Trade Show TalesBlog

The 7 Truths about Renting a Trade Show Exhibit

January 20th, 2020 COMMENTS

Renting vs. Buying a Trade Show Exhibit

You’ve probably read articles about renting a trade show exhibit. Most are innocuous, some helpful, but others are just plain wrong. Frankly, that annoys me, but I understand why. Exhibit Rentals are growing rapidly. And exhibit companies are positioning themselves based on their individual strengths.

So what does positioning mean? In our industry, there are one (1) person companies to (2500) person companies. Some build. Many do not. Some have large rental inventories. Others have little to none. Is their rental inventory metal, wood, modular walls, portable components? And how much of it is new, newer, or beat to hell? How does it assemble? Does it come with detailed setup instructions? What about design support?

These are questions the average exhibitor never asks. It’s not because they don’t care, but because those questions would never occur to them.

Let’s untangle the 7 Most Common Misconceptions.

#1. Renting is An Option. Not THE ONLY Option

Rental ExhibitSome rental-only exhibit companies are touting renting as the only solution. They say, “Why buy when you can rent? No more storage fees. You can change the display for every show. The cost is less.”

It sounds attractive, and might make sense for many exhibitors. However, renting an exhibit, just like leasing a car, can be more expensive than purchasing. It depends on usage, lifespan, ongoing modifications, etc. It’s not as cut-and-dry as it appears at first glance. It’s important to run the numbers.

It’s not an either/or choice. Sometimes it makes sense to purchase a portion of the exhibit, say the main tower or overhead sign, and rent the components, like the counters, workstations, and charging stations. It depends on what you might want to change from show to show. But, again, you have to run the numbers and have a vision of your short- and long-term trade show marketing goals.

Finally, sometimes it’s not about the numbers. Some exhibitors want to own their display. Others do not. Cost has little to do with their decision.

Trade Show Island Exhibit Rentals#2. Rentals Can Be Customized, Which Isn’t the Same as Custom

Whenever someone tells you your rental exhibit is “custom,” you might want to dig deeper on what “custom” means. It might mean the design is custom, but the components come from stock inventory. Or there are several custom elements which are unique to your exhibit and are being depreciated over multiple rentals, either yours or other future rental clients. Or you are basically “purchasing” the custom element, but everyone is calling it a rental since you won’t own it.

While it’s true, you can technically get a custom exhibit as a rental, there are always strings attached such as a commitment to multiple rentals or a higher price for the one-time rental.

In most cases, a rental exhibit is a “customized” display using stock components, based on a preexisting or “customized” design, and client-specific graphics.

#3. You Rent the Structure, But You Own the Graphics

Remember you are renting the structure, but you own the graphics. Each time you change the messaging, you are buying new graphics. Be realistic about how often you plan to update your graphics. Clients often assume they will reuse the graphics 3-4 times, but marketing campaigns aren’t like a pair of jeans. They change. Sometimes every single show.

#4. Your Rental Components May Be Used for Another Client’s Rental

Recently, I read a blog post where the rental exhibit supplier said that your rental property would never be used for another rental. If that’s true, it’s either the smartest or the dumbest business model I’ve ever heard.

Now, in the real world, rental components are reused. That’s why rental exhibits can be less expensive. Duh?! Does that mean another exhibitor will have exactly the same design as you? Perhaps, but it’s very unlikely since every exhibit has unique needs and distinctive graphics. However, the modular aluminum wall used in Job ABC will get reused two months later on Job XYZ. And then again, until it’s no longer serviceable as a rental component. To pretend otherwise is disingenuous. 

#5. Size Matters. Inventory Matters. Design Matters.

Do you remember when I said that there are companies ranging from one employee to several thousand employees? Those companies all have different rental capabilities, either in-house or through a strategic partner like Classic Exhibits. No one has an unlimited budget to stock every possible rental design.

Ask yourself this… Is the proposed design guided by their limited rental inventory or by your trade show design requirements? Whatever rental company you choose, they should treat the process as if you were purchasing a display, and the final display should look visually indistinguishable from a new exhibit.

#6. Packaging Matters. Instructions Matter. Quality Matters. 

Trade Show Inline Exhibit RentalsHere’s the very sad truth. No exhibitor ever asks about packaging, setup instructions, or quality, particularly on a rental property. And aside from design capabilities and inventory, nothing distinguishes an OK rental supplier from an AMAZING one than packaging, instructions, and quality. Too often, exhibitors save money by renting an exhibit only to piss it all away during setup and assembly on the show floor.

