When Should You Rent a Trade Show Booth?

June 05, 2014

No matter how large or small your business, rentals and refurbished exhibits can help you make a much larger impact at trade shows at a reduced price. Using either option can significantly enhance your image depending upon your current exhibit design. When approached the right way, rentals and refurbished properties can make your company’s trade show presence that much better.  But there are several factors that need to be addressed to make the right decision for your company and your trade show marketing efforts. The first is how many times this booth will be used. Rule of thumb is - if you are going to use it more than three times in a year - you might think about purchasing. Additional factors to consider include:

Rank the shows in your schedule from most important to least important and plan for a right-sized exhibit for each.Trade Show Rental Booth

Not every show is equally important to reaching your best prospects. Consider where your largest competitors exhibit and how much of a splash they usually make. If you want to be considered a leader in your market, your space at that show needs to be comparable to your top competitors. The largest companies usually invest in the largest booth spaces with custom exhibits that allow them to have several areas within their booth to serve a variety of purposes. 

If you have one or two shows that demand a significant booth presence, consider augmenting your regular booth with rental components. It can make economic sense to invest in a modular custom exhibit designed to expand with rental elements for one or more top-of-the-line shows. For example, if you will be handing out product samples at only one or two shows, consider renting the display materials needed for that part of your exhibit. If you only need a private conference room for one show, rent it or incorporate refurbished booth materials. 

Used exhibit materials can be refurbished to fit your color scheme and brand identity. Look for warehouse sales from exhibit design firms and even online listings of used trade show booths to get an idea of what is available.

Conversely, if you are looking to move into a new market, you may want to experiment with a starter rental booth. If it is a less-important show, you may begin with the smallest booth space and simply rent a skirted table and bring along pop-up graphics. That way, you can determine whether the show is worth a bigger investment next year. For smaller shows, you can save big money by using rental exhibits decorated with custom, brand-building graphics. The optimal booth space is typically a 10x20 foot environment with audio-visual capabilities, counters for displaying products and other amenities.      

Depending on the size of the exhibit that you regularly use and ship cross-country, it can be less expensive and just as effective to rent the entire exhibit for certain shows. Rentals can be especially beneficial for international venues where shipping costs may be prohibitive. Plus, with a rental, you can determine all your display costs upfront because a full rental exhibit comes as a bundled package, including design, booth hardware, custom graphics, freight, set-up and dismantle.

Determine how much space you need and how you are going to use your exhibit.

How you use your booth space depends on a number of factors, including the importance of the show to your marketing plan, the size of your budget, the image you want to convey, the business activities you want to conduct, and even the parameters of the event. 

Some shows allow considerable latitude in what you can do in your exhibit space – everything from product demonstrations to food and beverage service to live entertainment. Other shows will not permit handouts of any kind. Do your homework when signing up for new shows so that you know whether you can display your business to its best advantage.

Read the exhibitor manual months before the show and evaluate your rental options.

The exhibitors guide helps you understand the rules of the trade show and what you can and cannot do with your booth space. The show organizer usually provides a number of rental options from official suppliers for the elements that you may not want to purchase and ship from show to show, such as carpet, tables, chairs, and lighting.

Keep in mind that the rental items offered by the show organizer will be limited and may not fit the overall image you want to portray. If you are particular about how your booth looks, check out your options at independent exhibit design firms. For many rental items, you are not limited to just the suppliers recommended by the show organizer.

The conference organizers also should provide a list of exhibitors. Depending on your marketing strategy, you may want to be close to exhibitors that are also prospects or far away from your largest competitors. It is best to apply for booth space in the corners, entranceways, or other high-traffic areas.  You want to see a steady flow of traffic by your booth.  It is worth paying extra for a high-visibility space if it is a critical show.

Know your deadlines and plan in advance.

Many shows have long lead times for reserving space, and arranging for a high-end rental exhibit takes time. Waiting until the last minute to decide about your booth space and exhibit components may mean you are too late to get the best placement or that you will incur rush charges.

 Make sure the right employees will be available to work the booth, determine how you will interact with your prospects, get a display purchased or rented, and have the booth designed to match your advertising theme and brand image. It all takes time.

The same goes for handouts. Do not just cart in boxes of brochures. Most literature given out at trade shows is never read. Create a simple one-page flyer with a promotion tied to that particular show or offer to send your literature via email or mail.  Better yet, ask if you can deliver your brochure in person after the show and meet to discuss their needs in detail. Regardless, limit the amount of literature you hand out at shows and be prepared to interact with prospects and customers in your best light.  Which reminds us, do not forget the lighting.  Rental light displays can help you really shine!
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