Trade shows provide the ultimate opportunity for indie makers and smaller brands to cultivate real connections with customers. They’re also a manageable and (relatively) affordable way to showcase your wares in person, rather than investing in a full-scale brick-and-mortar location.
Simply having a vendor booth, however, isn’t enough. The design of the booth and how you display your products impacts a passerby’s likelihood of engaging. It’s those people that are most likely to turn into paying customers.
This guide shares the best vendor booth ideas, alongside tips on setting up your booth for success.
Table of Contents
What is a vendor booth?
A vendor booth is a small space, usually 10 feet by 10 feet in size, within a trade show. They provide space for brands to display their products and attract customers.
Vendor booths at trade shows, craft fairs, and makers’ markets offer the opportunity to network with fellow entrepreneurs in your area. You can also gain access to the festival’s audience, test your brand launch in a real-life venue, meet potential wholesale clients, and build a local following.
Trying a pop-up in-person selling experience can serve as the stepping stone to opening a physical location.
Why is it important to properly set up your vendor booth?
The ultimate goal of any vendor booth is to generate sales and increase brand awareness. That’s a job made easier if the design of your booth is inviting, welcoming, and eye-catching.
A creative display booth display also helps:
- Showcase bestselling products
- Make attendees feel at ease when visiting your booth
- Create “buzz” around your booth, which can draw in crowds
10 vendor booth ideas in 2023
- Create your own banner design
- Decorate walls or ceiling
- Set up seating arrangements
- Ensure you’re welcoming guests
- Include social media opportunities
- Distribute bag stuffers
- Hold a contest
- Look for durable material you can repurpose
- Hand out food to visitors
- Refresh your vendor booth display often
1. Create your own banner design
Trade show attendees often see a banner before they see the booth itself. Use your banner to make a strong first impression, which turns footfall into booth visitors.
“Something I have found that helps is having a retractable banner sign with my company’s name and key information about our products,” says Tiffani Sloan, owner of Treasure and Kin. “Then people come over and ask clarifying questions about our products.”
Get creative with your banner while sticking to these best practices:
- Showcase your logo and unique selling point front and center
- Use eye-catching design, such as comics or contemporary art, to draw attention
- Experiment with a printed backdrop to stand out from white-washed walls
2. Decorate booth walls or ceiling
The walls and ceiling of your vendor booth space are great spaces to showcase your brand—especially if you’re in the creative trade.
“Walls are fantastic for telling your brand story,” says Esme Rogers-Evans, jewelry designer and founder of Duxford Studios. “Create well-designed picture boards or use your branding and product photography to build your visual story.
“I also love hanging some intriguing tools on the walls, as I like to promote that I work with a completely handmade process—this can be a fantastic conversation starter.”
One word of warning: don’t go overboard. Many booths fill any available space, which results in a cluttered and confusing display. Utilize items to highlight a handful of focal points throughout the vendor booth, use simple signage, and leave blank spaces.
3. Set up seating arrangements
Try to leave enough space to create seating arrangements for attendees. Just a few people can make your booth look busy and interesting, triggering herd mentality and encouraging more visitors.
This is especially useful if you’re selling to wholesale or B2B customers at the trade event. Buyers often want more information before committing to large orders. Give them space to sit down inside your vendor booth and chat through their options with your sales team.
4. Ensure you’re welcoming your guests
Without an inviting atmosphere, your aesthetic efforts will go to waste.
Step away from any distractions and welcome everyone who steps up to your vendor booth. This ensures browsers and potential shoppers know you’re available in case they have any questions.
Our #1 rule at the booth is to always be engaging and make conversation with passersby. Take time to educate, have them try out the games, or simply make them crack a smile. People typically hate being sold to, so do your best to strike up a conversation and you’ll be surprised at how far it gets you.
Use items as icebreakers that automatically encourage interaction, ask your visitors questions, talk about your process, and generally be open. If customers think they’re interrupting you, they’re less likely to ask about an item or purchase something, which is another missed opportunity.
Try to stand behind your vendor booth display, or at least near to it. Standing in front of it not only blocks it, but can be intimidating for people trying to approach your booth.
5. Include social media opportunities
If you want to encourage people to hang around and stay engaged on social media, try setting up a makeshift selfie station. Simply create a backdrop with Bristol board or cardboard, or reserve a “blank space” on one of your vendor booth’s walls. You can also cut a frame out of cardboard to serve as a selfie prop.
