7 Essentials for an On-point Trade Show Display

Be the belle of the trade show ball with standout display design and execution.

Like staring at a blank canvas or the first page of your debut novel, preparing for a big trade show can be intimidating. With so many possibilities, so many big ideas, and so much to show off, where do we even start? What do we need, and how do we get it all on time?? Won’t someone create a trusted guide with 7 essentials for a show-stopping trade show display???

Don’t worry—we’ve done just that. Read on for expert advice on how to dress your booth for success and steal the spotlight at your next trade show!

trade show essentials gif


Also commonly referred to as a “step and repeat” or a backwall, this large banner sits behind a booth and sets the tone for a trade show display. While you can use it as a photo backdrop like an A-list celebrity, you also can design the banner with a simple message (Hello!), feature a beautiful, high-quality photograph or use it as a small billboard for your business on the convention center red carpet.
Standard sizes are usually 8’ x 8’ or 8’ x 10’ (see our design templates for help with measurements). The most common and cost-efficient style is dye sublimation printing onto fabric, but there are many custom options available.

Step and repeat backdrop for Colorado Biz.

Keep in mind, though, that you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time for this item. It’s a big deal and should be given a respectable amount of production time as such. Leave at least seven business days for this crucial part of your display and more for custom options or if you want help with the design.

Table throw for Toucan Apparel.

Table throws or runners

Keeping personal belongings, extra swag, drinks or mismatched socks under your trade show display table? Hide it all with a custom-printed tablecloth. Already have a plain, boring tablecloth that you’d like to dress up? Add a runner! This is another valuable item that can be visually interesting, practical, reusable and easy to store and transport.

Like the backdrops, these table throws and runners are printed using dye sublimation onto fabric and come with a variety of standard sizes and features: elastic, stain-resistant, anti-microbial or even round to fit a podium or a cocktail table. And the best part? If you get a little wild celebrating that big new client, take them home and toss into your washing machine.

As with the backdrop, please give a few extra days for this item. While there may be some quick-ship options, you’ll get the best deal and quality while avoiding rush fees if you leave at least seven business days for production.

YellowDog pull-up banners.

Pop-up banners

Pop-up banners, also known as pull-up banners or retractables, are one more way to lure new clients to your trade show display booth from afar. In addition to being easy to transport because of retractability and handy carrying cases and easy to set up, another major advantage to utilizing pop-up banners is that the image can be replaced! If you’ve updated your offerings or even completely rebranded, hold onto that hardware. For less than the cost of a new unit, a new banner can be printed and installed.

These also come in a variety of dimensions, and we keep the most standard sizes (31.5” x 80” or 33.5” x 80”) in-stock and at-the-ready. Non-standard sizes may take a little extra time, including adjustable-height and miniature/tabletop variations.

Two table tents that are branded for a coffee shop.

Table signs 

Raffling something off? Running a limited time offer or sale? Small table signs are a great way to communicate something exciting about your business that doesn’t quite belong on your longer-term materials or signage. Printed on a lightweight foamcore and with an easel back that helps it stand but also folds flat for storage and transport, you’ll want a few of these.

Four business cards for Ramah showing the front and back.

Business cards

What can we possibly say about business cards that hasn’t already been said? Oh! I just thought of something. Consider metallic and white ink printing, spot gloss and custom cut shapes. Premium finishes are like an artful manicure for business cards. Throw some of them on your business cards and see what happens!

A trifold brochure for an interior design company.


Brochures are where potential clients can really learn the nitty gritty of what you offer. Tri-folds, booklets and sell-sheets, oh my! Hopefully you’ll be so busy talking that people may need to just grab n’ go, so be prepared for them to leave with a comprehensive guide to your products or services.

An assortment of promotional items: sleep masks with microbead filling, koozies, mints, notepads, chap sticks, journals, and pens all customized with YellowDog branding.

Cool swag 

Ok, this is the fun part. Swag by any other name is still swag (but please not “schwag”). You might know them as freebies, tchotchkes, giveaway items or promotional products if you want to get official. It doesn’t matter what you call it, custom swag means free stuff with your name all over it.

There are more options out there than you could ever imagine, and new products are being rolled out every day. Here are a few of our favorites and most popular: note pads, stickers, pens, magnets, mini notebooks, lip balm, mints, koozies, bottle openers, emery boards, water bottles and mugs. And these are just the tip of the iceberg!

Now the serious part about swag. Promotional items can come from a variety of manufacturers, all with their own unique limitations and production timelines. Set yourself up for success by keeping these rules in mind:

  1. Be Flexible – Product availability may change at a moment’s notice.
  2. Be Patient – Turnaround times may start at 14-28 business days for some items.
  3. Be Prepared – To order a lot. Most items have a minimum order quantity, and while they vary by item and manufacturer, it’s not going to be four!

That being said, as digital printers, (and a practical bunch by nature), we have a soft spot in our hearts for notepads, stickers, magnets and mini notebooks. In our experience, these are always the first things to go and the most consistently visible for your brand.

Well, there you have it! The only thing missing from these seven essentials for an on-point trade show display is you (or whichever amazing staff member can best represent your brand).

A man flips through promotional brochures at a TedX event.

This article first appeared on the Destination Colorado blog. Read the original post here.

Christine Mealy

Christine Mealy

Christine has worked in the print industry for over 13 years, and has been with YellowDog for 11 of those, serving as resident swag expert and general knower of all things print-related.

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