade show booth construction materials

Comparing Different Types of Booth Displays 

The expression “You can’t see the forest for the trees” comes to mind. It would be all too easy to get lost in the nuances between different types of booth displays and even between similar displays from multiple manufacturers. Let’s keep this simple. There are four basic types of booth displays. The differences are pretty straightforward.  

Basic Portables

Basic or budget portables are inexpensive displays designed primarily as a carrier for graphics. Think banner stands like the Pronto or a pop-up like the  V-Burst. Generally, they assemble quickly and are designed to ship via UPS or FedEx. Basic portables are not engineered for long-term use and replacement parts can be difficult to obtain. Not surprisingly, quality varies depending on the manufacturer. 

Portable Displays

Like the budget versions described above, portable displays are engineered to assemble quickly and ship via UPS or FedEx. Portable displays, however, are designed to perform for years. Although they’re still primarily graphic carriers, they often include practical accessories like counters, monitor mounts, literature holders, and even iPad mounts. See the Symphony SYK-1023 for a 10 x 10 version and the Sacagawea VK-2114 for a 10 x 20 version. 

exhibition booth design

Modular Exhibits

Modular = Reconfigurable for most exhibitors. There are portable modular displays, modular wall systems, and even custom modular exhibits. In other words, it’s less about budget or price than it’s about the ability to redesign a booth into multiple configurations. For example, The VK-5124 Island has all the necessary hardware for the 10 x 20 VK-2400 and the 10 x 10 VK-1362

Even if you don’t need modularity, there’s a good chance your booth will be built with modular components. That’s convenient for several reasons. Replacement parts are readily available and most labor companies are familiar with modular systems. 

Custom Exhibits

The term “custom” has two meanings in booth design. When someone says, “I would like a custom exhibit,” they usually mean a design unique to them and/or a booth constructed primarily of wood. In reality, custom or customized booths can include everything from a 10 ft. inline to a 125 x 250 ft. double-deck island. While wood construction may be a significant percentage of the construction, it’s just as likely that engineered aluminum walls with tension fabric graphics will be the structure. Either way, it will ship in wood crates and include both fully or partially assembled components.  The VK-1362 10 ft. inline and the VK-4017 20 ft. inline are excellent examples. 

trade show booth construction

Selecting Quality Trade Show Booth Construction Materials 

Wood Construction. Trade show exhibits are more like Hollywood sets than permanent buildings. They’re expected to look amazing but assemble quickly and easily. Wood panels with cam locks and fully assembled counters, workstations, and pedestals are ideal for a truly custom exhibit. 

Aluminum Construction. Lightweight, durable, and versatile aluminum extrusions are the backbone of modern trade show exhibits. Sometimes, they’re visible, but more often they’re the hidden structure for fabric graphics, lightboxes, monitors, shelves, and storage. Modular wall systems, like Gravitee, and LED lightboxes, like SuperNova, are ideal as rental structures. 

Laminates. Thank goodness for laminates. They offer exhibit designers unlimited colors and textures at a fraction of the cost of paint, stains, wood, and metals. 

Tension Fabric Graphics. Fabric graphics, specifically dye-sublimated fabric graphics, are the material of choice for most inline and island exhibits. Need backlighting? Fabric graphics are the best choice. Need a large image with vibrant colors? Choose fabric graphics. Need something lightweight, durable, and nearly indestructible? Yep, fabric graphics are the best choice. 

Direct Print Graphics. Colorful, easy, widely available, and cheap. Direct print graphics are ideal for both smaller prints on counters or pedestals or larger images on modular wall systems. 

Vinyl Graphics. Like direct print graphics, vinyl graphics are colorful and widely available. They’re often used for accent graphics on counters, charging tables, and pedestals, but they can also be practical for larger hard structures where a specific color, pattern, or message is required.  

exhibition booth design

DIY vs. Professional Trade Show Booth Construction 

Whether you want to save money and/or you have the skills necessary to build your exhibit, building your own exhibit may be an option. Before starting, however, it’s important to understand the following:

  1. Does the show have specific regulations regarding the size or format of inline and island exhibits? Most do and the exhibit must conform to those regulations or the show organizer will require the exhibitor to make modifications onsite. If modifications cannot be made, then the exhibitor will not be allowed to install their booth. In those situations, which unfortunately do happen, the exhibitor won’t have a sales presence on the show floor, will still be responsible for all expenses, including paying for their booth space, and will own an exhibit that may not be able to be used at future events. 
  2. Is the booth designed to be shipped in cases or crates, assembled quickly, and durable enough to survive shipping? Display manufacturers have spent the past 50 years engineering structures designed to be lightweight, pack efficiently, and survive trade shows.
  3. Electrical and lighting for trade show exhibits must adhere to very specific guidelines. These guidelines are mandated by the convention center. In most cases, the convention center has a contract with local union electricians which defines what the exhibitor can (and cannot) do on the show floor. 
exhibition booth design

Building a Trade Show Booth with Classic Exhibits! 