Whether you use a wall or a frame, make sure your URL, hashtags, and social handles are clearly incorporated. It’s a fun way to encourage user-generated content that you can then post on owned social media channels.
Experiment with different trade show booth ideas that make the experience shareable. That could be a fun activity like:
- Virtual fitting rooms
- “Spin the wheel” competitions
- Photobooths with branded printouts
- Visual merchandising displays
- Motion-sensor games
To keep our brand top of mind, it’s important to make sure they have something to take home. We gave away a mystery ticket with a QR code that can be scanned for a discount on a first purchase, and for more serious buyers, a signature jewelry box to keep on their vanity.
6. Distribute bag stuffers
Distribute bag stuffers—small, curated free products relevant to your industry—as a creative way to get people to interact with your vendor booth.
A bag stuffer might include:
- Branded merchandise, such as t-shirts, mugs, or pens
- Free, miniature versions of your products
- Supplementary items, such as sunscreen for beach-related products
Only display a few pieces of swag at a time (or leverage behind-the-table-storage shelves) so people know they can’t just grab an item and walk away
Take it from Reading with RIK, whose CMO, Ashley R. Cummings, says, “We are a company that helps with reading, so we gave away bookmarks with a lollipop. This enticed people to come and take a look at the products in our booth.”
7. Hold a contest
Promote an on-site contest or giveaway as part of your vendor booth. Ask shoppers to supply their email address or sign up for your newsletter for the chance to win something, which could be a gift card for your store, a gift basket filled with your products, or an impressive discount code to redeem on their next purchase.
Announce the contest winner at the end of the day, every hour, or even via email—another way to keep the conversation going with your customer post-event. Use Shopify POS to collect email addresses, send personalized carts, and upload notes about your customer for future communication.
Lucas Walker, general manager of Triple Whale podcast network, says, “If you can’t get a quick sale—by having credit card payments easy to do, or purchase orders easy to complete—have some next steps ready to go.
“It could be an email marketing flow for attendees who came by but did not purchase, or it could be setting up a more detailed meeting with buyers down the road,” Lucas says. “Most importantly, have everything ready to go ahead of time, including emails in your draft folder ready to send.”
8. Look for durable material you can repurpose
There’s no need to design your vendor booth from scratch at each retail event. Save money on your vendor booth display by repurposing durable material.
Get inspired by your product and brand, and see how it can help inform the materials you use for décor. For example, Paperbacknote handmakes unique upcycled stationery and paper goods from recycled books. It has created a tabletop display using kraft paper and cardboard tubes.
Since every touchpoint of your vendor booth adds to the overall story of the booth space, flooring can help immerse your visitors further into your brand’s world. Plus, visitors might want to take “flat-lay” pictures of your products and shoefies (shoe selfies) to post on Instagram—and tag your brand.
9. Hand out food to visitors
Looking for a smart hack that drives people toward your vendor booth? Take a leaf from Costco’s book and offer free food to visitors. It’s a great conversation starter your sales team can use to segue into product pitches.
Packaged products work best, since you’re unlikely to have access to cooking appliances. That could include:
- Candy or chocolate
After spending a day walking an exhibition floor, there are few things more alluring than a bowl of Hershey’s Kisses. The little treat became the perfect conversation starter
Alternatively, hand out free product samples. Miniature versions of your product allow potential buyers to try before they buy, and are proven to boost sales by as much as 2,000%.
When distributing these samples, Spencer Lynn, northeast regional manager at KOS Naturals, advises, “Step out from behind your booth and get in front of it, hand out some samples in the aisles.
“If it’s really slow, I’ll grab some of our single-serving sample sachets and walk the floor myself and hand them out as I go. Sometimes people will come to seek out our booth after that to find out more info.”
10. Refresh your vendor booth display often
An inexpensive way to keep your vendor booth current is to regularly refresh the display. It’s especially handy if potential customers visit the booth more than once. A unique experience each time could be enough to draw them back and increase sales.
For each trade show event, experiment with:
- Different shapes and layouts
- Lighting effects
- Product displays
- Interactive experiences
- Booth decoration
How to prepare for your vendor booth setup
Once you’ve found innovative ways to set up your booth, master your preparation process so you can be sure the event goes off without a hitch.
