5 Ways to Make Your Very Own DIY Trade Show Booth

Categories: My First Trade Show, Trade Show Displays on a Budget, Trade Show Tips

Creating your very own DIY Trade Show can be a great idea.

If you’re reading this article, there’s a big chance you’re doing your very first trade show to test the market so you might be on a limited budget or are just exploring your options.

You’ve already spent enough money on reserving your booth space, travel expenses, etc. It’s best to save some money and build your own booth out the gate.

But before you do, make sure to think about your overall strategy and plan. What will work right with your brand and message?

This post is going to answer that question and discuss the 5 most common DIY Trade Show Booth components and discuss each one.

Consider Logistics First

Before you get out your glue gun and slap your Martha Stewart hat on, lets first keep a few logistic hurdles in mind:

  • Will you be needing to ship to your show or will you be driving?
  • Remember: Shows will charge a drayage tax on the weight of your packages, pallets, or crates brought into the convention.
  • It is important to keep the looming drayage fees in mind ahead of time which will help determine how to build your DIY Trade Show Booth.
  • Sure, you can build your own booth, but will you still need to hire show-site labor at the show to set it up? A purchased, modular booth may off-set these costs by letting you set it up yourself without show site labor.
  • Lastly, consider your time. You know its valuable, but how much time will be consumed by the planning, designing, building, etc. of this DIY booth? Try doing a cost differential on DIYing vs an off-the-shelf solution.
  • Remember, costs have come wayyyy down on many of the trade show displays you now see on the show floor. Some simple research and planning ahead may land you some great deals with a far smaller time commitment.

At the end of the day, maybe you’ll find that a partial DIY solution is your best bet. Combine some purchased items with a DIY twist, like a pop-up back wall, but then bring in your own furniture.

 #1 – DIY Trade Show Backdrops

Depending on your end goal you may have your sights set on a simple, no-frill fabric backdrop or you may plan on building your own hard wall trade show panels.

Soft Trade Show Backdrops

Tradeshow Backdrops cover a lot of ground (or air?) and mean more than just one thing, but the goal should be to brand your booth and cover the ugly pipe-and-drape that the show provides.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive and low-cost solution that you can do on your own, we recommend swinging over to Pinterest in order to gather some ideas.

Here you’ll most likely see plain fabric backdrops with added decorations or a printed fabric backdrop like the Booth-in-a-Bag.

Printed Vinyl Banners are also a common sight here as they work great for the top half of your booth back wall. Remember, vinyl banners must be rolled and never folded or they will have unsightly deep creases when hung.

Hard Wall Panels

For creating hard wall trade show panel walls, check out this Youtube Video for a great example of a ‘do-it-yourself’ solution. The process shown in that video is a scaled-down version of how those big, custom trade show displays are created.

But, if you attempt to go down this route you’re going to need a healthy amount of wood-working skills and tools, and the space and time to create them.

Alternatively, you might like a pallet aesthetic in your booth and may want to blend a traditional back wall panel build with some pallets!

You’ll also want to consider the logistical side of these displays as you’ll most likely need to build a crate to store and ship them.

DIY Trade Show Graphics

Unless you or a friend has a large format printer, you’re going to need some assistance with any sort of printed branding.

You should find a local or trusted online printer to make some material recommendations based on your needs.

Additionally, you’re going to have to create the artwork for the displays themselves. We recommend Adobe Suite products like Photoshop or Illustrator, but you can try a free service like Canva or GIMP.

DIY Trade Show Materials

PVC Pipes – A great, low-cost, simple way to construct a display, but unless you completely hide the tubing your display can really look like amateur-hour.

Folding Walls with Chicken Wire – Have the crafty gene in you? Check out this DIY option for a great and inexpensive backdrop.

Wood – A very versatile material that is widely used by amateurs and professions alike. Solid construction material is great, but remember, it is heavy and requires a lot of extra coordination like laminating, painting, etc. in addition to the construction of the unit itself.

Linens and Cloth – Add some finishing touches to your booth set up with some nice linens and cloths. It’s a simple way to decorate your booth without spending a lot.

Take advantage of what is already in your house with your own home furnishing. Won’t cost you a dime if you already own it!

DIY Trade Show Lighting

Lighting is an area where you can have the biggest impact for the least amount of investment. Good lighting is often overlooked by exhibitors, but it can be one of the best ways to brighten up your space which can make a huge difference.

Make sure you use LED lighting only as halogen lights get too hot and are actually banned by most convention centers!

You can do a simple search on Amazon for lots of LED Lighting with different degrees of warm or cool colors.

Dimmable, Adjustable color warmth LED Clamp light available on Amazon for a DIY trade show booth
Dimmable, Adjustable color warmth LED Clamp light available on Amazon for a DIY trade show booth

Find some options that have a clamp so you can attach it directly to your display units.

Pro Tip: Use those “as seen on TV” push-button LED lights on shelving to illuminate your product. These are battery-powered so you can go cord-free on those.

DIY Trade Show Furniture

TV’s – Bring in your home TV set to save some money, just be careful how you ship it! If you do buy new, we always recommend shipping it in the original box with the original foam inserts which provide a great amount of protection.

Shelving – There are lots of shelving options that are ready out of the box at retailers like Target or the Container Store to simple home-made options that can work just as well. Heck, check out this ingenious pallet-made shelving:

Places to sit – Check out the likes of IKEA and other low-cost retailers for furniture like sofas, chairs, tables, etc. Pro Tip: If you’re traveling for a show, look to see if there is an IKEA near the convention center. You could carve out a little time to go and buy your furniture and then ship it back to yourself after the show.

Standard Folding Table – Add a printed table cover or a plain fabric cover to one of those standard, plastic folding tables from Home Depot, Lowes, Costco, etc.


Get inspiration and ideas from Pinterest

Create a mood board with color scheme and ideas to decorate your booth

Ask your team what they would like to see in the booth given your budget. Often you will start in one direction and end up in another after all ideas are put on the table.

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