The exhibit industry is nothing if not competitive and creative. Over the years, it has evolved to meet the needs of trade show exhibitors for high-quality displays in a wide range of styles, prices, and construction. 

Since 1993, Classic Exhibits has been North America’s leading builder of quality trade show exhibits for professional exhibitors. Browse through 1,500 contemporary displays or request a custom design personalized to your trade show marketing goals. 

Find success on the trade show floor with an exhibit that reflects your marketing message… at a price that will make your CFO giddy. For more information, see  

What is a Trade Show?

July 24th, 2023 COMMENTS
what is a trade show

Have you ever told a colleague, friend, or relative that you’re attending a trade show and they look at you with a puzzled expression? It’s as if they’ve heard the word “trade show” before, but don’t quite know what it means. They may say, “Do you mean like the local RV and boat show or the holiday craft fair?” Yes… and no. 

Trade Show, as a term, is often used interchangeably with other similar words like conventions, exhibitions, conferences, trade fairs, symposiums, and expos. And while they are similar, trade shows, and in particular professional trade shows, have a specific definition.  Oddly enough, a trade show may include a conference, a symposium, and an expo, which only adds to the confusion. Let’s untangle this with both an official definition and a more loosey-goosey definition based on real-life experience.  

What is a Trade Show? 

A trade show is an exhibition organized so that companies in a specific industry can showcase and demonstrate their latest products and services, meet with industry partners and customers, study the activities of rivals, and examine recent market trends and opportunities. Trade shows are typically held in convention centers or hotels, and they can last for a few days or even weeks.

There are trade shows for all sorts of industries, from technology to manufacturing to healthcare. Some of the largest trade shows in the world include the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show, and the International Builders’ Show (IBS).

trade fair

Our Trade Show Definition 

For most companies and attendees, a trade show is an opportunity — both professionally and personally. It’s hard work with long hours and an unofficial vacation. It’s a chance to hang with colleagues, meet industry influencers, and check out the competition. There are educational sessions, keynote speakers, award ceremonies, and receptions. Good food. Bad food. And too much of both. Sore feet and not enough sleep. And the thrill of meeting a new client with a massive order for the right supplier. 

All too often, however, trade show exhibitors and attendees treat a show as a vacation and/or a party. They don’t prepare, don’t plan, don’t create goals. It’s a week away from the office on the company’s dime. And while they may recognize the show as a “sales and marketing” opportunity, they don’t actively prepare for it by engaging in pre-show marketing or contacting existing or potential clients before the show. To them, it’s an event and what happens happens. Hopefully something wonderful, but there’s no way to predict it. 

Those are the exhibitors and the attendees who report back after the show that “it was a waste of time.”  

What is the Purpose of a Trade Show

What is the Purpose of a Trade Show? 

Trade shows are perfect for learning about new products and services, meeting potential customers, and generating sales leads. They can also be a great way to network with other industry professionals.

If you are considering attending a trade show, you’ll need to make sure that the trade show is relevant to your industry. Second, you need to plan your visit carefully. This includes deciding which exhibitors to visit, who you want to meet, and how you want to spend your time. Third, you need to dress professionally and be prepared to network.

Here are five benefits of attending a trade show:

  1. Learn about new products and services: Trade shows are a great way to learn about new products and services available in your industry. You can see demonstrations of new products, talk to the people who make them, and get your hands on samples.
  2. Meet with potential customers and partners: Trade shows are a great way to meet with potential customers and partners. You can introduce yourself to people who are interested in your products or services, and you can learn more about their needs.
  3. Generate leads: Trade shows are a great way to generate leads. You can collect business cards, sign up people for email lists, and schedule follow-up meetings.
  4. Network with other professionals: Trade shows are a great way to network with other professionals in your industry. You can meet people who work for your competitors, suppliers, and customers.
  5. Learn about industry trends: Trade shows are a great way to learn about industry trends. You can hear from experts, attend seminars, and see what other companies are doing.

If you are considering attending a trade show, I encourage you to do your research and find one that is relevant to your industry. With a little planning, you can make the most of your time at the show and come away with valuable insights and contacts.

Exhibition Stand

What Are Trade Shows That I Can Attend? 

There are thousands of trade shows in North America and tens of thousands worldwide. Even the most aggressive exhibitor only attends a fraction of these. In reality, you’ll probably only attend trade shows relevant to your profession or personal interests. 