You should expect detailed drawings, numbered or labeled components, photos (showing where the supplier pre-assembled it at their facility), jigged packaging/crating, and clean hardware. The hardware should appear new or newish, not like it just fell off the truck, rolled around in the dirt, and then was tossed into a crate. When you open the crate, it should make you smile, not cringe in fear.

#7. Rentals are a Long-term Partnership with Your Exhibit Supplier

Depending on the rental schedule, you are going to see each other a lot. And, based on that ongoing relationship, you are going to flourish or falter. Exhibit rentals require a communication commitment. What’s your show schedule? Does the design need to change? Were there any issues at the last show? How about new graphics? Is your next show an inline vs. an island? When do you want to booth to ship and are there any services you need such as rental furniture, I&D, electrical, flooring, etc.

Rentals force both sides to communicate, often far in advance. It doesn’t take long to decide whether it’s a fit or whether it’s time for you to start seeing other people. But, when it does work, it’s a beautiful thing.

One final piece of advice — not all suppliers are equally good at both. Your current supplier may be a magician at designing a custom exhibit but lack the skills, interest, or inventory to pull the rental rabbit out of a hat. Being good at one is no guarantee of being good at the other. Ask the hard questions and be willing to work with someone else if anything seems amiss.

In the end, your rental experience should be no different from a purchase, whether during the exploratory and design process or at the show. Always expect the best.

Have questions? Give us a call or send us an email. We would love to chat with you.

–Mel White
mel@classicexhibits.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/melmwhite

**********************************************

Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, hybrid, custom, rental exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or www.classicexhibits.com.

Up Your Game Newsletter | January 2020

January 20th, 2020 COMMENTS
January 2020 Up Your Game Newsletter from Classic Exhibits

EXHIBITORLIVE 2020 (Code #4044)

EXHIBITORLIVE 2020

If you are attending EXHIBITOR LIVE and want a FREE exhibit hall pass, go to this page and enter Classic’s code 4044 . There’s no limit on the number of free passes so share (and share) away.


To reserve your seat for the Women in Exhibition Breakfast on March 31, contact Katina Rigall Zipay .

Now & Then with Harold Mintz

Harold Mintz Blog Post

A lot has changed in the exhibit industry over the past ten years. And Harold Mintz, a Classic Regional Sales Manager, has a unique perspective on those changes.


As many know, Harold took a trade show hiatus for ten years. What was common “back in the day” isn’t quite as common today, such as dedicated territories, show rooms, and modular wall systems. 

Read Harold’s thoughts about “What’s Different” in 2020 in the Trade Show Tales blog. 

Eco-Systems Sustainable by Classic Exhibits

Eco-systems Sustainable Designs Press Release

We’ve all seen the phrase, “New Look, Same Great Taste!” whenever companies refresh their packaging.  Effective January 1, Eco-Systems Sustainable has joined the Classic Exhibits Family. Same ECO products, designs, and people, just with new Classic packaging.


All the ECO kits are in Exhibit Design Search, and you now have access to the full Classic Design Team. See the press release in EXHIBITOR along with quotes from Kevin Carty and Colleen Crawford.

Shared Knowledge University

Shared Knowledge University June 2020

There’s no substitute for hands-on training and one-on-one interaction with your industry colleagues. Just ask the over 600 Classic Distributors who have attended Shared Knowledge University in Portland.

This year, the two-day training will be on June 15-16 (Monday and Tuesday). SKU includes morning sessions with Classic and our Strategic Partners and afternoon sessions at the Classic facility where you work with products like Gravitee, SuperNova, InCharg Charging Solutions, and Symphony. Plus amazing meals and entertainment.


For more information and to reserve a seat, contact Jen LaBruzzaHarold Mintz, or Tom Beard. See the video below for SKU highlights.

Click Here for More Information & to Register

Our Annual State of the Company Letter

Classic Exhibits, Annual State of the Company Letter

In case you didn’t see Kevin’s 2019/2020 State of the Company letter, here’s a link to download a PDF version. Topics included the 2019 sales roller coaster, custom projects, new additions to the sales team, and changes to Classic’s Customer Service Department, including the addition of Eco-System Sustainable into the Classic Family.

And while 2019 was exciting, we expect 2020 to be even more eventful as we continue to expand our rental offerings, launch the Symphony Portable line, and work on even more interesting projects ( although building the Millennium Falcon may be hard to top ).

Shared Knowledge University Video

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

What to Look for in an LED Lightbox Manufacturer

January 15th, 2020 COMMENTS

Rental Exhibits
Stroll through any airport, mall, event, or trade show and you’ll see hundreds of colorful LED lightboxes in every shape and size. Over the past few years, most have switched to Backlit Tension Fabric SEG Graphics. The reasons are obvious. Not only is fabric more durable than direct print graphics, but it’s also cheaper to ship and easier to maintain. And depending on the print process, the colors are vibrant and the details nearly photographic. 

