Trade Show Decorators: Blending Art and Commerce

Trade show decorators are at the heart of every trade convention and event. Find out how logistics operations support this vital role....
Joe Weaver
January 9, 2024
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Trade show decorators are responsible for crafting engaging displays and environments at exhibitions. Their creative touch transforms ordinary spaces into experiences that deliver the essence and intent of each brand. However, exhibitors often face challenges when coordinating with decorators, from aligning creative visions to managing tight schedules. These decorators also work with logistics providers, ensuring every detail meets the exhibitor’s needs.

The International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) asserts that trade show decorators are key to crafting engaging exhibitions. They change spaces into captivating, brand-aligned experiences. Their knowledge of visual storytelling and process management is needed to create memorable trade show presentations.

Find out more about how decorators contribute to trade shows, and how they work alongside other roles, as we continue.

What is a Trade Show Decorator?

Trade show decorators using a laptop, notepads, and protractors to create a floor plan.

A trade show decorator is the creative force that transforms a simple space into a brand’s storytelling platform. When a business decides to become an exhibitor at trade shows, usually a decorator is their first call.

The role of trade show decorator includes the following:

  • Responsibilities and Skills: These pros need an eye for design, aesthetics, and functionality. The role also calls for a knowledge of branding, and a knack for creating engaging spaces.
  • The Creative Process: Decorators must get familiar with the brand, their intended customers, and the exhibitor’s message and vision. Then, the decorator chooses themes, colors, layouts, and elements that bring their message to life.

Decorators are instrumental to a successful trade show, and success can be a huge boon to exhibitors, as the following statistics show.

Trade Show Statistics for 2023

15.6 billion dollarsRevenue generated by trade shows.
51 percentAttendees who request a meeting after the show.
46 percentAttendees who are nearing their final buying decision.

Source: tradeshowlabs.com

Trade show exhibitors need to establish relationships with experienced decorators to make their mark at conventions. As such, it’s important that the two parties stay in touch throughout the trade show process.

Trade Show Decorators and Exhibitors: How They Interact

The collaboration between trade show decorators and exhibitors can be broken down into three stages: before, during, and after the show.

Before

Prior to the show, the following topics must be addressed.

  • Planning and Design Discussions: This is where ideas take shape. Exhibitors share their vision and objectives, and decorators bring in their creative insights.
    • Discussing the brand’s story and how to best represent it.
    • Choosing themes, colors, and layouts for the booth.
  • Logistical Coordination: This involves making the design work in the available space at the venue.
    • Deciding on the placement of displays and signage.
    • Coordinating the delivery and setup schedule with the logistics team.

With these plans in place, exhibitor and decorator alike will be ready for the day of the show.

During

While the trade show is going on, the parties will deal with:

  • On-Site Adjustments: Sometimes, things need tweaking on the spot to make sure everything looks perfect.
    • Making last-minute design changes due to issues with the floor plan.
    • Solving any unexpected layout issues.
  • Ensuring Consistent Presentation: The decorator often checks in to ensure the booth remains as impactful as intended.
    • Regularly monitoring the booth’s appearance.
    • Providing repairs for any wear and tear on the display.

After a successful show, the decorator and exhibitor still have work to do.

After

Some post-show tasks these two roles must take on include:

  • Dismantling and Feedback: Once the show wraps up, it’s time to pack up and review what was learned or accomplished.
    • Assisting in the breakdown of the booth.
    • Discussing what worked well and what could be improved for next time.
  • Future Planning: Often, this is the starting point for planning the next event.
    • Brainstorming ideas for future shows based on feedback.
    • Scheduling follow-up meetings to begin the next project.

These interactions ensure that the booth looks great and communicates the exhibitor’s vision. It also allows decorators and exhibitors to adapt to challenges that may arise.

What is a Trade Show Manager?

Several trade show employees reviewing information on a laptop.

A trade show manager blends strategic planning, team coordination, and problem-solving abilities to ensure every aspect of the trade show aligns seamlessly. 

Key duties of a trade show manager include:

  • Strategic Planning: They are responsible for the overall strategy of the trade show, including defining goals, target audiences, and key messages.
  • Vendor and Exhibitor Coordination: Trade show managers act as the main point of contact for vendors, exhibitors, and decorators.
  • Budget Management: They oversee the budget, making sure the show is financially viable.
  • Team Leadership and Communication: Leading the team involved in organizing the show and ensuring clear communication among all parties.
  • Logistics Oversight: Overseeing the logistical aspects, including space allocation, layout planning, and scheduling.

Trade show managers need to possess a balance of creative vision and practical execution. Their ability to manage multiple aspects of the show all at once is crucial for its overall success.

The Role of Technology in Trade Show Management

In the evolving landscape of trade shows, technology plays a vital role in enhancing both management and execution. It streamlines processes, enhances communication, and brings a new level of innovation to trade show designs. 

The following technological advancements have greatly contributed to the improvement of trade show management.

