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How Long Does It Take to Build a Custom Trade Show Exhibit?

Trade Show Custom Exhibit

Building a custom trade show exhibit is a complex process that involves multiple stages of planning, design and execution. The timeline can vary significantly based on the project’s scope, the exhibit’s size and complexity and the level of customization required. On average, it takes IGE Group about 8 weeks to create a custom exhibit—2 weeks for planning and 6 weeks for the design. 

To help you understand what to expect, let’s break down the key phases and the typical duration for each.

Initial Consultation and Planning (1-2 Weeks)

The journey begins with an initial consultation where you discuss your goals, budget and ideas with a trade show agency. During this phase, you’ll:

  • Define your objectives for the exhibit.
  • Discuss your brand identity and messaging.
  • Set a budget and timeline.
  • Review past exhibits and gather inspiration.

This phase is crucial for aligning expectations and laying the groundwork for the project. Typically, it takes about 1-2 weeks to complete.

Design Concept and Approval (3-6 Weeks)

Once the initial consultation is complete, the design phase begins. This involves:

  • Developing initial design concepts and sketches.
  • Creating 3D renderings to visualize the exhibit.
  • Iterating on the design based on your feedback.
  • Finalizing the design and getting approval.

Designing a custom exhibit requires careful consideration of various elements such as layout, branding, graphics and interactive features. Depending on the complexity of the design and the number of revisions needed, this phase can take anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks.

Engineering and Fabrication (6-12 Weeks)

After approval of the design, the engineering and fabrication phase starts. This is where the exhibit moves from concept to reality:

  • Detailed engineering plans and technical drawings are created.
  • Materials are sourced, and components are fabricated.
  • Custom elements such as lighting, AV equipment and interactive displays are integrated.

The duration of this phase depends on the complexity of the exhibit and the availability of materials. For a moderately complex exhibit, fabrication typically takes 6 to 12 weeks. Larger or more intricate designs may require additional time.

Graphics Production (2-4 Weeks)

While the physical structure comes to life, the graphics production phase can occur simultaneously. This involves:

  • Designing and printing high-quality graphics and signage.
  • Ensuring that all visual elements align with your brand and messaging.
  • Prepping graphics for installation.

Graphics production usually takes 2 to 4 weeks, depending on the amount of graphics needed and the complexity of the designs.

Pre-Assembly and Quality Check (1-2 Weeks)

Before shipping the exhibit to the trade show venue, the team conducts a pre-assembly and quality check that includes:

  • The exhibit is assembled in the workshop to ensure all components fit and function correctly.
  • Any adjustments or repairs are made.
  • The exhibit is disassembled and packed for shipping.

This phase ensures that there are no surprises when you set up the exhibit at the trade show. It typically takes about 1 to 2 weeks.

Shipping and Installation (1-2 Weeks)

The final phase involves shipping the exhibit to the trade show location and installing it:

  • Logistics are coordinated to ensure timely delivery.
  • Professional installers set up the exhibit on-site.
  • Final adjustments and inspections ensure everything is perfect.

Shipping and installation can take 1 to 2 weeks, depending on the distance to the venue and the complexity of the setup.

Factors That Can Affect the Timeline

Several factors can influence the overall timeline for building a custom trade show exhibit. First is the complexity of the design. More intricate designs with custom elements may require additional time. Delays in sourcing materials can also extend the fabrication phase, as it can take time to acquire all of the necessary materials. Finally, making quick decisions and approvals can speed up the timeline, as can efficient coordination between designers, fabricators and other vendors. 


Building a custom trade show exhibit is a significant investment of time and resources, typically taking anywhere from 2 months to 7 months. Understanding the timeline and each phase involved helps you plan effectively and set realistic expectations. By working closely with your exhibit designer and staying proactive throughout the process, you can ensure that your custom exhibit is ready to make a big impact at your next trade show. To start planning your exhibit booth design, contact IGE Group today.