BASICS YOU SHOULD KNOW FOR SETTING UP AT SHOWS
Buying a tent
Make sure when buying a tent to use at events that you look for a commercial rating. The cheap plastic framed tents do not hold up in wind, and wind is the one thing you cannot control. If you are looking on web sites, use the word CANOPY to find a tent.
Get the 10' X 10' tent
It is most appropriate in size for most event venues. Make sure it has straight legs, not cantilevered legs. You also want to make sure the 10' X 10' is canopy size. Some 8' X 8' tents advertise a 10' X 10' footprint, so don't buy the wrong tent. You want a 10' X 10' canopy with a 10' X 10' footprint. 8' X 8' tents legs are cantilevered and will not support a sign or banner post.
A word to the wise
Just so you know, most exhibit spaces are 10' X 10'. A 12' X 12' tent will not work in most venues, and has a whole different fire code and will haunt you everywhere you go. Trust us and get the 10' X 10' tent. If you are looking for a low cost tent that you are not going to use a lot, we strongly recommend Quik Shade Instant Canopy tents. They are not the best, but if you want a low cost tent that has half a chance that it probably won't self destruct the first time you use it, these are fine. They don't hold up in winds. That is because there is no cross bracing. They generally run around $100.00 and you can usually find these at Home Depot.
Invest In A Good Tent If you want a good tent that will last and hold up in wind, we are recommending an EZ-Up tent from BJ's, a Caravan Tent from Costco or a Z Shade tent from Sam's Club. They actually have them there on the floor and you can purchase one and carry it home except for the Caravan from Costco, you need to order it online.. All these tents have sides and are in the $200.00 range. Money well spent because these will last. Be sure the tent you purchase is a commercial tent and has cross braces. I have included item and model numbers we recommend on each choice. Once you put the top on your tent, never take it off. It will last longer that way!
How to set up or take down a tent
Click Here For Printable Instructions On How To Set Up & Take Down Your Tent
Keeping your tent from blowing away
BE sure you buy tent stakes. Buy the kind that will drive into the holes on the legs of your tent, and buy 2 packages so you have at least 8 stakes. Here are some examples of what we suggest. We also recommend that you buy some ratcheting tie downs and an heavy duty stakes to hold them into the ground. These will keep your tent from blowing away, and are especially important in 2 day events when the tent will be set up overnight with no supervision. Make sure you buy tie downs that are long enough to reach the top of your tent and angle to your tie down. Figure at least 10 or 12 feet. If you will be setting up on the street or on concrete, cement builder blocks work great. Figure 2 per leg to be safe. They are generally about a dollar apiece. This will help secure your investment and keep your tent from blowing away or racking in wind and you can secure your strap to the blocks. We also suggest you get a good hammer and keep it with your tent stakes for driving them into the ground. An extra suggestion ... if you are leaving your tent overnight for a 2 day event, lower it and re-tighten your straps.
Banners for your tent and exhibit.
We recommend that if you are getting a vinyl banner for your tent, that you get a 3' X 8' banner, so you have room to stretch it with bungees. A 10 foot sign is too big for a 10' tent opening. Make sure it is has grommets. Be sure and give your sign maker time to work! Keep your message short and concise. Call if you have a question and we will help. We also suggest you read the Sign Design FYI before ordering any signs. Basic Sign Design Part 1 Basic Sign Design Part 2
Where to get your banners
We have a great price you won't beat anywhere locally for a printed 3' X 8' banner with grommets (this is what you want for a 10' X 10' tent). They also do printing if you need handouts or a backdrop for your booth. Go see Zee at
How to get a great sign holder for about $25.00
We can also show you how to build a sign holder frame out of PVC piping to support your sign for very little money. You will need six 5' lengths of 1¼" schedule 40 PVC pipe, 3 couplings, & 2 Tees. We will be glad to show you how to assemble it. DO NOT GLUE IT TOGETHER! Click Here For A Diagram Of The Frame Holder And How To Assemble It. See what it looks like assembled with a banner
How to secure your sign
You will also need a bag of bungees (an assorted bag is generally under $5.00), and some small round bungees will balls on the end of them -click for pic, so you can wrap them around a 1¼" pipe and a tent post to secure your sign to the tent. They wrap around and into themselves. Any larger equipment supply like Liberty Bell, Harbor Freight, or Northern generally has them.
A cheap bungee holder
For a bungee holder you can use to keep your bungees from tangling like a bunch of mating snakes, get a 3' piece of vented shelving. You can usually get one close from the scraps at a Home Depot or Lowes. It doesn't have to be exact. The shelving will allow you to stretch the bungees and clip them on to keep them untangled and easy to get the one you need.
Lighting without electricity
If you are going to be doing a show that extends into the night, you will need a Coleman Propane Lantern that you can purchase at Wal-Mart. Be sure you have about a 10' piece of something like clothesline to hang it from that can be brought over the tent frame and tied into the side so you can raise or lower the light from the ground.
Use your head Keep papers and brochures in water-tight containers, bring weights to hold papers and displays down in case of wind, always prepare for the weather to be bad - bring a towel and a raincoat. Prepare for everything from wind to water puddles to the septic overflowing. When doing a two day event, put your stuff away and secure everything for night. Always take anything of value home with you, and lower your tent to the lowest level and re-secure it. If high winds are expected, take the tent down and take it home with you so you can set up and be productive another day.
Be prepared Remember that if anything can go wrong, one of these days it probably will, so be prepared for anything! I would suggest that you have plastic covers to cover your stuff quickly in the event of a shower, keep a small basic tool box for emergencies, always have a knife, a utility knife with razor blades, some string, rope and zip ties just in case ... then look at your display and think what things unique to you would make sense and make sure you have a solution and supplies on hand. If you use your head and be prepared, exhibiting outdoors is no problem!
Be Safety Proactive
We also advise that you have a Fire Extinguisher. Most events do not require them, but it is handy to have at home anyway, and can be brought with you at events "just in case."
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