Before deciding which show to attend, either as an attendee or as an exhibitor, contact friends or colleagues who have gone to the show in the past. They’re the best source of information about whether the trade show would benefit you and/or your company.

There are several search tools for finding shows in North America and Internationally. 

  •  EventsEye – Free source for locating trade shows, exhibitions, and conferences worldwide. 
  • 10 Times – Search by events, venues, companies, and the Top 100 Events worldwide. 
  • The Tradeshow Calendar – Global search engine for B2B trade exhibitions with a strong North American database.
  • EXHIBITOR Calendar – Search by show names, dates, city, country, and attendees/exhibitors.
  • TradeFairDates – In addition to an international trade show search engine, you can also find trade show suppliers.

Tradeshow Exhibit

How to Prepare for Your First Trade Fair, Show, or Exhibition 

Here are some tips on how to prepare for your first trade show:

  • Set goals: What do you hope to achieve by attending the trade show? Do you want to generate leads, make sales, or simply learn about new products and services? Once you know your goals, you can start to develop a plan to achieve them.
  • Choose the right trade show: There are trade shows for all sorts of industries, so it’s important to choose one that’s relevant to your business. You should also consider the size of the trade show, the date and location, and the cost of attendance.
  • Plan your trade show exhibit: Your exhibit is your chance to make a good first impression on potential customers and partners. So make sure it’s well-designed, well-lit, and informative. You should also have plenty of brochures, business cards, and other promotional materials on hand.
  • Create a trade show marketing plan: A trade show marketing plan can help you reach your goals by identifying your target audience, developing a message, and creating a budget. You should also consider using social media, email marketing, and other online channels to promote your trade show participation.
  • Train your staff: Your staff is the face of your company at the trade show, so it’s important to make sure they’re well-trained. They should know your products or services inside and out, and they should be able to answer any questions potential customers may have.
  • Attend pre-show events: Many trade shows offer pre-show events, such as seminars and workshops. These events can be a great way to learn about the latest trends in your industry and network with other professionals.
  • Arrive early: It’s important to arrive early at the trade show so you can set up your booth and get a feel for the layout. This will help you make the most of your time at the show.
  • Be prepared to network: Networking is one of the most important things you can do at a trade show. So make sure you bring plenty of business cards and be prepared to talk to people.
  • Follow up with leads: After the trade show, be sure to follow up with any leads you generated. This could involve sending them an email with more information about your products or services or setting up a meeting to discuss their needs.

what is a trade show

Maximize Trade Show Success with Classic Exhibits! 

If you are new to trade shows, don’t go at it alone. The rules, regulations, and informal information can be daunting and the jargon opaque and confusing. Do your homework whether that’s online articles or blogs or by reading books like Build a Better Trade Show Image or Tradeshow Success. And always work with a trade show professional at an exhibit house or industry consultant. Their expertise will not only save you money over time but also maximize your ROI at each trade show by following proven strategies. 

Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufactures portable, modular, hybrid, and custom exhibit solutions, including Symphony Portable Displays. 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

Visual Guide to Trade Show Success Infographic

October 1st, 2018 COMMENTS

I’m a sucker for a well-designed, informative Infographic. I appreciate the creative artistry and exhaustive research required for the infographic to be successful. Which is why the “Visual Guide to Trade Show Success” from US Event Management caught my attention. 

First, it’s beautifully designed. It’s cohesive yet each section is distinct and there’s a practical north/south flow. On top of that, the information is useful and logically arranged. I especially like the “Questions to Consider” which poses questions every exhibitor should ask themselves. 

Sixteen total tips. Click on the link to Download the Infographic. And our thanks to the folks at US Event Management for creating it. 

–Mel White


Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, hybrid, and custom exhibit solutions, including SuperNova LED Lightboxes. 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

The People’s Almanac of Trade Show Knowledge

April 6th, 2017 COMMENTS


In 1975, David Wallechinsky and his father Irving Wallace published The People’s Almanac. Two more followed — one in 1978 and another in 1981. I bought them all. These were not your grandparent’s Farmer’s Almanacs with weather predictions, quotes, and gardening tips. The TPA was a big fat book with obscure facts, lists, and esoteric information. Reading it made you feel smarter, dangerously so at parties, family gatherings, and bars. If you had any social skills, you quickly learned that a 20-year-old know-it-all isn’t endearing.

Knowledge is NOT the SAME as Expertise

I’m reminded of that all too often. Recently, a distributor asked me an exhibit design question. I’m not a designer, but I feel comfortable answering basic design questions. This question, however, required the expertise and knowledge of 3D exhibit designer.

