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4 Things You Should Be Doing Now For Expo West

It’s the most wonderful time of the year- Expo West booth prep. Seriously, we get pretty giddy in December as we begin crafting and working with our clients to build expo experiences for the big show in March. One common theme we’ve seen with brands throughout the years is that they are not planning early enough. They start thinking about the design in January or don’t give themselves enough time to create compelling swag or branded materials. Whether this is your first expo rodeo or you’re an expo pro, we put together four action items to get you started now.



In 2018, Expo West attracted 85,540 industry professionals with 3,521 booths competing for their attention. With all this opportunity buzzing, does your booth effectively and quickly tell your brand story? There are a lot of moving pieces when putting together a memorable exhibition booth.  Before you can get to design, you have to decide what type of booth to build. There are three types of booths we typically recommend, broken down by budget, which include ideation through final production (not including shipping):

Standard Box In A Box (under $5k) – This experience is usually the entry exhibition booth and includes a booth backdrop, pop up table with tablecloth and floor.

Mid-Level Booth ($5k-$15k) – This is the upgrade when your brand still needs to make a splash. This level will include a custom backdrop, custom table design and purchased flooring.

Top Level Booth Design ($15k and beyond) – The sky’s the limit and with this investment, the experience will incorporate custom backdrop, tables and purchased flooring with custom styling for props, product display and accessories.

You can totally rock a 10ft booth if you get the details and design right. Consider upgrades like custom storage and lighting to create an experience that feels polished and storefront worthy.

Just by implementing lighting and flooring upgrades, we were able to transform FATCO’s brand launch and booth experience. Not only did they attract invaluable contacts at Expo West but also received industry recognition as the Paleo Foundation’s best booth at the show.



The Expo West experience is a cocktail of excitement, energy and yes, stress. For the majority of the emerging brands, this could be their only opportunity to get in front of industry decision makers. Add to that managing production and creating a full booth experience, swag, t-shirts, marketing collateral, etc. — and it can get overwhelming pretty quickly.

We’re all for DIY but without taking into consideration these important components, you may find you’ve bitten off more than you can handle.

Booth & Logistics
Once you’ve established your budget and booth type you’ll want to consider a few things prior to build out:
How many shows does it need to get shipped to in order for the crate to be reused at least 5 times?
– Does it fit on a good size palette? (For better pricing on shipping).
– Is your booth easy to build with little to no tools? If not, you’ll need to budget for an onsite build crew (estimate $500-$3000).
– Do you have a resource for the buildout? Booth build experts are worth every penny and can be found through the exhibitions or local resources. Build your contacts and leave IKEA props to the pros.

Design & Booth Experience
These are pretty standard, however, we can’t tell you how many times they get overlooked:
– When considering your design, make sure the 8ft tall backdrop carries the majority of information on the top two thirds as the bottom third gets lost behind furniture.
– Lighting can be an exhibition booth game changer as your booth can be in a recessed lighting portion of the expo convention hall.  



No booth experience is complete without swag. Be thoughtful and make your swag work for you by creating a memorable extension of your brand beyond the shelf.  Free food and product samples are the minimum at Expo West. Branded quality t-shirts, stickers, cozies, reusable canteens, water bottles, socks, custom tote bags — the options are limitless.

Regardless of what you do, you gotta love your swag. Invest in quality here. Wherever you are — from walking the expo floor, to heading to and from the expo and hotel, your shirt will be the primary ad for your brand along with anything you decide to hand out along the way.

We personally dig swag that puts a clever twist on brand messaging, like hilarious stickers, quirky backdrop selfie opps, and on-trend graphic shirts and totes. Don’t cheap out on the swag shirts! The boxy cotton t-shirt- no matter how well designed, will likely go in the donation box.  Last year, we saw stylish watermelon totes for WTRMLN WTR. The bags were so striking that they peaked our curiosity from like twenty feet away and had us like,  “Where did you get that?” We’d bet money that those are still in use today. In fact, we’re still wishing we’d snagged one!

Pro-Tip: For Buyers with larger purchasing power, a retailer you are passionate about selling to, or someone you have a relationship with — skip the tiny samples and offer a full sized product or swag bag. Be memorable, it goes a really long way.



In addition to the samples and swag, you’ll need to make sure your brand materials are engaging, updated and in abundance. Your brand will be attracting thousands of retailers and buyers and it’s critical that you have an abundance of updated brand materials. Your audience requires clear takeaways that quickly and effectively communicate your brand and what makes you unique. They need to know who you are, what you sell, and how to get it within seconds. Detailed sell sheets with sizes, quantities, barcodes and specs are every buyer’s best friend.

What’s your expo prep game plan? Join the discussion below or contact us direct.               

Expo West takes place at the Anaheim Convention Center North Halls on March 6-8 and Anaheim Convention Center Main Halls on March 7-9

Alison chases the things she wants most — even if she doesn’t exactly know how to get there. And that’s exactly what brought her to creating SHELF Studio. But let’s go back to the start: It begins with her passion for packaging. "I’m a gift giver, and there is nothing more beautiful to me than a thoughtfully designed package."

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