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If you were to attend a trade show in Europe and then hop across the Atlantic to a show in the U.S., you might wonder if you were attending the same kind of event.
In Europe, you’d stroll along rows of enclosed, office-like shell schemes, complete with walls, fascia, a nameboard, and carpet. You might even find schemes with lounge furniture and functioning kitchens. In America, you’d find something vastly different: streamlined rows of similarly shaped booths, the sightline unbroken from one booth to the next.
For an international exhibitor coming to a U.S. show for the first time, this difference is not just a cultural curiosity – it’s a logistical and budgetary challenge that must be confronted and dealt with head-on.
Across this series of four articles, we’ve explored everything international organizations need to know when exhibiting in the U.S., including beset practices around setting time frames and planning travel, working with U.S. labor, and navigating the process of shipping your materials to your booth.
In this final article of the series, we delve into the main attraction: the booth (or stand) itself.
In most U.S. venues, the show organizer will determine the baseline packages for trade show booths, which means the options for booth size and location will vary by show. Typically, though, exhibitors will have up to four options for booth location: in-line, perimeter, peninsula, or island.
These are common options around the world, but in case you need to brush up on what they mean, here’s a brief overview:
However, be aware that U.S. trade show organizers take sightlines very seriously. They typically won’t allow in-line booths to have high side walls that obscure the view.
Also, unlike the hard-shell walls favored in Europe, standard American booths almost always come with a pipe-and-drape kit, which is a metal post frame on which a back curtain and side drapes are hung. The curtain and drapes are usually neutral colors, like black. Graphics won’t adhere to pipe-and-drape booths the same way they do to hard-shell schemes, so you may need to come up with new ways of showing off your eye-catching displays.
Quick tip: Most stands in the U.S. do not feature a raised floor. It is allowed, but not common. Keep that in mind when it comes to your design – and if you do opt for a raised floor, consider the additional material handling costs.
Exhibit hours are typically shorter in the U.S., and so attendees may be less inclined to linger in any one booth in their rush to make it through the entire hall.
Exhibitors should therefore carefully think through their goals for their booth. For example, if your goal is to drive conversations with attendees, you’ll need to plan creative ways to make a quick impact that encourages attendees to slow down and engage with you in the booth.
When purchasing or renting a booth for a U.S. event, you’ll need to be crystal clear on the details. For example, U.S.-based printers use imperial measurements (i.e., inches and feet). If you’re planning to print graphics on-site, be sure to make the necessary conversions in advance to avoid any sizing surprises.
Many international exhibitors choose to get around sizing and other issues by renting exhibit booths. This can be a cost-effective option; rental booths can usually be customized to fit your brand style, and many companies even offer programs that can support multi-city tours. With this turnkey approach, the rental company will deliver exactly what you need directly to the event location, eliminating the cost of shipping, storage, and custom fees.
It’s worth noting that, although some rental companies may offer European-style hard-shell schemes, they are often expensive, and you’ll still need to comply with the show rules regarding sightline obstructions.
With your space and booth selected, it’s time to make the space your own. Even rental booths can be customized to fully represent your brand. Here are some tips and tricks for design that dazzles.
The U.S. represents rich opportunities to connect with profitable new audiences. But exhibit best practices and audience expectations are simply different in the United States. It’s therefore not wise to assume your current booth strategy will carry over seamlessly from one country to the next.
Instead, ask careful questions to make sure you’re able to achieve your brand’s goals within your budget.
An experienced local exhibit partner like Freeman can help you understand exactly what’s expected, so you can avoid costly and frustrating snags. We can provide hands-on support, ensuring you don’t forget a thing throughout the entire process!
With the right approach, you’ll enjoy a stress-free experience that allows you to focus on what really matters: growing your brand and expanding into the exciting U.S. market.