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How to Plan Trade Show Booths

How to Plan Trade Show Booths

Stay on track for your next trade show. With our trade show exhibit planning tips and helpful scheduling advice, you’ll be ahead of the game at your big event.

By Daniel Chaddock, president of E&E Exhibit Solutions

Once you’ve selected your trade show schedule and reserved your booth spaces, the real work begins. Whether it’s your first time shopping for trade show displays or you’re planning a display that’s bigger and better than anything you’ve tackled before, designing a booth to meet a deadline takes careful planning.

To begin, start thinking about how you will use your booth at each show. Custom portable exhibits can incorporate many features, including second floors, conference rooms, theater presentations, plasma screens, demo stations, product shelving and storage – and each type of booth requires its own unique timeline. But how do you know when to begin the process?

To help you stay organized and efficient at your next event, we’ve created a timeline that takes the guesswork out of designing custom portable trade show exhibits. With this helpful guide, you’ll know when each step of your production process needs to be completed, helping you ensure your trade show booth comes together without a hitch—and also avoid rush charges and mistakes.

Work backward from the date of your show when you follow this timeline—and whatever you do, don’t wait until the last minute to plan your display.

Three months before the show
If you’re planning an island display, now’s the time to start the trade show exhibit designs, which generally takes four weeks to fine-tune. You don’t need as much time to design 10×20 displays and smaller trade show booths. Two weeks is usually enough time to incorporate an initial consultation, first design and any revisions. If you’re planning to use a standard kit, little design time is necessary and you may skip this step.

Two months before the show
Design should be completed and your trade show exhibits should be in production. However, production times vary for different types and sizes of trade show exhibits. Island displays usually require 30 business days, while 10×20 and smaller trade show booths generally require 15 business days. Pop-up displays can take as little as 10 business days.

While your booth is in production, now is a good time to start the creative design of your trade show graphics. Allow two to three weeks for graphic design, whether you use your own designer or a freelancer. You want plenty of time to revise and approve all graphic design before you send the final files to be printed.

Keep in mind that you’ll be working with very large files that often cannot be e-mailed. Sometimes these files can be uploaded to an FTP site, but some are even too large for that and require mailing a disk. Once the trade show display company receives your graphic files, it will produce a proof to test the color and quality before printing the final files. Proofing and final production of your trade show graphics can take another five to 10 business days, depending on the size of the job.

Three weeks before the show
Production of your trade show booth should be completed. If possible, have your completed display shipped to your exhibit house for previewing. This can take up to five business days for ground shipping, the most economical way to transport your exhibit. We recommend at least a week of preview time, which also allows the exhibit house to properly fit the graphics on your display. You can also take this time to familiarize yourself with your booth before it arrives on the trade show floor.

One week before the show
Time for your trade show booth to be shipped to the show site. Again, make sure you plan five business days for ground shipping—expedited shipping can significantly increase your costs. You’ll also want to check your exhibitor’s manual for any arrival deadlines.

Experienced exhibitors will tell you, successful trade show displays don’t happen overnight. Instead, you’ll need careful planning and forethought to make designing a display go smoothly. So follow this timeline and pay careful attention to your event’s requirements, including deadlines to order booth services. Because when you create a sensational trade show exhibit, all that planning will have been worth every second.

For more assistance, contact a professional trade show company today.

Since 1994, Daniel Chaddock has consulted on effective trade show exhibit designs and use of exhibits for trade show marketing. He is currently President of E&E Exhibit Solutions, a trade show display company with expertise in custom displays, custom portable exhibits and custom modular displays. You can reach Daniel via email to or call 800.709.6935.

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