Exhibit Rentals: Key Considerations For Your Next Trade Show

Trade Show Rentals
May 23, 2022

Understanding The Exhibit Rentals Market

Trade show exhibit rentals are booming. Because of this, a wide range of vendors are entering the market or expanding their services to gain as much market share as possible. However, all exhibit rental companies are not created equally. There are solopreneurs running their own operations, and there are companies with thousands of employees.

How do you find the right company for your exhibit rental needs? The discovery process starts by skillfully asking the right questions. Does a vendor you are considering hold a large inventory? What kind of materials make up their various rental components? Are their exhibits in good condition, or worn down? Will you have the support you need around administration and setup? The list goes on and on.

5 Things to Consider about Exhibit Rentals

Rental exhibits have become as popular as leasing a car. It’s no longer just an economic consideration. It’s also about design flexibility and convenience, such as no storage. If you’re considering a rental exhibit for an upcoming show, be sure to ask your vendor the right questions.

Do you know what’s included and what you’ll need to plan for? A lot of companies offer rental exhibits, but few offer true rental programs that cover all of the bases for you. No one wants to be hit with surprises, especially with things that could affect your exhibiting experience, or bust your budget.

1. Renting Trade Show Exhibits is Just One Option

When vetting exhibit rental companies, it’s important to remember that many companies are incentivized to convince you that renting is the best option for your business – especially if they don’t sell exhibits themselves. These companies pitch cost savings on storage fees, flexibility around changing up your exhibits, and more, as compelling reasons to dismiss the idea of purchasing your own exhibit altogether.

Beneath the surface, however, a different truth may emerge. In many cases, buying a trade show exhibit can be a better solution. It depends on things like:

  • Frequency of use
  • Lifespan of exhibit
  • Ongoing modification needs
  • Long-term and short-term goals
  • Creative control
  • Logistical preferences

There are many factors that go into answering the question of if you should buy or rent a trade show exhibit. Know your goals, needs, and numbers to make the best decision for your company.

2. Understand the Relationship Between Graphics vs. Structures

trade show exhibit rentals

Each time you change your style, design, or messaging on the visual side, you are purchasing new graphics. Some exhibitors think many of these elements will be evergreen, but the business world is fast-paced and often requires on-the-fly adjustments for these kinds of situations. Be prepared for this, and have a system and strategy in place. Remember, you may be renting the structure and components but you own the graphics.

3. Analyze Exhibit Rental Inventory, Experience, and Capabilities

There are times in life when it pays to work with smaller companies. We would argue that renting trade show exhibits is probably not one of those times. Established rental companies with a solid base of operation underneath them will have a much larger inventory from which to craft your display. They won’t be as limited in their options. They will be able to build your exhibit around your vision and needs rather than their existing inventory. 

Learn About Virtual Exhibits

In the digital era, it’s important to adapt and embrace new technologies. Learn about how virtual trade shows can help you reach and engage new customers.

4. Packaging, Presentation, Quality & Communication are Vital

Many new exhibitors become so immersed in the design and components of their trade show exhibit, they often overlook the other details – especially when it comes to exhibit rentals. Renting might not be as expensive as buying a brand new exhibit, but the costs can still be significant. Struggling through setup, receiving poor packaging, and other related frustrations can limit your exhibition experience and overall success at your trade show. A few things that define a class-act exhibit rental company include:

  • Detailed drawings and illustrations to guide the setup process
  • Numbered or labeled trade show components
  • Photos showing pre-assembly and other key visual aids
  • Clean hardware
  • Jigged packaging/crating

When it comes time to actually exhibit, you want to ensure you are set up for as much success as possible. Make sure to choose an exhibit rental company that won’t leave you high and dry once the design and construction phase are completed.

5. Plan on a Long-Term Relationship with Your Trade Show Booth Rentals Supplier

While trade show exhibit schedules vary by business and industry, you will likely have a fairly involved relationship with your supplier. Responsive, clear communication, as well as a commitment to fulfilling your exhibit rental needs, are crucial intangibles that shouldn’t be sacrificed. A good vendor relationship means you’ll develop a rhythm with your supplier around your trade show schedule, frequency of change orders needed, shipping timelines, and other important, involved questions.

Great trade show booth design does not always equate to friendly, helpful communication skills. An impressive inventory does not guarantee your supplier will always be able to deliver your exhibit on time. Understanding these principles upfront will help you choose a partner that delivers value around every corner to best position your business for success.

All in all, make sure you aren’t afraid to ask detailed and perhaps uncomfortable questions as you consider your trade show exhibit rental options. The relationship will likely be involved, so it’s in your best interest to make a considered decision upfront.

Average Cost of Booth Rentals

Let’s tackle the question of cost from a different angle. Why? Because too often exhibitors focus on the cost of buying or renting an exhibit but ignore the other expenses associated with trade show marketing. Those include the booth space, freight, show services (like electrical, flooring, cleaning, etc.), material handling, travel, meals, entertainment, and promotion. What’s the total budget? Knowing that will guide the decision about cost (and opportunity). 

