Advantages and Disadvantages of a DIY Trade Show Booth

Categories: Types of Trade Show Displays

A lot of exhibitors — especially new ones — want to make a splash at their trade shows and stand out in whatever way possible. One of the best ways to do this is to design and build your trade show booth yourself (DIY).

I, for one, fully support this and can really appreciate the originality and handcrafting that goes along with the DIY process. But in this post, I want to take it a step further and ask two questions:

Just because we can create and build a beautiful trade show exhibit on our own, does that mean we should? What are the considerations before embarking on this creative journey?

So before we put pen to paper and start sketching things out, let’s first list off some of the key features that most exhibitors would agree are important to have.

DIY Trade Show Booth Consideration #1 – Cost

Factoring in the cost for a DIY trade show booth is important across booth spaces, but we must also factor in shipping costs, and just as importantly, set up and dismantle costs.

These costs add up quickly so just because you save money upfront on the build, the time and labor to set it up may cost more in the long run. Also, make sure to remember that the weight of your boxes, pallets, and crates shipped to convention centers are often charged drayage. This is just a funny name for a fee or charge based on the weight of your freight. The heavier the booths, the more expensive it is. So just like your freight charges, the heavier the shipment, the drayage may also be higher. Make sure to check your exhibitor manual to find the rate sheet.

DIY Trade Show Booth Consideration #2 – Portability

There’s usually a trade-off between a custom-built DIY trade show display and a standard portable or modular exhibit that’s engineered and designed for portability. Screwing hardwall panels together will take much longer, require power tools, and is usually heavier than out-of-the-box frame systems with fabric graphics. I have seen some DIY trade show booths made from pallets, doors, plywood, slatwall, and even a car. In most cases, they look really great, but it usually comes at a cost of lack of portability. Instead consider a portable option that is design to pack down and even travel with on an airplane.

DIY Trade Show Booth Consideration #3 – Longevity

Another key consideration is longevity and how long your booth can be expected to last. Of course, much of this has to do with how often you use it and how often it’s assembled and disassembled. Regardless, you want to get the most out of your new trade show exhibit.

To a degree, this ties in with point #2, where a standard portable modular trade show exhibit is engineered to be assembled, disassembled and packed away in a case that’s protected and made for it, etc. Unless great care is taken to design your DIY booth in a similar fashion it may come up short and not be as well protected, resulting in it not lasting as long.

Again, this wasn’t meant as a deterrent to dissuade you from the DIY adventure, just offering some additional insights to help you get the most from it.


In the end, there’s no one or right answer but hopefully, these talking points help you with your decision.

Time and money are always paramount in planning accordingly, just remember that upfront savings are often paid down the road in other ways that aren’t as obvious in the beginning (mainly time, which as we just talked about usually equals money ;).

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