Trade Show Planning: What to Order for Your Booth, When

Posted by Kara Fortuna on Thu, Aug 22, 2013

Sooner is better when it comes to ordering booth parts.

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A lot goes into preparing to exhibit at a tradeshow. From designing the booth to training your staff and practicing your elevator pitch, it can be difficult to know what to tackle when. Oftentimes tasks that should really be dealt with much earlier in the process are left to the last minute, which can cause extra hassle and stress. 

Ordering and shipping booth parts, in particular, often take longer than anticipated, so it is important to plan what you’ll need well in advance of the show. This checklist will help you prioritize your prep schedule:

Order Ahead

Banners, signage

Allow 1-2 weeks for printing and, if not printing locally, shipping back to you for approval. Allow at least 2 weeks for shipping to the show.


Timing will depend on if you are using an existing booth or ordering a new one. It’s best to order at the same time as banners, as they sometimes ship together. And be sure to give yourself time to practice setting up a new booth.

Tables, chairs, podium

If renting from the venue, reserve as soon as you figure out what you will need for the space you have – these go quickly.

Special requirements

Special requests such as monitors and projectors take longer to process, so ask for them early. Also consider energy requirements – will you need an extra power source in order to demonstrate your equipment?

Hospitality suite

Renting a suite at the conference site can be a great way to further engage with customers and prospects. Depending on the size of the show, you might need to book this several months in advance.

Business cards, etc.

Allow about a week for printing business cards and other collateral, longer if ordering and shipping specialty items such as T-shirts or drink cozies. 

While this chart offers some general guidelines, there are many variables can affect booth readiness. Here are some factors to keep in mind so you can avoid pre-show scrambling:

  • Stuff happens. Sometimes the booth materials you receive are incorrect or parts are missing. Make sure you leave yourself some extra time in case you need to reprint or reship.
  • Shipping to a show overseas will require much more time and money than a domestic show. Allow time for ground shipping when possible.
  • It is helpful to talk to your printer to understand their process and turnaround time.
  • Learn the rules of the trade show (what booth size is allowed, etc.) so you have a better idea of what you'll need. 

Remember, waiting until the last minute to gather your booth materials can come back to haunt you. It's a good idea to give yourself an extra month or so of prep time as insurance.

See our Trade Show Packing List for helpful items to bring the day of the show (Velcro = a lifesaver!), or contact us to learn how we can help you get the most out of your next trade show. 

Topics: Trade Show Strategy