I have never designed a booth before. I had no idea how to go about this and was completely flustered. I was on a tight budget and had lots of limitations since I had to ship and rent all of my components. The “before” photo above is all that the standard 10′ x 6′ booth package comes with, so there was a lot of work to be done! Initially, I was going to stick to the simple pipe and drape that’s included, but the curtains provided are black and I couldn’t make it work with my brand colours. With help from a former coworker who is a tradeshow manager, we looked at options that were more cost effective such as corrugated cardboard displays for the back wall, but that still left the two side walls to be black. These drawings below were created during the first sketch up phases:
To have two white side walls, I then contemplated bringing my own fabric but the set-up manual is strict on flame-proofing and that was a headache in itself:
“…booth equipment must be made of a non-flammable material. All decorative materials must be fire resistant and in accord with the standards established by the National Board of Fire Underwriters. Certificates attesting to the fact that all materials referred to above have been flameproofed in accordance with Section C-19-161.1 must be notarized and submitted upon request. Flameproofing which is not in accordance with the Atlantic City, NJ Administrative Code is a violation and unacceptable.”
Ummm, yea, didn’t want to go down that route. It also states that exhibitors are not allowed to handle heavy equipment or tools:
“…Any exhibitor or his full time employees may set up and take down “pop-up” displays, provided they are no longer than 10 feet, and can be handled by one person using no tools and completing the job within 1/2 hour. Exhibitors are allowed to unpack and repack their own product (if in cartons, not cases or crates). They can carry into their booth merchandise that one person can hand carry in. This does not mean that if an exhibitor has 50 cartons in a truck, he can make 50 trips to his booth.”
It wasn’t possible for me to make and ship my own walls anyway but really, even if I was allowed to do as I please in my space, I wouldn’t know how to put walls up. This left me with the next option: foam walls. I hired Manny Stone because they’ve created countless booths for NSS and similar shows, plus they have a great reputation so I knew I was in good hands. The package I chose included setup and teardown of the walls and lighting so that was a bonus. For my first show, I wanted the experts to deal with the manual labour to ensure my walls and lights would stay up! One less (major) thing I didn’t want to stress over. By the way, extra lighting is a must. Don’t rely on the convention center’s ceiling lights because it’s not bright enough for your booth. I needed to purchase electrical services to plug the lights in as well (you have to pay for everything!) so that was ordered through Javits.
For variety and easy access to the cards at eye level, I decided to get 6 foamboard compatible shelves so visitors can pick up the cards for a closer look-see. This is another purchase from Manny Stone because honestly it was just easier. I used address labels for card descriptions, I pre-cut everything and simply stuck them on accordingly!
I said I’d reveal costs in a later post but I’ll include the booth-related costs here and use the total for my summary so it’ll be easier for you to see the breakdown. All amounts are in Canadian dollars with taxes when applicable:
1) Manny Stone Booth Package – Foamboard walls with custom graphics ($2589.18), 4 LED arm lamps ($512.66), 6 shelves ($414.07), union labour (install and dismantle): $3515.90
If I were to do it again, I would consider risking putting my own lights up. For $500, even if I was charged with labour it would have been comparable. For the shelves, ditto, but I’d need to figure out where to buy them and how to secure them on the walls. All these reasons lead to why I just let Manny Stone handle the details. I really liked the foam walls so I would probably use them again.
2) Javits Electrical Services – 500 watts connection and a plug strip: $176.04
Can’t really dodge this one, you need electricity.
3) HIDDEN Javits Labour Services – Installation of 4 lights: $156.59
But uh, this was unexpected. I was dinged with this from Javits on the second day of the show because “even though Manny Stone installed the lights, Javits labour put them up.” HUH? Tried to fight it but had to pay. This sucked because I thought this was included with my package. Beware of all undisclosed fees!
Then came the graphics. The package included a full custom graphic back wall and two solid pantone colours for the side walls. I chose pantone 230C which is a lighter shade of pink of my logo. That was easy. The back wall, on the other hand, took a lot of trial and error. Finally, I decided on this:
I had a polka dot theme with my photos and continued to use it on my new website, so I wanted everything to be cohesive. I chose three popular designs with colours that went with the pink and yellow combo to be printed on the wall, and coincidentally my aisle had yellow carpets! Next time, I might consider adding more designs to take advantage of the printed wall. But I was happy with how this turned out because I brought framed prints as fillers.
