Whether you’re new to trade shows or a seasoned expert, the choice of an exhibition stand can be stressful. It doesn’t matter if your budget is $3,000 or $300,000. You want to get it right. In an ideal world, there would be A, B, and C choices, each perfect in its own unique way. But, in fact, even for less expensive exhibits, there are hundreds of stands with (often) confusing and conflicting features and benefits.
So, how about a custom exhibition stand instead? What exhibitor doesn’t want a booth unlike every other exhibit on a crowded trade show floor? With custom exhibits, there are no limits except your budget and gravity. Exhibition designers are experts at creating an experience that showcases your company’s branding and trade show goals in a 3D structure.
What is an Exhibition Stand?
Let’s begin with the “tomayto, tomahto” and “potayto, potahto” distinction. What’s an exhibition stand in some parts of the world is a trade show exhibit or display in others. Then there’s the term “booth” which can mean either the physical structure or the physical space on the show floor. Frankly, “stand” can mean just about anything. A display can range from a basic tabletop on a skirted banquet table to a 160 x 240 custom island exhibit with a double deck, overhead hanging signs, and mesmerizing LED video wall(s).
Does that mean the sky’s the limit and anything goes with an exhibition stand? Yes and no. Your budget will dictate the size of your space and the type of exhibit. Big budgets aligned with the right designer can make an exhibitor the feature attraction at any trade show. However, most exhibitors don’t have a proverbial money tree.
In addition, an exhibitor’s show schedule will often dictate the type of exhibit(s) required. Some companies have two or three “BIG” industry shows each year and other smaller shows. At the larger shows they might have an island exhibit but at the smaller shows, have modular or portable inlines, like 10 x 10 or 10 x 20 displays.
Lastly, booth rules and regulations vary depending on the show and the location of the show (Chicago vs. Shanghai). What’s acceptable and legal in North America may be verboten in Germany. Doing your homework isn’t just important, it’s crucial. At many European exhibitions, raised flooring is common, but it’s unusual at most North American shows. Even the placement of “walls” on a 10 x 10 booth can be legal in one location and a “no no” in another.
Types of Stands
This topic can get complicated. The types of stands is a bit like discussing flat-screen televisions. Once you get past the size and start comparing styles, features, prices, technology, and manufacturers, the conversation quickly turns into an endless rabbit hole based on facts, opinions, and Uncle Eddie’s experience with an LED vs OLED vs. LCD monitor.
On its most basic level, most stands can be grouped into three categories (or some combination): portable, modular, or custom. Beyond that, it comes down to construction, packaging, and assembly. Of course, there are the materials, graphics, accessories, and a host of other considerations, but getting lost in the weeds isn’t conducive to anyone’s mental health.
Instead, decide what’s important to your exhibition goals.
Quite simply, portable means it can ship via UPS or FedEx. It can mean the cases have handles and wheels for convenience and mobility, but don’t assume “portable” always means lightweight. Also, don’t assume portable equates to tool-less or easy to assemble. Some are. Some aren’t. Finally, quality varies (like anything else). The pretty picture on your computer is kinda like online dating. Be careful and ask a lot of questions before committing to that weekend in the Poconos.
At least in North America, modular has two common definitions for exhibition stands. One, individual elements are part of a system of components, which means they can be replaced if lost or damaged. Two, the components can theoretically be reconfigured into a different, smaller, or larger exhibit. It’s the second definition that matters the most to many exhibitors who want the flexibility of switching from an island at one show to an inline at another show, using the same display.
Custom probably doesn’t require much of an explanation. It’s custom. However, in reality, custom is often used interchangeably for custom design and custom construction. Custom design is any non-standard design, but even that is somewhat squishy in meaning. Often, custom and customized are mentioned in the same breath, without distinguishing between them. In theory, a custom design should be something unique, whereas customized can be an existing design that’s been tweaked to meet a client’s need. Custom construction is more straightforward since it almost always means a wood-built exhibit.
11 Basic Tips for the Best Exhibition Stand
- Marketing Goals. It all starts with defining your trade show marketing goals. Those will determine LITERALLY EVERYTHING ELSE.
- Exhibit Professional. Regardless of your budget, working with an exhibit professional will save you time, money, and headaches when choosing an exhibition stand. It’s not like buying a crescent wrench or a laundry basket. It’s easy to make mistakes and those mistakes can be costly, not just on the display but also with shipping, material handling, marketing, training, and about 20 other things.
- More or Less. Don’t get more than you need, unless you have a clear plan for the future. Also, don’t get less. That never ever works out when it comes to exhibiting at a trade show.
- Rentals. If unsure, then rent an exhibit. It’s a great way to test different exhibit systems and sizes while deciding what to buy. Many exhibitors ONLY rent their display since a quality exhibit house will have a wide array of styles, sizes, and prices.
- Storage. There’s almost never an instance where you won’t need lockable storage for personal items, giveaways, literature, or emergency necessities (like tape, Velcro, security ties, pain medication, cleaning supplies, etc.) BUT, and this is an important BUT, make sure it’s actually secure, lockable storage, and not a counter with a locking door with a removable countertop.
- Assemble It. Or Inspect It. Never attend a show without assembling it first. This applies to the first time and every other time. There’s nothing more soul-crushing than arriving at a show and being unable to assemble the display because of a lack of expertise, a broken component, or missing pieces.
- Parts and Pieces. Before buying, ask about the availability of replacement parts. Not only are they available, but how quickly and the general cost. Imagine buying a car not knowing if there were replacement tires, fuel pumps, or flex capacitors available.
- Warranty. This applies not only to “systems” but also to custom exhibits. Always get the warranty in writing and don’t depend on assurances like, “Oh, don’t worry, we take care of our customers.”
- Display Storage. Where’s the display going AFTER the SHOW? Will the exhibit house store it for you or do you plan to store it at your facility? It’s gotta go somewhere.
- Graphics. The hardware is the backbone of your exhibit, but the graphics are what people see. Dive into the graphic details while selecting your display. Are they durable? How easily can they be replaced? What’s the replacement cost? Does the exhibit house have graphic design services available?
- Sustainable. Consider eco-friendly exhibit designs when searching for an inline or island exhibit. There are hundreds of modern trade show stands, constructed with sustainable and recyclable materials. Best of all, green doesn’t mean more expensive.
Perfecting Your Trade Show Exhibit Stand with Exhibits NW
We’re here to assist with selecting and/or designing your exhibition stand. Contact the professionals at Exhibits Northwest. With three decades of experience, our team has the knowledge and the creativity to create an award-winning trade show marketing strategy. We’ll get you noticed!