1. Business Ideas
  2. Business Plans
  3. Startup Basics
  4. Startup Funding
  5. Franchising
  6. Success Stories
  7. Entrepreneurs
  1. Sales & Marketing
  2. Finances
  3. Your Team
  4. Technology
  5. Social Media
  6. Security
  1. Get the Job
  2. Get Ahead
  3. Office Life
  4. Work-Life Balance
  5. Home Office
  1. Leadership
  2. Women in Business
  3. Managing
  4. Strategy
  5. Personal Growth
  1. HR Solutions
  2. Financial Solutions
  3. Marketing Solutions
  4. Security Solutions
  5. Retail Solutions
  6. SMB Solutions
Product and service reviews are conducted independently by our editorial team, but we sometimes make money when you click on links. Learn more.
Grow Your Business Sales & Marketing

Trade Show Displays: A Buyer's Guide

Trade Show Displays: A Buyer's Guide
Credit: NomadicDisplay.com

Going to a trade show soon or planning to market at trade shows in the future? Then you'll need an awesome trade show display to grab the attention of customers and clients and showcase what your business has to offer. And having a good display can make or break how your business does at events.

"A trade show display is a highly visible statement about a company and its products.  The company benefits from having a display by attracting visitors at shows that generate leads," said Laurie Pennacchi, CEO of ExpoMarketing, a trade show display company.

So what does a good trade show display do for you? Other than grab people's attention, it can say a lot about your business.

"A display should tell attendees who you are, what you do and how you can help trade show attendees," said Gwen Parsons, senior vice president at Nomadic Display, a trade show display company. "[It] should portray your company brand and image in a way that will help salespeople introduce products, engage attendees in a conversation, generate qualified sales opportunities and leave a favorable impression to facilitate follow-up after the event."

Without a display, Parsons said, you're at a disadvantage against your competitors.

"Frankly, it's very rare for a company to contract for an exhibit space and not bring a display," Parsons said.

Whether you're a trade show veteran or not, you need to weigh your options on trade show displays if you're in the market for a new one. With designs and trends constantly changing and evolving, it's important to stay updated on what works and what doesn't in the trade show sector. [10 Trade Show Display Vendors to Consider ]

Types of trade show displays

There are many types of trade show displays available to choose from, and they can be configured in just about any way imaginable. However, the two most commonly used trade show display systems are pop-up exhibits and panel displays.

Pop-up displays consist of a flexible panel that is attached to an accordion-style frame that expands and locks into place to create a curved or angled wall that makes up the back wall of your trade show booth. Pop-up displays generally cost less than other display options, are lightweight and easy to ship or travel with, and are fairly easy to set up.

Panel displays, on the other hand, are more sturdy and stable, but they tend to be heavier and more difficult to assemble. They can easily be configured in many different ways, as they consist of various rectangular sections that are covered in fabric and can connect together.

Other popular display types include:

Modular exhibits: Similar to a panel display system, they have many parts and can be configured in different ways but are much lighter in weight, like a pop-up display.

Pipe and drape displays: These have a metal frame and a fabric drape and are usually used as a simple backdrop.

Tabletop displays: Good for events where large displays aren't necessary, tabletop displays are like a smaller version of a panel or pop-up display, but designed to fit on a table.

Truss Displays: Heavy-duty and built with steel or aluminum frames, they're often used as backdrops in television shows, as lighting systems and more. They can be used to create just about anything.

Depending on your vendor or exhibit house, you may have more options. And of course, you can always have a custom trade show display system created for your business, with the option to combine different display types.

Renting vs. purchasing trade show displays

When it comes to obtaining a trade show display, you have two options: you can rent a display temporarily for an exhibit, or you can purchase one for use whenever you need it. Renting works for many businesses, while others would prefer or need to have their own display system on hand. So how do you know which option is right for your business?

First, Pennacchi said, you should consider the size of the trade show display that you need and the number of trade shows at which you plan to exhibit.

"If the booth spaces are 10 feet by 10 feet, it probably makes sense to purchase a portable exhibit. For larger spaces, a rental is a very logical choice. The company has the opportunity to change their booth layout from one show to the next while still preserving their look and feel," Pennacchi said.