Now to dress up the booth! First, a table for giveaways, displays, printed materials and a place for buyers to sit and organize themselves when placing orders. I chose a simple white 2′ x 4′ Ikea table rented from Manny Stone. I didn’t want to be charged with labour fees when putting it together myself, nor did I have time to go to Ikea to pick them up but I wish I thought this through because they’re only $25 each at the store! In the end, Manny Stone extended their early bird rate so I ordered two tables, which means instead of spending $50 + tax for keeps, I spent almost $100 EACH to rent them. Gah. At least I didn’t have to worry about being dinged with hundreds of dollars worth of fees… I guess. I’m kind of bitter because almost everyone was on ladders and drilling their booths together, meanwhile I was worried about using a screwdriver.
3) Rented 2 White Tables from Manny Stone: $92.33 x 2 = $184.66
Second, I wanted two chairs. This was easier. I read that it’s recommended to be at eye level for attendees walking by your booth so I almost went with barstools. However, with the two tables, it made better sense to use regular stools. I stood most of the time but these $4.99 Ikea treasures were well worth lugging in my suitcase!
4) Purchased 2 Marius white stools from Ikea: $11.28
Flooring was easy too, I bought interlocking foam mats from Walmart and they were awesome. You’ll need soft cushioning for your feet no matter how comfy your shoes are. I chose grey because I didn’t want to hire carpet cleaning services and I knew the floor would be dirty during the show. I wanted my walls to stand out so the grey worked really well with the pink and white walls. It hid a lot of crumbs (you may not be eating in your booth but attendees might), bits and pieces of paper, dirt etc. I used carpet tape to make sure the edge of the mats would stay down, I was paranoid someone would trip and fall.
5) Purchased 4 Sets of Connect-A-Rugs from Walmart: $19.18 x 4 = $76.72
Product displays! This was fun. I tried to keep everything colourful and inviting. I didn’t lay out my tabletop displays beforehand but I knew how I was going to showcase the magnets, buttons and keychains; simple magnet boards did the trick.
6) Purchased 2 Magnet Boards from Walmart: $22.53
Storage boxes were a must and I knew I wanted these ones from Ikea. I bought 2 sets to store everything: extra printed materials, giveaways, jackets, bags, wallet, notebooks, pens, extra samples, tools, etc. These were a must! I needed all 4 and they came super flat and doesn’t require tools to set up. I shipped them in my suitcase.
7) Purchased 2 Sets of Boxes with Lids from Ikea: $33.88
And knick knacks! Clipboards, gel pens, bowl for giveaways, lollipops, frames, catalogue and line sheet holders, biz card holders, adhesive hooks for tote bags, adhesive foam blocks and foam/matte boards for wall displays etc.
8) Purchased miscellaneous supplies for displays: $200.00
The total cost of the booth and display supplies is approximately $4380.00
This does not include the $2122.42 fee to exhibit, which brings the total to about $6505.00 (!!!)
Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, it’s an investment. Yes, if I could, I would do it all over again! There are so many factors to consider before you decide to apply to this show, or any shows, finances being a major one. But hopefully after reading this post, you’ll find less costly ways to go about displays and figuring out alternative options to what I spent too much on — I already have, lol.
An important thing to keep in mind is that if you’re unable to set up a mock booth beforehand, know that it’s ok to change things up when you’re setting up onsite. This is how I envisioned my booth during the sketch phase:
But when I got there, the shelves were lower than expected so I simply hung the tote bags above, which ended up looking much better anyway! The second table was a good call because I needed the space, both top and below.
I was 100% happy with all of my choices despite how expensive renting the tables, lights and shelves were, and being dinged with hidden fees. Costs aside, this was my ideal booth as a newbie to NSS. With this first-time experience, I can adjust and change up my next booth with my know-hows from this year.
Please give me a shout if you have any questions! I’m sharing all of this info with you so don’t be afraid to ask me about anything in detail, I’d be happy to help!
Coming up in Part 4 is the show itself! I’ll let you know the top questions buyers asked, what worked and what didn’t work, when/how to take breaks and lots more! :) Stay tuned!