New exhibitors often experience sticker shock when they see the price of a trade show display. And it’s hard to blame them. They’re accustomed to identical widgets flowing from an assembly line with economies of scale prices.
Except for imported portables, trade show exhibits are not widgets. Most are built to order, even if it starts from a pre-existing design. At Classic Exhibits, for example, every display is “made-to-order.”
The wide range of prices can also be confusing, even for 10 ft. inlines. Your client may ask, “What’s the difference between a 10 x 10 display at $3500 and another at $23,000?” The easy answer isdesign, complexity, materials, packaging, and accessory options, but without visuals it can still be perplexing.
12 Price Ranges
Below are 12 price ranges, starting at $3K and ending at $24K. In each range, there are three design examples from Exhibit Design Search, so 36 total. These are meant to be representative, not comprehensive since EDS has over 300 10 ft. kits. No rental designs were included. That would have created more chaos than a 5-year-old after two glasses of Mountain Dew.
The descriptions are generalizations, not specific features for every exhibit.
Portable display backwalls with fabric graphics, stem lights, and rolling cases or carrying bags.
Portable and portable hybrid displays with workstations/counters, stem lights, fabric and direct print graphics, and roto-molded case(s) with wheels.
Upscale portables with counters/workstations, monitor mounts, stem lights, and floating graphics or LED lightbox with tension fabric graphic.
Sustainable and elegant portables with monitor mounts, shelves, counters/workstations, and stem lights or LED lightbox with large monitor mount and backlit graphics.
Modular exhibits with shelving, literature, counter and monitor options, along with backlit and stem light choices.
Custom modular and sustainable exhibits with stem light and backlighting options, shelving, locking storage, direct print and fabric graphics, and monitor/iPad mounts.
Modern custom modular and custom exhibits with downlighting/backlighting, shelving, locking storage, and large monitor mounts.
Contemporary custom, modular, and sustainable exhibits with modular counters, shelving, monitor mounts, shelving, multiple lighting options, and customized accessories.
Upscale custom, modular, and sustainable exhibits with shelving, lightboxes, closet storage, and reception counters.
Elegant custom, modular, and sustainable exhibits with storage, monitor, shelving, monitor, and lighting options including backlit and halo lit logos.
Customized exhibits with stylized counters and a broad range of graphic, A/V, lighting, and accessory options.
The Classic Exhibits Distributor Network
Successful trade show marketing doesn’t happen by accident. There’s always a strategy and a plan. The key is identifying the right strategy and executing the right plan. For over 30 years, Classic Exhibits has been a reliable source of expertise for new and seasoned trade show marketers.
Classic Exhibits has been designing and building contemporary, sustainable trade show displays through our ecoSmart line since 2007. No one in the exhibit industry has a longer or larger investment in sustainability than Classic.
What you may not know is that our commitment to “green” extends well beyond ecoSmart Displays. Classic products, all Classic products, benefit from our sustainable initiatives.
Our aluminum contains 70% recycled content. And we recycle all material drops.
Ourroto-molded cases are exclusively made with regrind plastic.
Ourreusable foam packaging is 100% recycled material.
Ourscrap wood is recycled into mulch and woodchips.
Ourclear plastic is separated and recycled locally.
Is there more? Of course. You can’t produce ecoSmart for 16 years without sustainability spreading into every facet of your business. Can we improve? Of course. Look for greener printing options in 2024 and even more eco-friendly materials. Plus newer ecoSmart inline, island, and accessory designs.
For 35 years, Classic Exhibits has been designing and building creative custom solutions for our Distributor Partners and their clients. As the largest private-label exhibit manufacturer in North America, we have the unmatched capability, capacity, and creativity to create 3D projects ranging from 10 x 10 inline displays to 60 x 80 double-deck islands.
Portable Exhibits are the backbone of many regional trade shows and events. In fact, most exhibitors start their trade show marketing programs with a portable display, then gradually upgrade to modular or custom exhibits as they participate in larger shows. Their portable display(s) don’t go away. They continue to use them for smaller shows or when a larger exhibit isn’t necessary.
However, choosing the “Perfect Portable” can be challenging since designs, prices, features, and assembly varies considerably. A casual Internet search will show thousands of choices from hundreds of suppliers. So how do you decide when every display looks great and every description promises an easy setup? Remember that portable displays are no different than any other product. If it seems too good to be true – price, service, and delivery – then be wary, ask questions, and request information about the warranty and return policies. It’s easy to create a beautiful rendering. Designing, building, and delivering a quality display is much, much harder.
That said, the display you purchase will depend on your budget, your marketing requirements, and your show schedule. Not every exhibitor needs a portable exhibit with all the bells and whistles, like monitor mounts, locking storage, shelves, or backlighting, when a straightforward fabric graphic on a lightweight tube frame is fine. Others, however, need a robust portable with functional accessories that are designed to last years and perform flawlessly from show to show.
So… let’s begin by transforming you into a knowledgeable portable display buyer. This will ensure you ask the right questions before making a purchase.
