How the Pros Prep for Trade Shows | LexJet Blog

How the Pros Prep for Trade Shows

Chances are, you’ve been to many trade shows. As a printer, installer or spectator, you know that trade show displays can range from the very simple to the extremely elaborate. The key to pulling off a trade show display without a hitch is good communication with customers upfront.

For help, we turned to two industry pros, Kaine Guidry, a former OEI employee and current print technician in LexJet’s Experience Center, and Bernie Raymond, production manager at Morley, which designs, engineers, fabricates and installs trade show exhibits.

LexJet: When getting started on a trade show project with a customer, what are some of the first questions a designer or print shop should ask?

Bernie Raymond: The biggest thing we’d like to know up front is: What is their budget? Sometimes they’re afraid to admit to it, but everything hinges on that. We can design and build anything from a 10-foot curve display to an elaborate 30×50 booth with a two-story structure. It just depends on how much money they have to spend.

Kaine Guidry: And make sure they’ve got the space confirmed at the trade show. You’d be surprised how often people haven’t done this. And, of course, find out how big their space is.

LJ: And what should you let your customer know from the start?

KG: You need to be upfront right out of the gate. You need to know, as a print shop, what your capabilities are and what resources you have access to. If you’re not comfortable with something, let them know right away. You may lose this particular job, but you won’t lose face because you can’t deliver. And they may come back to you because they know you’re straight-forward about your capabilities and they can trust you.

LJ: Once you’ve laid down that groundwork, how do you get started with the customer’s concept?

Morley created this elaborate two-story trade show exhibit for Dearborn, Mich.-based clothing manufacturer Carhartt.
Morley created this two-story trade show exhibit for Mich.-based clothing manufacturer Carhartt.

BR: You need to ask them what are they are trying to accomplish. Are they going to be taking orders and selling stuff? Or is just a goodwill type of display to keep their name out in front of their end users? We need to determine the functionality of the booth so we can target what might work best for them.

KG: Sometimes we’d bring in marketing or design to help with their messaging and what they’re trying to do so we can plan for that. For instance, do they just need a banner or a backdrop and table skirts, or do they want to set up iPad stand kiosks? At this point we want to determine what the customer’s needs are in terms of hardware, printing, installation, design, messaging and removal.

LJ: How do you confirm which aspects of the job you’re responsible for?

KG: I suggest creating a scope of work that details what you’re going to be responsible for so you don’t get caught working for free. Are you creating graphics; are you changing files? If you veer outside the scope of work, keep track so that when you bill the customer you can refer back to it, and there’s no surprises.

LJ: One of the biggest pain points seems to be dealing with artwork requirements. How do you manage this?

KG: Put together a form with everything you need from the client. If you look at a company like Orbus, they have great Artwork Guidelines for their clients.

BR: If we have a client with their own creative department, we give them the templates and sizes we need. Some send exactly what we’ve requested, and some don’t — I’m not sure why (laughs). Also, some artists will send PDF files, but if something needs to be tweaked in size or configuration, we can’t do much with them. Sometimes there’s a little give and take that needs to happen, so we really need the original native files.

LJ: Any final tips for working on trade show displays?

KG: If you’re just getting into printing trade show displays, realize that you need to be flexible. There are always … always … last minute changes.

BR: One of the biggest frustrations is clients not fully analyzing their proofs. They’ll say: Yeah, looks fine. But when they come in for a preview of the full-size proofs that are set up in the warehouse, they say: We can’t do that! So, it’s very important for them to analyze and read all aspects of the proof that’s been sent. It gets very expensive when we have to reprint graphics, and this can save them a lot of money.

Shellie has more than 20 years of experience in the print publication industry as a content strategist, editor and writer. She has partnered with printing, photography and graphics professionals on a wide variety of publications and printing projects. At LexJet, she writes about customer experiences, industry trends, new products and the latest inkjet printing innovations.


  1. This had some great advice for setting up a trade show booth. I agree that it’s a good idea to be prepared for any last minute changes. I figure that it’s helpful to talk with anyone with previous experience and ask them what they wish they knew before setting up their display for the first time.

Leave a comment

Please be polite. We appreciate that. Your email address will not be published and required fields are marked