It’s easy to assume that all LED lightboxes and manufacturers are similar, and the only real difference is price. Price matters of course, but there are other factors to consider.

9 Factors to Consider When Purchasing an LED Lightbox 

#1. Hardness and Durability:  All LED Lightboxes start with an SEG aluminum frame. Every manufacturer engineers their frames using aluminum of varying hardness and durability. Less expensive lightboxes use softer aluminum because it’s cheaper. But cheaper aluminum scratches easily and tarnishes quickly. In addition, the wall thickness is often so thin that structural rigidity is compromised. For lightboxes mounted to a wall or assembled or disassembled at multiple trade shows, you will want aluminum with a 6063 specification. 6063 has better structural integrity and scratch resistant. If the supplier can’t answer that question, then you should be wary. 

#2. Availability: Does the manufacturer have the extrusion, LED lights, hardware, and accessories in stock? And are there extrusion options depending on the situation, such as one-sided vs two-sided, freestanding vs. wall mount. What if you need multiple quantities or quick ship options? Can individual parts be purchased if they are lost or damaged? You don’t want a manufacturer who dabbles in lightboxes. 

#3. Customization: Let’s say you need a width or height larger than the kits listed. Is it possible? If so, how complicated or expensive does it get? How about angles or shapes such as a hexagon? It’s easy to do squares and rectangles (for most manufacturers), but odd shapes and sizes are often a head-scratcher for those who only want to fulfill kits. 

#4. Print Quality: Asking the right questions is essential. 1. Dye-sublimation printing is the best. This ensures the colors are infused into fabric, not just printed on the surface. Many suppliers brag about “fabric printing” but it’s not always dye-sublimation, which requires two steps  — printing to a paper material and then heat fusing the image to fabric. 2. Ask about the age of the printer. The dye-sublimation printer shouldn’t be more than two years old. Anything older than that means the print resolution is just OK, not photographic. 3. Just like clothing, the fabric quality can vary, which may not matter if the graphic is a throwaway and the resolution doesn’t matter.    

#5. Sewing and Sizing:  Experienced manufacturers have this down to a science. They’ve done the calculations thousands of times with varying fabrics, and they know how to print, cut, and sew the fabric so it fits perfectly. Not too loose. Not too tight. Nothing is more frustrating than receiving a fabric graphic that doesn’t fit. 

#6. LED Lights:  This could be a college course. Just understand the various color temperatures, lens, UL and ETL certification, module construction, etc. requires some research and patience. Like fabric, there are multiple ways to make LED lights cheaper, if cheaper is the only criteria. Skipping UL/ETL certification is shortcut. Using exposed connections or alligator clips is another. Sadly, it’s nearly impossible to know what you are getting before you get the LED lightbox. However, in this case, the old adage rarely fails, “If it’s too good to be true, then it probably isn’t.” 

#7. Accessories: Most LED lightboxes are a one-trick pony. The are lightboxes.  That’s it. But what if you want to add shelves, an iPad, a literature holder, wings or headers? What if you want to connect it to other lightboxes or create a full inline or island display. That requires and exhibit builder who has engineered the extrusion to be multi-functional, stocks lightbox accessories, and has the in-house talent to customize. 

#8. Packaging: It’s easy to assume that your display will ship in high-quality cases and packaging. Sadly, that’s rarely true. Most manufacturers use disposable one-way shipping materials. Your lightbox arrives undamaged. Now you have to ship it to the next show or to another location, but there’s nothing to protect it or keep it organized. Insist on reusable shipping materials, which precludes cardboard, shrink wrap, and thin foam. All three will be destroyed after one use. See examples. While you may have to pay a little more, it’s an investment that keeps giving show after show, assembly after assembly.  

#9. Assembly:  It’s easy to overlook how the lightbox will be assembled but that would be a HUGE MISTAKE. Some require tools and a bag of loose parts. Others have push-button connectors. Others are “mostly” tool-less, but the hardware is cumbersome and/or unnecessarily complicated. Ask to see the instructions or an assembly video. Even if you aren’t planning to assemble it, could you put it together based on the instructions in a reasonable amount of time? Remember, time is money, especially on the show floor. No one wants surprises at a trade show, and a well-designed lightbox won’t make you sweat, literally or figuratively. Do the research and trust your gut.

It’s important to remember that the pretty image you see on a website is just a rendering. What you receive is not. Ask the right questions and purchase your lightbox from a vendor you trust. Remember, you “may” be able to return the hardware, but the graphics, it’s yours whether you like it or not. Finally, keep in mind that you are buying a design, a marketing structure that represents your brand. It’s more than just an aluminum frame with graphics. 

