Trade Show Set Up Secrets – Make it Easier!


Multi Quad 20×20 Island Trade Show Booth

Setting up your exhibit can be one of the most challenging aspects of working a trade show. There are myriad problems to deal with, people to corral, packages to wrangle and frustrations aplenty. I thought it would be a good idea to revisit some of the ways you can make this part of your job a little less hair raising and hectic.

Let’s start with the most important thing you can do to make your set up process easier, along with virtually every aspect of working the show. It’s no big secret, and it’s available for every show where you exhibit. What is it?

It’s the show kit, also known as the show manual (because they used to be actual three ring binders). Now they’re almost always provided in digital format, but they still have everything you’ll need to make show set up go smoothly.

The MOST important thing you can do to make your trade show booth setup go smoothly is simply to invest the time in reading through the kit, because it includes things like shipping deadlines, show hours, set up and tear down times and regulations, and other matters that can affect everything from the size of your booth to your final bill at the show. There are deadlines for everything, and beating the deadlines saves you money, while missing deadlines not only costs you cash—it complicates things exponentially.

To avoid getting sent from desk to desk on set-up day, make sure you’ve ordered everything ahead of time. It’s not that the show decorators are trying to give you the run around; it’s just that each desk is there for a specific purpose, and they can’t help you with everything you might need. Again, making all your plans in advance will make your show go much easier, and cut down on the grey hairs that are part and parcel of trade show life.


Wave Interactive Trade Show Displays Now Available with shipping case!

From my own experience, and from talking with other show decorators, we’ve come up with the biggest problems exhibitors create for themselves on site:

Exhibitors who don’t read the rules and try to save money by bringing their booth in themselves, instead of delivering it to the show’s official shipping contractor. What these exhibitors don’t know is that there’s usually a minimum charge for shipping, even if you do try to bring your own booth into the exhibit hall.

Exhibitors who don’t know the differences between union and non-union shows. There is a world of difference, and you can get yourself in a huge amount of trouble by ignoring the rules. For example, at a non-union show, you can bring your own portable exhibit in through the front doors (not the loading dock) yourself. Try to do that at a union show, and you may be surprised by the consequences. I’ve seen a forklift “accidentally” knock a hole in a booth where the exhibitor had done things without union supervision. I’m not saying you’ll have the same problem, but it’s just wise to play by the rules.

Exhibitors who don’t know the verbiage involved in ordering electrical connections. Well before the show, determine what elements of your exhibit will need power (computers, monitors, flat screen, badge scanner, etc.) and figure out the power requirements. Add a little to this number in case someone wants to plug ion a laptop or something, and write that total on your order form.

• Exhibitors who don’t prepare for the add-ons that are necessary for a successful exhibit. The list of add-ons can be long and involved, because there’s more to pulling off a successful exhibit than just showing up with your crates. Chances are you may need pipe and drape, trash cans, carpet, tables and chairs, signage and other things that are provided by the show decorator. Again, this is all in the show kit, and proper pre-planning can assure that everything you need will be there in your booth when you need it.

• Exhibitors who don’t consolidate their shipments. By placing everything on one wrapped skid, you’ll be assured that your exhibit arrives safely and on time. The most important caveat is not to ship anything unprotected, as the shipping process can be very hard on what’s being transported. It’s not just in one truck and out at the loading dock. Your shipment could make several truck changes en route. And if things aren’t carefully wrapped, each one of these stops is a chance for something to get lost or damaged. Plus, everything that’s not consolidated is going to incur additional shipping charges.

*added 3/7/2015 – We noticed this great video posted on youtube by TS CREW, and are adding it to this post with their permission.

Remember, your exhibit company is your friend. We’re in this business 24/7 and we know the rules, as well as the people who can help you pull off a successful exhibit. Work with your exhibit house throughout the process, and you’ll avoid headaches and heartaches. Chances are, your exhibit house even has a special phone number that can put you in touch with help whenever you need it.

Don’t go into an exhibit hall without the necessary preparation and planning. Let us help by walking you through the process, helping you fill out the forms and double-checking that everything is in order. That’s what a great exhibit company does for its customers, and that’s what we do at American Image Displays. If you aren’t getting that kind of support from your exhibit company, call us and let us show you how we can be the partner you need in the exhibit business. For more information, call (425) 556-9511 or email [email protected]