Trade Show TalesBlog

Outsource vs In-House Production of Trade Show Exhibits

June 7th, 2023 COMMENTS
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The 5 Cs — Capacity, Control, Cost, Convenience, and Creativity

At Classic Exhibits, we’ve learned a few things over the past 30 years. For one, everyone wants to be in control. In our business that means the design, project management, construction, staging, and delivery of their client’s display.

However, we can’t do everything which requires trusting others to be responsible. Ideally, we want them to care just as much as we do about each project and client.

At Classic, our business depends on earning the trust of our distributor partners. When they trust us, they’re much more likely to send us their projects (outsource), rather than handle it themselves (in-house). So, why should you send your next order to Classic?

Below are “5 Reasons Why Sending Your Purchase or Rental Project to Classic Exhibits Might Be the Smartest Decision You Ever Make for Your Mental Health and Financial Bottomline.” Or for the sake of simplicity, “The 5 Cs” — Capacity, Control, Cost, Convenience, and Creativity.

Trade Show Islands at Classic Exhibits

C1. Capacity by Harold Mintz

The sale you’ve been working on for the past two months just closed. Congratulations! It’s beautiful, functional, and if all goes well, it’s going to be profitable.

For many, the natural instinct would be to place this beefy 20×20 island onto your shop’s production schedule. After all, the clock started ticking as soon as you accepted that 50% deposit, and you now have less than two months until it needs to be in Orlando for NMB (National Mustache Bache).

While your production team is more than capable of building this booth, you’re also in the midst of one of our industry’s busy seasons and time is tight. If only you could wave your magic wand and find more craftspeople, more space, more machines, more material. Basically, find more capacity.

Abracadabra! Done!

Did you know that for 30 years Classic Exhibits has been the exhibit industry’s premier private-label builder for Partners just like you? Classic has your extra craftspeople, space, and machines. Classic is your MORE CAPACITY!

So, when your production schedule starts looking like a traffic jam, take a deep breathe and RELAX. Our capacity is YOUR capacity.

Outsource Rental Design and Fabrication

C2. Control by Gina Porcaro

We can all agree, losing control can be uncomfortable. There’s the “fear of the unknown,” the “what ifs?” and the “if I do it, I know it will be done right.”

However, losing control can sometimes be the best decision you’ve ever made, especially when you realize what you have “lost” control of is in the capable and talented hands of a trusted partner. Classic Exhibits is an award-winning custom builder, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the best exhibit builders in the industry.

What if you could provide the same quality to your clients from start to finish? What if that partner is behind the scenes and an extension of your business? Where you can send a purchase order and artwork and then, a few weeks later, like magic, you receive finished staging photos, branded instructions, and crates with your logo. Soon after, the exhibit arrives at the show site. If this sounds like minimal work, low risk, and guaranteed profitability, then you would be right.

Classic has the talent, expertise, and craftsmanship to not only meet, but most likely exceed your expectations. Go ahead… lose control with us! 

Wood Fabrication

C3. Cost by Tom Beard

What’s the cost to outsource vs. in-source an exhibit build?

Outsourcing needs to be evaluated in three ways: the outsource partner’s capabilities, actual dollar cost, and your overall risk tolerance. Each is important.

Capabilities – First and foremost, you need an outsource partner that has the production capabilities to meet or exceed your own in-house capabilities. Classic Exhibits has cost-effective solutions for both smaller projects and larger custom builds, all in-house. The last thing you want is to outsource a project to multiple partners for wall systems, custom work, or graphics since it’s rarely cost effective.

Dollar Costs – When building in-house, you’re tapping into your design, estimating, purchasing, project management, detailing, production, staging, shipping, and accounting. When outsourcing to Classic Exhibits, your costs are largely redirected to other projects since Classic fulfills those roles. Then there’s efficiency. We can’t be experts at everything. You may be an expert at building a large custom exhibit… but building an inline or small island? The final product will undoubtedly be amazing but at what cost in time, people, materials, and lost opportunities?

Risk Tolerance – This is a hidden cost. Let’s break it down into two scenarios.