But there’s an easier way to show this. The Exhibits Northwest website has three rental display galleries:  Islands, Inlines, and Accessories. Each one shows two prices for each design – hardware and graphics. You’ll need to add them together for the total prices. 

Island Exhibit Rentals:  Browse over 100 exhibits ranging from 20 x 20 to 40 x 50. All can be customized. Or tap into our professional exhibit design services.

Inline Exhibit Rentals:  Choose from 170 inline displays with backlit, shelving, storage, and casual seating options. And just like the islands, they can be customized to match your specific show marketing requirements. 

 Accessories and Counter Rentals:  So Many Fun Options! Like wireless charging tables, monitor kiosks, tablet stands, reception counters, and hanging signs. 

How to Decide Between Trade Show Rentals & Custom Booths

Deciding whether to purchase a rental exhibit vs. a custom display used to be straightforward. Not anymore! Or at least not with exhibit houses committed to customizing a rental exhibit. Walk any large trade show in 2022 and 25-40% of the booths are rentals, both inline and islands. Some rentals are easy to identify with basic (and dated) designs and battered extrusions – typically rentals from the general show contractor. However, the majority are attractive, upscale, and customized to meet the exhibitor’s specific marketing objectives. So how do you decide between a rental vs. a custom exhibit? 

Budget. Custom exhibits will always cost more than a rental. If your budget doesn’t support purchasing a custom booth, then you have two options. Purchasing a smaller booth, say an inline vs. an island, or switching to a rental. With a rental, you’re buying the graphics but not the structure which means you can reuse the graphics at the next show and only pay for the structure. Are rentals more expensive if you participate in a heavy show schedule? Yes, but it’s important to consider all the costs, along with other variables like the ones below. 

Timing. Sometimes there are overlapping or conflicting trade shows. A rental can fill that need. 

Marketing. Messaging and priorities can change, even for companies with a long history of trade show participation. Rentals are a great way  to “test the waters.” Find what works and then (perhaps) commit to a custom exhibit.   

Design. There are limits to how much an exhibit house will customize its rental inventory without a multi-show commitment from the exhibitor. Many exhibitors have very specific branding and marketing objectives that require a custom design. 

Flexibility. Not everyone wants to use the same exhibit design more than once. They want the flexibility of changing the graphics, adding lightboxes or towers, substituting meeting space for storage, or simply going larger or smaller on the show floor. For them, they don’t want to be locked into a design for more than one or two shows.

Storage. When you purchase an exhibit, particularly a custom display, that usually means wood crates. Some companies have the space to store it themselves. Others have they’re exhibit house store it for them. Either way, there’s an expense. With a rental, there’s no storage (or minimal storage for graphics). 

5 Rental Booth Examples from Exhibits NW

REN-9151 Casual Island Exhibit

Trade show exhibit design has evolved with a greater emphasis on customization, modular construction, and casual environments. The REN-9151 reflects all three with modular SuperNova LED Lightboxes, a custom reception counter with storage, and two comfortable lounges. 

booth rentals

REN-9140 Backlit Island Exhibit

A well-designed rental island exhibit should be attractive, inviting, informative, and practical. The REN-9140 does all that… and more. It combines SuperNova lightboxes and vibrant graphics with upscale monitor kiosks in a booth design that welcomes business conversations and problem-solving. There are multiple locking counters and a full-size closet for secure storage. The 12 ft. high central tower is perfect for storing product samples and equipment. 

trade show rentals

REN-2094 Modular Inline Exhibit

The REN-2094 Gravitee One-Step series elevates exhibits to the next level with extensive product shelves, storage, and captivating backlit images. The 20 ft. inline version includes (3) Gravitee Lightboxes, two 30″ wide and one 46″ wide, all with SEG fabric graphics. SEG graphics are a breeze to install and allow for quick changes from show to show. The open inline floor plan is ideal for a casual seating area and a welcoming reception counter. The design includes a full-size closet with a locking door. 

rental booth

REN-1081 Backlit Inline Exhibit

Clean, dynamic, inviting, and practical. The REN-1081 strikes the ideal balance of large backlit graphics, tablet/monitor(s), and casual seating, all in well-defined spaces with appropriate social distancing. The large backlit fabric graphics create a seamless visual presentation whether in the 10 or 20 ft. inline configurations. 

Exhibit Rentals

REN-1590 Backlit Counter

This beautiful backlit counter is ideal for both inline and island exhibit rentals. The double-sided backlit fabric graphics will attract attention from any angle. The large countertops make them practical. The counters assemble without tools and can be packed in a portable roto-molded case with wheels.

booth rentals


Trade Show Rentals: Final Thoughts

To summarize, there’s more that goes into renting a trade show exhibit than many realize. Understanding the nuances of the industry and asking questions around the considerations recommended in this article will get you started in the right direction, but be prepared to keep learning with every show!

If you’d like to learn more about how Exhibits NW can serve your trade show exhibit rental needs, start by checking out our trade show display rentals page.

Schedule a Call

If you’re ready to take your trade show exhibits to new heights, fill out this form, and we’ll contact you shortly.

Schedule a Call
If you’re ready to take your trade show exhibits to new heights, fill out this form and we’ll contact you shortly.