8 Important Questions to Ask When Purchasing a Trade Show Display

8 Important Questions to Ask When Purchasing a Trade Show Display

 When it comes time to purchase a trade show exhibit, most people have already committed to a booth space. If you haven’t great; but if you have, remember you can’t fit a castle on a lot designed for a town home!  By the same token you can get some really nice town homes these days! The exhibit market is varied and offers many beautiful options. The trick is to find one that is attractive, meets your sales and marketing goals, is easy-to-use and fits your budget. Here are eight things to ask before committing to a purchase:

1. What size is my booth space?

What size booth space does my display need to fill? Also, ask yourself if this will always be the case. If you are only trying to exhibit in a 10’x10’ space, a pop-up or linking banner stand system like Mark Bric Display’s Ripple or smaller modular system like ISOframe Wave may be right for you. If your booth space is larger, often times a pop-up will be too small to meet your needs; either that, or your display will look like it is misplaced, as if drowning, in the booth space. If you have a 20’x 20’ or above, a custom or hybrid display will likely meet your needs best.

Be sure you have planned for a big enough booth space; sometimes, exhibitors try to pack too much into a 10’ x 10’ space resulting in a cluttered mess where no one can function and the message trying to be conveyed is not actually being seen. If you need room for product demonstrations, product itself, sales people to work the show, plus additional counters or tables, a 10’ x 10’ may start to feel really small. If you are confined to a small exhibit space, work with a reputable group who can give you good design input and offer a variety of workable accessory solutions as well as help you visualize what could be done as your needs expand to a larger booth.

2. Will I exhibit in multiple booth size shows each year?

If you answered yes, then you must think not just about display size, but about exhibit system reconfigurability. Will I have to purchase a whole second display if I want to enlarge to a 20’ x 20’?  Can I add on to my existing display without it looking like a hodge podge art project?

Think about the shows you attend. Are the booths different sizes?  Consider a modular system that can be reconfigured for different shape and size booths. Find one that will work in all of your venues:10’ x 10’, 10’ x 20’, 10’ x 30’ or 20’ x 20’; there are systems that can and will work nicely in all of these. If you plan ahead, you will save your company money, which you can use for other things such as training, rewards, additional products, or even a fun night out for your team at the end of the show…you choose!

Modulars can be a touch more intricate with set-up, but the flexibility in design is usually well worth the added set-up work on the front end. Ed Marquez, President of Mark Bric Display Corp., says, “When I know a client may be doing two or more shows a year and they will have different booth sizes, I often recommend our ISOframe line. In particular, the modular nature of the ISOframe Wave and Fabric makes it easy to reconfigure. It is like having many booths with just one investment. Plus, the tool free assembly has no equal in today’s marketplace!”  Being able to move pieces of an exhibit around and still achieve a cohesive brand image and impactful message really is a plus with a reconfigurable choice.

 3. What is my budget for the display?

Budgets are a fact of life. Most likely, you’ll need to get several quotes to meet the due diligence requirements of your purchasing department’s rules. Available funds will affect the type of display you can entertain purchasing. Displays of good quality, with good warrantees, from companies with good reputations and excellent customer service staff are not always the cheapest, but you are really calculating VALUE. Your budget will be a determining factor as far as dollar amount, but don’t let it discourage you. There are quality displays available for every entry point. Custom exhibits will cost the most; then, modulars and pop-ups fall in line.

A sub category of budget to consider, in addition to the cost of the exhibit itself, is the cost to transport it to and from each show. Typically, we call this shipping costs. Then, on top of that there is drayage – the cost to move it in, around, and out of the show hall. Larger and heavier exhibits will cost you more in this department; so go with something as lightweight as possible in booth construction. Additionally, don’t forget installation and dismantle of exhibits can be another line item in budgetary considerations if you need the assistance of show labor or other service to complete set-up and tear down while at each show.

4. Will I have to design my own booth?

If you are looking in the right place, the answer is NO. You should be an integral part of the process, but you should not have to come up with all of the ideas! Look for an exhibit provider who will pair you with designers to create a concept that is totally unique to your organization. This process can be costly if you don’t find the right vendor. Look for someone such as Mark Bric Display that offers no obligation quotes and consultations through their Exhibit Launch program. Mark Bric Display facilitates a conversation between client and designer that aims to understand needs, discuss goals and resolve graphic requirements; as a result, Mark Bric provides clients with a free 3-D rendering of a recommended booth design. Since, booth design impacts multiple budget considerations, such as initial purchase cost, set-up, shipping and storing costs, be sure you are working with a company that has a good reputation and a history of pleased customers.

