Cost effective + easy peasy decor and furnishings for a trade show booth
December 20, 2018 9:44 PM   Subscribe

Looking for suggestions and leads on quick, easy, and cheap (the holy inaccessible trinity) ways to furnish a trade show booth to make it pop. I need someplace to have a TV play some videos, another small table for marketing materials, and some chairs... tall chairs or low and comfy.

I'm doing my first actual "trade show" and just discovered that it costs more to rent a single tall chair than it does my actual flight to the event (or even the cost of just buying the same chair). Alas, it spurred me to start looking for any alternative ideas on how to furnish my 10x10 booth. I was inspired quite a bit by this cardboard furniture - it's on the high end of my budget, and not exactly "comfortable" but unique, and easy to set up.
Some factors I need to consider:
1. It needs to be items I can carry in by hand (otherwise the convention center will make me use the loading dock, which costs $$$ and takes up a ton of extra time...)
2. It needs to be relatively easy to set up. I only have about 3 hours.
3. I'm promoting a Halloween/horror con of my own, if it helps spur ideas. But we're not selling anything - handing out some light promo items, and using the space mainly to pitch potential exhibitors and sponsors.
4. Inflatable furniture just seems tacky, but if there is something new in that world, I'd love to see it.
5. I have three people with me to help walk stuff in and install, but none of us are engineers, so simple is best.
posted by Unsomnambulist to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I did a search and a popup tent sized haunted house is totally a thing.

Do a 10x10 haunted house and then nobody needs to sit. Keep it simple, carry in props, maybe use refrigerator cardboard boxes for walls.
posted by aniola at 10:17 PM on December 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

I usually set up alone so probably more simple than you're looking at but

I've tried lots of things and now use 3 pullup banners* and some posters of Phototex - your printer should carry it. Three posters takes up about 2.5metres. I thought it was oversold before I had posters done on it but they will stick to literally anything, even damp canvas tent - and peel off 90 times (I'm up to 30+ and they're fine).

Often booths (do you have a inward corner _|, outward corner |_ or bay |_| ?) have yucky linings, and you need to create a small-world. Find out the booth size and height and take black sheets and pins or clips to hitch to top of booth. If the fabric is loose enough you can play with the folds to create a crypt-like feel.

It pays to have a bag of odds and ends.. Velcro dots, sticky tape in the colour/s of your materials for wear & tear, thumbtacks again think colours, string is useful too - I've been at indoor shows near doors and wind can be a real problem.

I have seen some folk bring custom carpets showings ploughed fields, town layouts or whatever, don't know where they get them from but very cool.

* I have a different theme on each and @ short notice I can just grab a banner and a daypack and go. Often I'll hear about some random show at the last minute and dash off - a lot of the agritech space seems to be like that here.

I hope you have a horror of a time.
posted by unearthed at 10:42 PM on December 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Since your market doesn’t seem super corporate I’d look into lightweight/portable furniture marketed to people camping or going to festivals. I.e an Eno chair (can’t link, on phone) or those puffy inflatable tubes people lounge on at festivals
posted by genmonster at 4:39 AM on December 21, 2018

I have no idea if this is going to work with the layout of your booth or even the theme/feel of your convention, but just throwing out ideas and you can pick whatever works for you:

-black cloth to drape around the walls of your booth
- scuffed up wooden crates for seating/tables. This only works if you don't need too many seats
- one bare bulb hanging in the middle of your booth, lighted
- subtle horror cues like mysterious words/names carved into the crates, blood spatters, handprints etc.
- bonus points if you can get a vaguely human-shaped thing (inflatable punching bag?) under a dirty, bloodstained cloth
- if you're at all crafty, pvc pipes spray-painted to look like rusty steel pipes to scatter among the crates
- if you can get your hands on a portable projector for a reasonable price, set it to (randomly?) project a life-sized spooky figure/head/face on one of the walls. Have it fade in and out, or maybe flicker if you can manage that.

The idea is to turn your booth into a little horror space on its own, to excite potential exhibitors/sponsors. Adapt according to your actual needs.
posted by satoshi at 4:58 AM on December 21, 2018

100% you need to not decorate for a trade show; you need to decorate for HALLOWEEN. That is your USP and it's a great one so run with that like the wind.

Pro tip: do a themed giveaway where people put their contact details into a MailChimp form on an iPad for a chance to win a... well, something on-theme would be best but it's probably a bad time of year to give away halloween shit so just do a bottle of champagne.

The absolute best value you will get from this trade gig is adding names to your mailing list. Go go gadget!
posted by DarlingBri at 7:16 AM on December 21, 2018

I hated the booth rental scam (and the loading dock extortion), so I would fly in and go buy (previously researched) inexpensive furniture in town (including a lamp and rug). Then I'd walk it all in and then assemble/arrange during the window allowed by the trade show operators. Sometimes it was IKEA , sometimes it was something whimsical (e.g.,a kitchen or an umbrella table with twinkle lights) and I did once have an entire suite of very 1960s mod inflatable furniture. I often included a couch or chairs so that people would use my booth to relax for a moment or organize their bags of brochures and swag. I offered apples instead of candy, which also made my booth stand out, and offered drawing prizes that related to the decor (e.g., an Instant Pot, when they were the most recent hot gadget, during the kitchen theme).

My booths always stood out and looked fresh. It was a conversation starter, and over time, people started looking forward to seeing my booth. At then end of the event, I would donate the stuff to a local charity; the easiest solution was Habitat for Humanity, but I also asked local folks for recommendations. One year my stuff went to someone's friend who had lost everything in a fire. And I always saved money over whatever the official furniture options would have cost.

Go for it!
posted by carmicha at 7:44 AM on December 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

I recently added a wall tapestry from Society6 of a city skyline to my 10x10' booth space to help promote another event in that town. I brought safety pins along to affix the tapestry to the back "wall" of my booth. You may be able to find something similar to add to the feel of your space.

Ideas that may work: Haunted Forest, Gothic Graves, Red and Black Abstract
posted by meindee at 9:44 AM on December 21, 2018

Thanks all - some great ideas above.

I should have noted this is at a Halloween industry trade show, so while it's a theme, I'm not out to compete with other vendors that feature haunt decor or are haunted houses themselves. My hope is to look as professional as possible without breaking the bank.
posted by Unsomnambulist at 10:01 AM on December 21, 2018

Offer a phone charging station!!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:43 PM on December 21, 2018

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