  • Design and Visualization Software: Advanced software tools have upgraded the way trade show booths are designed.
    • 3D modeling software allows for precise and realistic booth designs.
    • Virtual reality (VR) offers a 360-degree view, helping exhibitors see the space before it’s built.
  • Project Management and Collaboration Tools: These tools have made it easier for managers, decorators, and other workers to cooperate.
    • Project management platforms allow real-time updates and task tracking.
    • Cloud-based collaboration tools make sharing of designs and documents an easy process.
  • Digital Registration and Ticketing Systems: Streamlining the attendee registration process.
    • Online ticketing systems for easy attendee registration.
    • Digital check-in apps to reduce wait times for exhibitors and attendees.
  • Interactive Technology for Engagement: Using interactive elements to engage attendees more effectively.
    • Touchscreen displays and interactive kiosks for engaging booth experiences.
    • Augmented reality (AR) applications to bring products or services to life.
  • Analytics and Data Collection Tools: For gathering valuable insights on attendee behaviors and preferences.
    • Wearables and RFID technology for tracking attendee movements and interactions.
    • Data analytics software to assess engagement and improve future shows.
  • Social Media Integration: Enhancing promotion and engagement before, during, and after the trade show.
    • Social media platforms for marketing and real-time updates.
    • Live streaming tools to reach a broader audience beyond the physical event.

These advancements not only make the jobs of trade show managers and decorators easier, they open up new possibilities for making more engaging and successful shows. 

Another role in trade shows that often works in tandem with decorators and managers is that of the logistics provider. Their main responsibility to ship cargo in and out of the trade show location, but there’s a little more to it than that.

Trade Show Event Logistics Services: Setup and More

An out-of-focus picture of trade show attendees sitting down and reading posters.

Trade show logistics are somewhat specialized, requiring drivers to do more than simply show up, drop off their cargo, and leave. Due to the size and scale of these events, shippers are often required to stage cargo at a warehouse near the event weeks in advance. This way, freight can be delivered to the event during the setup phase in brief, scheduled windows of time. 

In the following scenario, you can get an idea of what a typical trade show logistics process looks like.

Delivering to Trade Shows

For the purposes of this scenario, we’ll deal with two fictional companies: Roberts Trade Show Shipping and the exhibitor, AAA Electronics.

Staging

  • Two weeks before the event, Roberts Trade Show Shipping collects all the booth materials from AAA Electronics’ headquarters.
  • The items are packaged and shipped to AAA’s warehouse, located a few miles from the show hall.
  • At the warehouse, the freight is inspected, inventoried, and stored safely.

Delivery

  • Roberts schedules the delivery to the marshaling yard, coordinating with the trade show’s specified time windows.
  • A day before the event, the freight is loaded onto specialized trucks equipped with lift gates and air-ride suspension to ensure safe transportation.
  • Upon arrival at the marshaling yard, the Roberts team checks in at the dispatcher’s office. They are assigned a specific time slot by a show organizer or manager for unloading to avoid congestion.

Trade Show Exhibit Setup

  • Once the freight is unloaded, it’s transported to AAA’s’ designated booth space.
  • If booth setup services have been requested, Roberts’ team begins putting the booth together. In this capacity, they’re likely to work with a trade show decorator.
  • The team meets the setup deadline, ensuring the booth is ready for inspection and any last-minute adjustments.

Breakdown and Removal

  • As the trade show concludes, the Roberts team is on-site to dismantle the booth.
  • They pack up all materials, ensuring everything is accounted for and loaded onto the trucks.
  • The team efficiently completes the breakdown process within the allotted time to avoid any forced freight charges imposed by the convention center for delayed removal.

Return Shipping

  • Roberts transports the freight back to its warehouse. From there, it will be shipped back to the company or to another advance warehouse.
  • Throughout the process, the Roberts team stays in contact with AAA Electronics, providing updates and transparency 

From start to finish, trade show decorators may need to work together with managers and logistics providers to address the exhibitor’s needs. This is especially true when it comes to trade show display booths, which all participants need to show off their goods and services for potential buyers.

Trade Show Logistics With USA Trade Show Shipping

Trade show decorators create visual flair that encourages attendees to engage with exhibitors and create new business relationships. Of course, without booths and materials to decorate, their job would become rather difficult. That’s where logistics providers, such as ourselves, come in.

USA Trade Show Shipping has a vast network of delivery vehicles and warehouses located strategically throughout the United States. From storage and staging to delivery and returns, we’re equipped to get your goods to the trade show floor on time and in perfect condition.

Our trade show services include:

  • Setup and breakdown
  • LTL and FTL shipping
  • Expedited freight
  • Advanced Warehousing

If you’re an exhibitor in need of skilled logistics assistance at your next trade show, reach out to us online or give our team of trade show shipping experts a call at (866) 415-8986. We’re ready to help you WOW attendees at your next trade show.

Need help shipping your trade show booth and materials? Fill out a short form or give us a call and one of our trade show specialists will answer your questions.

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