 5. What are my resources for set-up?

Will I be attending shows alone? Will there be multiple people from my company arriving early so they can assist with booth set-up? Are we qualified to set-up this type of booth? Will we have to hire show labor to get this done? All good questions that play into the type of booth you will want to purchase. Many pop-ups can be set up in literally minutes with just one person. Linking banner systems (Ripple by Mark Bric is a good example) are a good option if it is only one person setting up as everything is lightweight and very easy. Does the system require special tools or tools at all to set up? This is significant because if you need tools it is another item to pack; plus, at some shows, set-up may be subject to union installation rules and at-show labor can be costly. There are systems, including ones designed to create larger exhibits, that are tool-free like the ISOframe line by Mark Bric which can save money with expedient set-up capabilities. “Our exhibits are all simple to install. Most of our customers set-up their own exhibits. We do however, provide at-show set-up services for clients who are short on resources, pressed for time due to scheduling conflicts, or would just rather someone else do set-up for them,” remarks Ed Marquez, President of Mark Bric Display. Prior to choosing an exhibit company, remember to clarify whether or not they will provide set-up services. Fees for this type of value-added service will vary depending on exhibit size, complexity, and show location so be sure to inquire if set-up resource allocation is a concern for you.

 6. What kind of graphics are available?

This question is also closely related to the design process. Available substrates for graphics look different, transport differently and have varying cost thresholds. To name a few, there are: photo mural graphic panels that normally attach with magnetic systems and roll easily for transport, detachable graphic panels that secure with hook and loop systems, rigid, mounted graphics on substrates such as Sintra® (PVC) or Fom-Cor® (foam), vinyl banners and variations on backlit graphics as well as Silicon Edged Graphic (SEG)fabrics which are extremely lightweight and even washable. Your choice will be based on both design constraints and personal preferences. Each selection has pros and cons. Be sure to discuss with your exhibit designer and provider what will be required from you to produce graphics on each of these substrates so that you do not get caught unaware.

7. What if I can’t create the graphics myself?

Again, this question is intertwined with the design process. No trade show or exhibit is complete without stunning and relevant graphics that quickly convey your message, so this integral step cannot be ignored. When you are talking with the person helping you to envision your display, tell them you will either need their help or you will be outsourcing the display graphic artwork to an independent designer. Some exhibit and display companies have designers on staff that will be ready to assist you; this is a benefit because as a result of their level of familiarity with the display and exhibit hardware, they’ll have no trouble conforming your input to necessary design specifications. This type of in-house, one-stop exhibit provider is usually a more preferable way to create than to piece out the job to outside designers; however, the latter option does exist. Either way, you should inquire regarding fees for helping with the nitty gritty of your design. Some designers charge an hourly rate, others a flat fee based on size of the display and exhibit. Using outside designers may affect turn-around time too, as more communication and coordination between entities will be required. Attention to this detail at the beginning of the process will help you stay on budget and be able to develop timelines that will keep you on schedule.

8. Where will I store my booth? or Will you store it for me?

How does the booth break down? Does it pack into cases? Must it go into heavy wooden crates? Do the parts slide into a soft sided carrying bag? Again, in the land of all things exhibit, there are many options and each one has its advantages and disadvantages. Be sure that if your display requires custom wooden crates you have a place to store them in your warehouse or office between shows. Tradeshow booths are too valuable of an investment to leave sitting out back in the rain! Maybe you will only need spaces for several cases, but still cannot make the room. If that is the situation, ask about display storage services. Some providers, like Mark Bric, will arrange to store and reship your display as needed. If storage is not a free, prices for this service usually vary by exhibit size, weight and frequency of use.


As you consider all the things that will help you invest in the right exhibit for your individual needs, remember to partner with a provider who has a good reputation, superior customer service and offers warranties on their products. In other words, do not just go cheap! Go for quality and durability. Go for value. You wouldn’t sail around the world in a rowboat or dig a ditch with a spoon would you? Of course not. So, be sure the exhibit provider you choose is knowledgeable enough to assist you in marketing your product and services by providing the needed services and creating the right exhibit for you…be it a castle or a townhome!

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