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Exhibitor Decisions: Renting vs. Owning Your Trade Show Booth

By Beth Martin

If you’re new to exhibiting or simply seeking a fresh start for your next trade show, you’re probably wondering about your booth and what experience it can deliver about your brand. The fact is, exhibiting is a considerable expense of both time and money. And it stands as a living representation of your organization. So how do you make sure you’re making the best first impression and maximizing your investment? Part of that decision is determining if you should go with a rental option or design and build an exhibit to own.

With so many options available and pros and cons on both sides, figuring out what booth route to take can be confusing. But don’t worry — by understanding your goals, objectives, and budget AND by asking the right questions, you’ll soon uncover the best solution that works for your brand.

Consider these questions when deciding how to make the most of your space.

Start with the backstory

Q How many times a year do you exhibit?

When it comes to budgeting for a booth, exhibiting is a numbers game. If you’re only going to one or two shows, are testing out a new product, or have overlapping show dates, then rentals may do the trick. Conversely, if your schedule is packed and includes at least three shows with similar configurations, investing in custom booth may be the most cost-effective option.

There are also hybrid rentals that allow you to customize graphics and configurations using reusable frameworks or materials that offer flexibility without the investment of a fully custom booth. Talk to your exhibit partner about available solutions.

Q Do you currently have an exhibit inventory or materials?

If you already own an exhibit or structural elements, then half the battle may already be won. But having an existing booth or booth elements still brings up questions considering the inventory available, what the condition is, and what your objectives are for this year’s schedule of shows. With a booth in tow, ask these follow-ups:

Q How old is your booth? Does it need updates or modifications to keep it from looking dated?

Q Will the current booth work for this year’s trade show objectives?

Q Could a rental option or modification supplement what you already have?

First, assess your current structures and determine if any repairs are needed. Then decide if your exhibit needs a refresh or small modifications to modernize the look as well as accommodate any new strategies or change in direction. There are many rental structures that can work with your existing booth to extend it in ways you haven’t considered without the expense of custom elements.

And speaking of budget, consider the size and weight of your booth and where you plan to exhibit. If your booth is too heavy or bulky to ship to certain locations (particularly overseas), a rental could be the most cost-effective option.

Examine your in-booth needs

Q What product or service are you offering in a booth setting?

Q Does your event or product require customized solutions?

Q Is this a unique product launch that requires a specific experience?

What you’re planning to accomplish at the show and the space needed to achieve your objectives will also dictate a rental or custom option. And don’t forget digital! Event tech can upgrade both rental and custom booth spaces no matter the size of your footprint. Digitizing the in-booth experience with the latest event tech can set you apart on the show floor. If you have extensive product displays or an involved technical experience planned, you’ll need more space. That means a larger rental or more custom elements, so choose what works for your brand and budget.

What about meeting space? Even smaller booths like a 10’ x 20’ can easily accommodate rental furniture so you can sit with important contacts. With so many options and configurations available, you’ll find the right set that accomplishes your needs.

If what you’re planning is unique and could require customized solutions, take that into consideration as well. But remember that just because what you have is unique, it could still be solved with a rental solution. Same goes for creating a specific experience that attendees will remember. The key is talking to your partner about your intentions and requirements while also assessing what options are available to solve the puzzle.

Envision the future

Q Are you looking to test alternate booth options through rental solutions?

One of the many benefits to a rental booth is the fact that it offers a trial run. With a rental, you can test drive a new configuration, design layout, larger footprint, or ways to display your products and services. Opting for a rental can help answer these questions and provide solutions in the interim before committing to full ownership. So when and if the time comes for a custom build, you’ll have the data to zero in on the best booth that fits your organization and helps deliver the best experience for your attendees.

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