–Mel White
mel@classicexhibits.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/melmwhite

**********************************************

Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, hybrid, and custom exhibit solutions, including SuperNova LED Lightboxes. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or www.classicexhibits.com.

 

When to Purchase vs. Rent an Exhibit — Understanding Your Options

January 14th, 2020 COMMENTS
Trade Show Rental Exhibit
Inline Rental Exhibit

Why Rent Your Next Exhibit?

It’s an exciting time to be in the exhibition industry. At no other time in the past 20 years has the pace of change been so dramatic. While some exhibit houses are embracing it, others are sticking their proverbial head in the sand.

Take rental displays for example. Just a few years ago, rental displays were the stepchildren of trade show design. Neglected and underappreciated by both exhibit houses and general service contractors. Exhibitors who chose a rental display either weren’t serious about trade show marketing or simply didn’t understand the poor image those displays projected on the show floor.

How that has changed! Rentals have gone upscale and depending on the provider can be customized to meet almost any exhibitor’s marketing goals. They are basically indistinguishable from the purchase display across the aisle or your competitor’s new exhibit. So why the change and why should you consider a rental OR better yet a purchase/rental?

The Top 3 – Plus a Bonus Tip. 😉

Reason #1 – Design Flexibility

The marketing goals for most companies are constantly evolving with multiple campaigns and a host of products and services, each with a distinct brand and messaging. What worked in Q1 may not be effective for Q3 or scrapped all together.

Rental displays make it easy to change graphics, add structural elements, or simply go from an inline to an island (or vice versa). That flexibility can be very dynamic for your brand and marketing goals and more cost effective in the long-term.

Trade Show Rental Exhibit
Island Rental Exhibit

Reason #2 – Upfront Cost

Rental displays are not only less expensive upfront, but they also allow you to stretch your budget even further. Take the exhibitor who settled for a ho-hum inline in the past. With a rental, they could add attractive meeting space, LED lighting, large monitors, shelving, and extensive storage – all at the same price of a purchase.

More bang for the buck means you can elevate your trade show presence with attendees. Or, if you choose not to make significant changes to the display, the savings can be spent on client entertainment/meals, pre-show marketing, or booth staffing. Or directly to your marketing bottom line.

Reason #3 – Associated Expenses

When you purchase a new exhibit, there are always associated expenses, some you may not anticipate. Storage for example. Larger exhibits are packed in crates. Those crates either must be stored at your exhibit house for a monthly fee or in your own facility. Either way, it’s an ongoing cost. Plus, when components are lost or damaged, those must be replaced.

Before each show, someone has to reassemble the booth to ensure all the parts and pieces are there, and if there are changes, then there are design fees, new components or graphics, and the labor to get it prepped and perfect.

With a rental, nearly all of that disappears. No storage. No prep charges. No labor. You may have new charges if you change the graphics or the design, but in general, those are more controllable and predictable.  

Trade Show Rental Exhibits
Inline Trade Show Rental Exhibit

Bonus Tip – Rental and Purchase

Rental vs Purchase doesn’t have to be an either/or decision. More and more sophisticated exhibitors are choosing both. They purchase those design elements they know they’ll use again and again regardless of the show or configuration. For example, a central 12 ft. tower with locking storage. If you need that every single time, then it makes sense to buy it and rebrand it when necessary. However, if you sometimes need multiple monitor workstations but other times you would rather have more meeting space, then it doesn’t make sense to purchase monitor stands. Rent them instead.

It’s often the peripheral items like counters, pedestals, charging stations, monitor stands, lightboxes, etc. which change frequently. Rent them. That way you can play with what works best and make informed decisions based on your experience and success.

Still a Bit Confused?

Your next step is to work with experienced exhibit professionals like Brave Exhibits whose sole mission is maximizing your trade show success. Show after show. Brave Exhibits has learned how to avoid the costly mistakes that inexperienced exhibitors make. And believe me, it’s easy to waste money before you know what works and what doesn’t. They’ll ensure that doesn’t happen whether you decide on a Purchase or Rental or Purchase/Rental.

To browse our extensive rental inline and island galleries, click on the links.

Annual State of the Company Letter 2019/2020 by Kevin Carty

January 10th, 2020 COMMENTS

You can read the Annual State of the Company in the blog post or by clicking on the image and downloading the PDF. In addition, there are two URLs mentioned in the article (but are not clickable). See the bullets below:

Classic Exhibits State of the Company Letter, Page 1
Classic Exhibits State of the Company Letter, Page 2
Classic Exhibits State of the Company Letter, Page 3
Classic Exhibits State of the Company Letter Page 4