If I was cocky, I would claim that 20+ years of experience makes me qualified. It doesn’t. I have exhibit design knowledge, but that doesn’t make me an exhibit designer.

Trade show questionsYour Ego, My Ego, the Client’s Ego

We all love working with an informed client about trade shows and trade show marketing. They ask our advice. We give it. Sometimes we state facts. The booth guidelines for an inline space in North America are XYZ. Sometimes we offer opinions. It’s better to hire the Exhibit-Appointed Contractor than the GSC labor. If you are like me, you occasionally wade into information quicksand, and then keep talking until you are way over your head. I would encourage you not to make that mistake. Defer to the experts, like those listed below.

Exhibit Designers

You probably knew I would start with this one. It’s a pet-peeve of mine. Having a pen and a napkin doesn’t make you a designer. It means you can (and should) share your design advice based on your experience. But at some point, you should seek the advice of a professional. That’s why every exhibit house and display builder hires folks who do nothing but design exhibits. They understand current design trends, materials, and accessories. They know how to translate “this is what we do and these are our goals for the show” into a stunning 3D structure.


Now this just seems obvious… but just because you made a bread board in woodshop, it doesn’t make you a carpenter, mill-worker, or electrician. I speak from experience. I see their craftsmanship every day in our shop. We design and detail every project, yet they find ways to improve these projects in both big and small ways.

Show Labor

Whether you chose labor from the GSC or from an Exhibit-Appointed Contractor (EAC), you can be sure the crew has done it at least 1000 times more than you. Not necessarily your exhibit, and sadly not necessarily every laborer. It’s been my experience that they know what they are doing and are amazing at problem solving. You’ll be rewarded if you respect their skill set, provide them with helpful supervision, and don’t freak-out when they take their required breaks. They deserve them.

Trade Show People on the floor

Account Executives and Project Managers

You probably know them the best. They guide you through the exhibit buying experience. They assist you with show regulations, shipping, repairs, and trade show marketing. They are the ones who pester you about the next show, graphic files, collateral, and promotional products. They want you to succeed because then you are happy. When you are happy, you continue to invest in trade shows.

Consultants, Talent, Service Providers

Our industry has a wealth of seasoned professionals with insider knowledge about improving your trade show ROI. There are trade show consultants, booth staff trainers, in-booth presenters, lead capture specialists, A/V gurus, models, international exhibiting experts, etc. The list is vast and the talent impressive. I’ve learned over the years that we can only know so much about trade shows. We do a disservice to our clients when we don’t steer them to someone who has the talent to elevate their trade show return.

trade show freightFreight

No offense, but do you really want to spend time learning about freight and logistics? No you don’t. You want to go to your grave with the least amount of information regarding freight, wait times, LTL, and the Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Find someone who thinks about it on weekends and holidays and offer them your first-born child. Think of it as your contribution to a better world.

Clearly, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to experts in our industry. Graphic designers, detailers, show organizers, etc. all have unique skills acquired through specialized training or on-the-job skills. Too often, we delve into areas best left to those with more knowledge. While it’s flattering to be “the source” for all trade show questions, it’s smarter to be the one “who knows the person who knows.” That’s not something I learned from The People’s Almanac.

–Mel White


The 100-Day “Love It” Guarantee | A Classic Exhibits Exclusive

June 6th, 2016 COMMENTS

100 Day Trade Show Display Guarantee from Classic Exhibits

You’ll Love It — Guaranteed

Don’t like your steak. Send it back. Need a larger shirt. Exchange it. Not the right color. Return it.

There’s not much you can’t return or exchange these days… except a trade show display. Not anymore. Classic Exhibits announces the only 100-Day “Love It” Guarantee in the exhibit industry. Within the first 100 days after receiving your Sacagawea, Perfect 10/20, Quadro, or Quadro FGS Display, you can return it for a refund if you’re not completely satisfied (minus graphics and shipping).

How can Classic Exhibits make this exclusive offer? It’s not like we’re not rolling the dice. We design, engineer, and build the VERY BEST hybrid and pop-up displays. Just ask a Classic Exhibits Distributor.

What’s makes them better?

  • Engineering — Every system, kit, and part is engineered to excel show after show. No excuses.
  • Design — Our award-winning designers sweat the details. Your display is their next performance.
  • Build — We’re proud to be the industry standard for exceptional packaging and quality.

Choose the Sacagawea Portable, Perfect 10/20 Hybrid, Quadro S Pop Up, or Quadro Floating Graphic System. The only display systems with a 100-Day Return Guarantee.

Love at first sight… that lasts and lasts. Now that’s a happy ending.

100 Day Trade Show Display Guarantee from Classic Exhibits

–Mel White


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