1. Start a mood board
When researching vendor booth ideas, start a mood board. Type in “Craft Show Booths,” “Craft Show Display Ideas,” and “Market Booth Inspiration,” on Pinterest and each search will spawn hundreds of results. Follow these Pinterest boards before you’re even confirmed to exhibit at a show, so that the images gradually populate your Pinterest feed ahead of time.
Additionally, follow some of the top shows in your industry on Instagram as they usually post plenty of photos of impressive trade show booths in their feeds.
Gather all the saved images on your mood board to keep you inspired as you hatch your vendor booth design plans.
2. Create your vendor booth plan
Once you’re approved to attend the market or craft show you’re aiming for, contact the show’s organizers to get the floor plan and any rules or regulations regarding setup.
Ask yourself what items you need to display and what the best way is to present your products. Sketch out a few possible layouts with a planogram and don’t forget to leave room for an area to process payments and for storage.
The best way to prepare your booth if you can is to do a dry run at home before the show or market. That way, you’ll know how much time you’ll need to set everything up, and make sure you have the proper displays for your items
Booth regulations can be a creative challenge–how will you conceptualize the booth space within the constraints? You may only have a 10x10 space within which to tell your brand’s story, after all.
3. Consider who will build the booth
Equipped with your vision and the show’s plan, consider how you’re going to build your booth. If you have a good handle of your moodboards and enough inspiration, you might be able to sketch out the blueprints yourself with the help of interior design apps.
If it’s overwhelming and you plan to attend more than one show, research companies that specialize in booth design and development.
There are three more things to keep in mind:
- Make your vendor booth easy to put up and take down.
- If you plan on attending multiple shows, you don’t want your booth to be too “out there” in terms of design and vendor booth display elements. Try to ensure that your vendor booth, while original, is still “one size fits most.”
- Consider the lighting of the show you’re attending. Where are the power outlets? Are there restrictions around lighting? And is power included in the vendor fee?
Lighting is one of the most expensive items in a booth set up, but it is absolutely necessary. Not only will it highlight the product, but it will catch buyers’ eyes. But be careful not to overwhelm them. Point the lights to the right places
4. Choose your colors and materials
Your goal when designing a vendor booth is to create a cohesive and on-brand look with the elements and colors you choose.
Use muted colors to help make your products stand out. There’s a reason photographers and top brands use white backdrops to shoot items—it really makes the products pop.
If you’re going with another color palette, try matching it to your brand color for your packaging or signage, and maybe even how you dress at the show. Uniformity and consistency make for stronger branding.
5. Stick to the budget
Success lies in being creative and repurposing items for different uses. For example, consider using books as risers or china saucers as holders for small items like jewelry or pins.
Other fun vendor booth display items include:
- Tool boxes
- Kids chairs
- Boxes or crates
- Three-tier booth stands
Sometimes, the items you need are right in front of you—they might be gathering dust in your home or the home of a family member. Check your rooms and/or studio for things you can use, such as tables, containers, and props. Sometimes the more “rustic” and distressed, the better, depending on your brand.
Even consider bartering with other vendors before the show starts. See if they have any items you can trade or borrow for the show. Organizers may also have materials on hand to lend out or rent.
Vendor booth ideas: conclusion
The best trade show booth ideas are simple yet effective. Make the most out of your vendor booth space with eye-catching promotional materials, free samples, and bold brand colors.
Remember, your vendor booth is a gateway to your brand and your online shop, so make every detail count. Whether you’re participating at a music festival, art fair, or a craft show, think outside the booth … and have fun building it.
Vendor booth FAQ
How do you make a good vendor booth?
1. Design eye-catching marketing materials.
2. Welcome passersby.
3. Offer free product samples.
4. Create opportunities for social media sharing.
5. Demonstrate bestselling products.
How do you make a booth interesting?
1. Choose the right booth location.
2. Offer immersive or interactive experiences.
3. Give away free food or samples.
4. Use a photobooth.
5. Host a contest or giveaway.
What can I sell in a booth fair?
- Garden equipment
- Handmade items
What can I sell as a vendor?
- Soaps and bath bombs
- Magnets and pins
- Personalized gifts
- Sports equipment