How to Utilize a Pop Up Display

Exhibit Design | Pop-Up Displays | Portable Displays | Trade Show Trenches
March 23, 2022

You may be unfamiliar with the term “pop-up displays.” However, you’ve seen them if you’ve ever attended a local, regional, or national trade show. They are the ultimate lightweight, easy-to-install, portable display system. Some are curved. Others flat with fabric graphics. There are even tabletop pop-up displays. Newer pop-up systems, like the VBurst and the Xpressions. feature fabric graphics instead of roll-able panels, making them even lighter since the graphic skins stay on the collapsed displays. Whatever pop up display works best, you can find all the details and choices in the Tension Fabric Pop-up Displays gallery in Exhibit Design Search…

What is a Pop Up Display?

Trade Show Displays have evolved, and some of the terminologies have evolved too. Let’s start with a review of the pop up display. Pop Up Displays have been around since the late 1970s. They use an expandable accordion frame, usually made from aluminum. This frame collapses into about a 20″ square, approximately 30″ tall. When expanded, the frame literally “pops up” into place, hence the name Pop Up Display. 

Historically, magnetic bars snap or hang on the face of the frame, and then panels with magnetic strips and hooks are attached. These panels were originally constructed from a Velcro-receptive fabric. Some years later, most exhibitors switched to large graphic mural panels. The panels are roll-able and packed in a portable shipping case. 

Pop up stands are available in 6 ft, 8 ft, 10 ft, and 20 ft widths and 8 ft tall to fit most trade show booth size requirements. They are also available in shorter, tabletop sizes. They are available in a concave curve, flat wall, and as a serpentine or “S” shape. Some designs, particularly the floor height flat designs, offer sidewall returns too. 

Pop up designs may combine fabric panels and laminated graphics. Most of the higher quality designs offer a variety of accessories – starting with monitor mounts and lights, but also including shelves, shadow boxes, and internal lighting. The roto-molded shipping cases are often ordered with case wraps, covering them with either a fabric wrap or a printed graphic, to convert the case into a podium or reception counter…

A variation on the pop up display is a frame with tension fabric graphics. One of the best-known examples of this pop up display is called the VBurst display. Like standard pop up displays, the VBurst uses an accordion-like frame, with a single dye sublimation printed fabric graphic. The graphic is mounted with velcro to the frame and normally remains on the frame, even while disassembled. This reduces the set-up time to one or two minutes – greatly appreciated by exhibitors!

5 Pop Up Tradeshow Display Examples

The examples below illustrate the wide range of pop up display options available. These include 10 ft., 8 ft., and table top displays, along with distinctive shapes like pyramids and towers. When shopping for a pop up display, the details matter. It’s not just about price. Each system has its own unique features, benefits and advantages.


The VBurst comes in a variety of different sizes and shapes, including tabletop and floor standing displays. They are available flat and curved, with or without graphic sidewalls. Because of its instantaneous setup, it is very popular with sports teams, governments, schools, and media outlets that frequently make press releases – 2 minutes and you’ve got a graphic backdrop for your TV appearance or photo opportunity!


pop up display stands


The frame is similar in concept to the VBurst. However,  the Next uses Silicone Edge Fabric Graphics (SEG). SEG graphics must be installed after the frame is assembled. While this may take a little longer to set up, the final image is wrinkle-free and seamless with graphics that wrap around the sides of the frame. In addition, by adding a rear reflector panel and lights, the Next can be backlit for a more upscale, eye-catching display. 


pop up tradeshow display


The Xpressions system also uses an accordion-like frame combined with tension fabric graphics but uses a lighter weight frame than standard pop ups. The Xpressions frames come in a wide variety of configurations. Each square formed by the frame is called a quad, and there are triangular designs, 1×3 vertical towers, 2×3’s, 3x3s, 3x4s, 4x4s, etc.

Xpressions displays use multiple graphic skins, which can be attached by buttons to either the front or back of the special Xpressions frames. Multiple skins allow quick changes to individual skins, showing a different product for different clients. Attaching the graphic to the front and back allows some 3D effects, creating different and unique looks for the displays.

Like the Burst, the Xpressions display system also allows the graphic skin to remain on the frame while collapsed. 

Pop Up Display for golf


The X1 is a very similar but less expensive version of the Xpressions. The frame is black and the graphics remain on the frame so assembly takes minutes. The X1 packs in a lightweight drawstring bag. A larger canvas bag or hard shipping case is available at an additional cost. Looking for a unique shape on the show floor? There are multiple pyramid shapes.  


pop up tradeshow display


Xpressions Salesmate.

Not everyone needs a full-size pop-up display. The Xpressions SalesMate Table Top is compact, convenient, and easy to set up with attached graphics. Simply expand the frame with the attached graphics, and you’re ready for the show. It packs in a portable carrying bag and comes in square, rectangle, and pyramid shapes.   

small pop up tradeshow display

When to Use Pop up Display Stands

Owning a pop-up display is always a good investment. The cost is minimal and the upside considerable. Let’s consider three situations where a pop-up made the most sense for an exhibitor. 

  1. Local or Regional Shows. If you participate in local or regional shows, having a portable “billboard” about your product or service sets you apart from the other exhibitors. These shows tend to be smaller in size and last no more than one or two days. At these shows, a colorful mural graphic will set you apart from the competition. 
  2. Secondary or Overlapping Shows. Companies with a heavy trade show schedule often have overlapping shows or events where a second display is necessary. The company will send their primary booth to the larger show and use the pop-up display for the smaller one. 
  3. Testing the Waters. Not every company has the budget for a modular or custom booth, especially if they are a new company or just starting to exhibit at trade shows. For those companies, a pop-up display is a good option to “test the waters.” They’ll learn if the show was the right venue for their products or services without spending tens of thousands of dollars. Starting smaller then going big is rarely a bad decision for a new company.

What Makes a Good Pop Up Booth?

Construction varies from one pop-up manufacturer to the next, using slightly different hubs and scissor arms, and offering different accessories. The frames can look almost identical to the casual eye, and sometimes even to an experienced eye. However, there is a range of qualities that buyers should be aware of. The least expensive pop up stands are intended for a few uses because the plastic hubs and scissor arms break or bend easily. More durable pop up display stands use better engineering and stronger parts and normally come with a lifetime hardware warranty.

There are many manufacturers that claim to make tension fabric pop up displays identical to the VBurst (for example). On cheaper systems, the fabric graphic is thin, the colors muted, and the fit imperfect. Some of the less expensive knock-offs use fabric where the wrinkles tend to “set” into the fabric. 

Can You Rent a Pop Up Display?

In theory yes… but generally, it’s not a good idea. The purchase cost of a pop-up is generally 50% hardware and 50% graphics. With a rental, it’s 25% hardware and 75% graphics. If you need a display for two or three shows then purchase an inexpensive pop-up or spend a little more and rent an upscale modular or hybrid display. What’s available? Over 300 rental exhibits and designs in Exhibit Design Search. 

Owning a pop-up display, even if you only do a handful of local or regional shows, is always a good investment. The cost is minimal and the upside considerable for Chamber of Commerce events, local business fairs, sporting events, sales meetings, and more.

Your Professional Pop Up Display Guide

At Exhibits NW, we take a holistic view of your trade show experience – that is, of your trade show success. There is more to it than the architecture of your booth! We help our clients feel at home in the trade show space by helping them manage all aspects of the experience. Schedule a call today to start dreaming out loud about how you’ll leave an impression on everyone fortunate enough to happen by your next display – from display design to portables and everything in between!

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