And rental solutions are definitely more budget-friendly, but only if you don't exhibit very often, Parsons said.

"In general, a display rents for about 25-35 percent of the cost to buy it.  So one rule of thumb is if you are planning to use the same exhibit three times during a one-year period you should purchase the display," Parsons said.

It's also important to consider your resources. If storage or maintenance are issues for you, you may want to use a rental.

"[By renting, business owners] save the cost of storing the booth in between shows," Pennacchi said. "They don't have to worry about paying for maintenance of the booth, either. They get the booth of their choice in perfect condition for each show."

How to choose a trade show display

If you're new to the trade show scene or making company changes, don't jump into anything just yet. Parsons said this is definitely a time to go for a rental system.

"If a company is a first-time exhibitor, wants to test a new market, wants a bigger footprint for a once-a-year national event, or is uncertain about changing business strategies [like a merger, acquisition or rebrand], the safe bet is to rent a whole new exhibit or add-ons to extend existing display properties," Parsons said.

And if you decide you want to purchase your rental, don't worry – usually, that can be done.

"Plus, exhibitor renters can reuse their graphics at a subsequent event whether they choose re-rent or purchase the same exhibit property," Parsons said, adding that if you do choose to buy your rental exhibit, you should ask your consultant if a portion of your rental fee can be applied toward your purchase.

It's also important that you take your trade show display shopping offline, especially with so many options on the market.  Pennacchi advised that customers attend other trade shows and scope out what their competitors are doing to get a better idea of what they want.

"There are a multitude of trade show displays available today.  It is difficult to make a decision by looking solely at websites.  It is beneficial to walk a trade show, preferably in your industry, and pay attention to the types of exhibits that attract your eye and that make a statement similar to the one you want to make," Pennacchi said. "Check out what your competitors are doing and make a point of trying to outshine them."

Before you start thinking about what types of displays you want, you need to think about your needs and restrictions. Not doing so could cost you if you wind up with the wrong kind of display for your business.

Editor’s Note: Looking for a trade show display company? If you’re looking for information to help you choose the one that’s right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:

"There are pros and cons to any type of trade show display.  Some might be beautiful, but they are too expensive to fit the budget parameters once you factor in the costs of exhibiting.  Some are cheap or reasonably priced, but they offer no presence," Pennacchi said.

With so many options to consider, choosing a trade show display system itself can be challenging. The best approach, Pennacchi noted, is to explain to your prospective vendor what your goals are (both immediate and long term) and the budget you have available. From there, they should give you a range of options and make suggestions that fit your needs.

So when it comes to choosing a vendor, it's especially important that you choose one that has your best interests in mind.

"Find the exhibit house that best fits your needs.  It is important to establish a relationship with a company that wants to be your partner and not just a vendor. If your exhibit house understands your needs and evolves with you as your business grows, you will have a lot of success with your trade shows," Pennacchi said.

The final decision, Pennacchi said, should take several factors into consideration, including your budget and the design.

Before you buy your trade show display

If you've got a trade show coming up and are thinking about purchasing or renting a display system, our experts said you should ask yourself these questions:

  • What are our goals for our trade show presence?
  • What size(s) of exhibit space do we plan to use?
  • How often (per year) do we plan to exhibit?
  • What is our budget for the display?
  • Who will be setting up and repacking the display?
  • What do we want to do in our exhibit to market our products and/or services?
  • Would we rather rent or buy a trade show display?
  • Does this vendor understand our needs? Or are they just trying to make a sale?
  • Does this vendor outsource or provide all services in-house?
  • Does this vendor offer graphic design services?

You should also be sure to research different vendors and the trade shows and events you plan to attend to get a better idea of what options are available to you. Your research, along with your responses to these questions, should help you figure out what kind of trade show display(s) you need and what vendor or exhibit house to use.

Originally published on Business News Daily.

Brittney Helmrich
Brittney Helmrich

Brittney M. Helmrich graduated from Drew University in 2012 with a B.A. in History and Creative Writing. She joined the Business News Daily team in 2014 after working as the editor-in-chief of an online college life and advice publication for two years. Follow Brittney on Twitter at @brittneyplz, or contact her by email.

grow-your-business
See All