Best Practices

Exhibitor decisions: Renting vs. owning your trade show exhibit

Ask these questions to determine your brand's best booth route

What You’ll Learn

If you’re new to exhibiting or simply seeking a reboot (rebooth?!) for your next trade show, you’re probably weighing the options for rentals, custom designs, or a combination of both. Considering the expense of both time and money involved in planning your space, you want to make the right move.

So, how can you maximize your investment? And make a great first impression at the same time?

To discover the best route for your booth, start by asking these questions (and factoring in your exhibiting objectives, KPIs, and budget) to make planning smooth and easy:

Q: How flexible does your exhibit solution need to be?

A major benefit of rental booths is that they offer almost endless options. And it’s a great way to test drive different approaches.

Try out a larger footprint, a new layout, or different ways to display your products or services. These exhibit explorations give you insight before committing to a custom booth.

Another rental benefit: You can change your configuration, graphics, and messaging from show to show. You have flexibility to refresh the branding as well as strategically tailor the space for each target audience.

This try-before-you-buy venture provides the data you need to design an exhibit (when and if you decide to go custom) or maintain an ongoing rental strategy.

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 exhibiting at 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 a custom booth may be the most cost-effective choice.

There are also hybrid rentals that allow you to customize graphics and configurations using reusable frameworks or materials that offer flexibility without the fully custom investment.

Talk to your exhibit partner about available solutions.

Q: What is planned for the in-booth experience?

Start with the product or service you’re showcasing and what kind of structure and/or space you’ll need to best achieve those goals. And that includes the overall exhibit plan and how you will use the space to capitalize on in-booth engagement.

Consider the attendee journey and any experience that may require customized structures or specific booth solutions — remember that you can also experiment with a combination of both rental and custom to meet your needs.

And don’t forget meeting space! You will certainly want to meet with important contacts and prospects, but you may not have the space for a private meeting room. Regardless of booth size, you can get creative with rental furniture and configurations to design a comfortable space (or spaces) for important conversations as well as casual interactions.

Q: Do you already have exhibit inventory or existing materials?

If your organization currently owns structural exhibit elements, dig in with more questions about the condition, objectives in relation to the structures, where they’re stored in respect to your show’s location(s), and material handling costs.

With a booth in tow, consider these follow-up queries:

  • How old is the booth and/or other custom structures?
  • Are there updates or modifications needed to keep it looking fresh?
  • Will what you currently own work for your trade show objectives?
  • Could a rental option or modification enhance what you already have?

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, products, or changes in strategic direction.

Q: What about digital and AV needs?

Modernizing your booth with high-tech extras is no longer a nice-to-have element — today’s attendees expect it. Event tech and AV add-ons can upgrade both rental and custom booths (and helps you stand out on the floor) no matter the size of your footprint. Think LED screens, mood lighting, VR headsets, custom content, and more.

If you decide to include extensive product displays or an immersive experience, you may need more space. That means a larger rental or more custom elements, so consider your budget before going too far down a path that may not make financial sense.

The good news is that digital bells and whistles and AV solutions are easier to incorporate than you may think and can work for any size or budget.

Remember that booths of all sizes can accommodate product displays, space to meet with visitors, immersive activations, small theaters, and more. Work with your exhibit partner to come up with creative rental and/or custom ideas that align to your goals.

Want more? Deliver the ultimate exhibit experience that benefits your brand and visitors with this comprehensive planning guide.

See you on the floor!

Ready to design an engaging exhibit experience in any type of booth?

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