Best Practices

Exhibitor decisions: Renting vs. owning your trade show exhibit

Ask these questions to determine the right route for your booth

What You’ll Learn

It’s a whole new event world and everyone is wondering how to approach the changes, challenges, and opportunities that the return to events (and the trade show floor) presents. 

Our industry has been forever changed, but the exhibit investment of time and money is still an important component of your marketing strategy. So it’s important to make your trade show comeback story a success — make a great impression, meet your objectives, and show customers that you’re ready to get back to business.

So how can you maximize your investment? 

Start with a flexible mindset. After a year of perpetual pivoting, you know how to roll with whatever comes. But it’s a worthy reminder to remain agile because your booth route can go in a variety of directions! 

Next, do your homework.

Does your brand need a one-off rental, a custom build to own, or a combination of both? 

Find out what’s right for your brand, 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 for rental booths is that they offer almost endless options. And it’s a great way to try out different approaches.

Test drive 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. Consider the attendee journey and any experience that may require customized structures or specific booth solutions. 

And remember 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 connecting.

Q: Do you already have exhibit inventory or materials?

If you already own 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-ups:

  • How old is your booth? 
  • Does it need updates or modifications to keep it from looking dated?
  • Will the current booth work for your trade show objectives?
  • Could a rental option or modification supplement 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.

As you’re looking at the booth and how you can update or repurpose, keep rentals in mind. There are countless ways to use these versatile structures to refresh your exhibit and extend its life — plus, you’ll save the expense of building new pieces.

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), rentals provide a cost-effective solution.

Q: What about digital and event tech needs?

Digitizing your booth is no longer a nice-to-have element — today’s attendees expect it. Event tech can upgrade both rental and custom booths (and helps you stand out on the floor) no matter the size of your footprint.

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 are easier to use 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. 

See you on the floor!

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