#1. An existing client comes to you with a project that might be considered too small to handle in-house (dollar size or booth size). You need to evaluate how to protect this client and preserve the business. Do you allow your client to go to a competitor or is the real solution to partner with a builder like Classic? 

#2. Your AE has landed a promising long-term prospect, but your shop is swamped with work and the project is too small to consider both in size and return, Is this 10 x 20 client the next Microsoft? The margins on the first project may be small but will this prospect turn into a long-term client with multiple opportunities? Classic can produce custom in-lines that allow you to bring a small client on board cost-effectively.

Give us a try. We are more than happy to quote your project so you can compare margins.

Trade Show Design and Production

C4. Convenience by Mel White

Convenience: Something (such as an appliance, device, or service) conducive to comfort or ease.

Did you know there are 150,764 convenience stores in the United States. That’s approximately (1) convenience store for every 2,200 people. That’s a lot of coffee, gas, and honey buns.

We love convenience. And why shouldn’t we. Our lives are busy and when we can achieve the same result faster or easier, it makes sense. Yet, as I’ve learned over the past twenty years working in the exhibit industry, “easy and fast” sometimes takes a backseat to “slow and control” even when the easy path is more profitable.   

Three Examples of Easy and Fast vs. Slow and Control

A. Everyone has their weaknesses. We can’t all be superstars at everything. If your primary business is designing and building large custom exhibits, then designing smaller portable and modular displays can be a distraction. However, those clients, whether they’re existing ones or potential ones, represent opportunities. Having a trusted partner design and build those projects with minimal effort on your part is convenient.

B. Designing and building a website is hard. Maintaining one is even harder. Sites with hundreds of products are challenging as manufacturers add, modify, or discontinue items. Even revising prices can be an agonizing and painful task. When a supplier provides a “ready-made” solution, it means giving up control for convenience. It’s a difficult choice even when it makes more sense financially not to invest time, energy, and resources into website maintenance.  

C. Estimating expenses is challenging. Design, detailing, project management, and staging are expenses for any exhibit company. You try to build-in those costs, but not every project goes according to plan. Those unexpected costs lower the final margin. When those tasks are handled by a supplier, unpredictability shifts to them, assuming you’ve met your responsibilities to the vendor.  Your margin remains consistent and predictable. Predictability is a convenience and a benefit that’s often not overlooked.

When all things are equal, convenience should be at the top of your list. It will make your life easier and more productive.

Outsource Production

C5. Creativity by Katina Rigall Zipay

Classic’s Creative Design team can tackle any project – small to large, simple to complex. Take a look at Exhibit Design Search, our online search tool. You’ll see the wide range of sizes and degrees of customization. All of these designs sprang from the minds of our creative team and represent a small sample of our design capabilities. Our designers have decades of combined experience, are experts at designing with Classic’s systems, and love to create custom solutions.

If your company doesn’t have a designer on staff, or if you typically work with a contract designer, consider Classic as a option. Or if your staff does include designers, consider using a Classic designer when you are at capacity, or you want a design that utilizes specific Classic systems. Our team knows the Classic product lines. We know how to push the limits to create unique design solutions from our products. Plus we know the custom capabilities in our wood fab and metal shops and often collaborate with our production technicians on solutions.

Communication, flexibility, and creativity should go hand-in-hand. Every week, our designers work with other designers, account managers, project managers, and even end-users. In fact, did you know we are happy to join conference calls with you and your client, acting as YOUR designer? We are on your team and want nothing more than to help you get the sale. 

I encourage you to use our creativity as a tool in your toolbox! Contact us at


You have choices, not only to build it yourself but also to send it to another supplier. After 30 years, we’ve understand that our reputation depends on the project you sent us last month and the one you send us next month. It’s earned job-by-job, success-by-success. Sometimes that’s a tabletop. Other times it’s a custom 40 x 50 island. We welcome the chance to be your designer and builder.

Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufactures portable, modular, hybrid, and custom exhibit solutions, including Symphony Portable Displays. 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

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