What are Portable Exhibits?
There’s the exhibit industry definition and then there’s the typical portable display buyer definition. The exhibit industry defines a portable as any display that can ship via FedEx or UPS. Meaning the weight and dims fall within their guidelines for ground or air shipments. That’s it.
The typical portable display buyer, however, would define a portable exhibit as having the following features and/or benefits.
Lightweight. It can be carried or wheeled into a show by one person. Or at most, two people.
Assembly. It’s easy to set up with no tools or minimal tools.
Graphics. Primarily fabric graphics with some direct print graphics.
Packaging. Packs in a nylon carrying case or a roto-molded case with wheels
Installation and Dismantle. Show labor isn’t required to assemble it.
Our Favorite Portable Trade Show Exhibits
“Putting the cart before the horse” is a common mistake when buying an exhibit. Displays buyers become fixated on size and price instead of asking the following:
What are our marketing goals for the show or shows?
Is this a short-term or long-term purchase?
Will we need accessories like shelves, locking storage, tablets, or monitors?
And who will be assembling the booth?
Once you’ve answered those questions, it’s time to start shopping. These are five of our favorite portable display systems.
Symphony blends easy toolless assembly with elegant design and clever accessories. Choose from 8 frame shapes and 16 accessories like portable counters, monitor mounts, iPad clamshells, and wireless charging pads.
The affordable Sacagawea Portable is a contemporary display designed with lightweight engineered aluminum and vibrant tension fabric graphics. Using knob-assisted assembly, the Sacagawea sets up quickly, typically in less than 40 minutes for a 10 ft. display.
The Fabric Pop-up Display is popular with exhibitors for local shows or events. It’s portable, attractive, and assembles in minutes making it the ideal choice for both novices and seasoned exhibitors. Choose from over 60 designs, including backlit options.
Banner Stands are a must-have item for recruiting fairs, retail displays, events, and exhibitions. Choose from retractable units, telescoping, and eco-friendly stands. Add a banner stand to update an existing display or combine multiple units to create a dramatic back wall.
LED Lightboxes have become the star attraction at many trade shows. They include vibrant Silicone Edge Fabric Graphics (SEG), lightweight aluminum extrusion, and long-lasting LED lights. SEG fabric graphics are easy-to-install, durable, and colorful. LED light modules come installed on the frames, making set-up quick and trouble-free.
6 Factors to Consider When Purchasing a Portable Trade Booth Exhibit
#1. Price. Or when the price is not the price…Many portable display websites show really low prices, which are merely the starting point. You then have to add graphics, accessories, cases, and shipping which can increase the price by as much as 3X to 6X.
Not all portable websites are constructed this way so it’s important to compare the “build a bear” pricing with the “what you see is what you get” pricing.
#2. Quality. You might not like to hear this, but the price is a pretty good guide. Higher-quality systems with a proven track record tend to cost more. They use sturdier frames, stronger connections, and better cases and packaging (but more on that later).
Always ask about the warranty and the return policy. Quality display products are backed by strong warranties and reasonable return policies.
#3. Assembly. Assembly matters but probably not as much as you think. Some require tools. Others do not, which shouldn’t be the only determining factor when choosing a portable display. Is the assembly process intuitive? Are the parts labeled and numbered? How stable is the display when it’s done?
Remember… you will be assembling the display multiple times over months or even years. Each time it should be faster and easier to set up.
#4. Graphics. If you’ve shopped for a TV recently, you know the same size screen can vary in price, often by hundreds in not thousands of dollars. Graphics vary too. Low-quality graphics are printed on older machines, using thinner materials, and use less ink per square inch.
Just as important is the fit of the frame. Too loose and the graphic appears sloppy and cheap. Too tight and the images are distorted and fitting them to the frame is like putting pants on a sleeping bear.
#5. Replacement Parts. Some portable systems are considered disposable by the manufacturer. If you lose a part, then your only option is to buy a whole new display. With others, getting a replacement part to match your frame is nearly impossible.
Better portable displays are designed and manufactured with exact-fit tolerances and interchangeable parts. The parts are available via quick shipping.
#6. Packaging. Poor packaging contributes to lost parts, damaged components, dirty graphics, assembly frustration, and overall long-term satisfaction with a portable display.
High-quality portable systems use reusable packaging, like foam inserts, nylon bags, and heavy-duty corrugated boxes. Everything has a spot and every item is protected during shipping.
Your Partner for Portable Exhibits
Purchasing a trade show display, regardless of the size or price, is a sales and marketing investment. If you’ve ever walked a trade show floor and said to yourself, “Seriously dude?!” about someone’s display then you know the harm a cheap portable display can do to your image. Before buying a display, consider meeting with a Trade Show Exhibit Professional to discuss your needs and marketing goals.
With over 200 Distributor Partners throughout North America, there’s a Classic representative close by to assist with any rental project. Contact us today whether you need an inline rental display, a double-deck island exhibit, or a contemporary kiosk rental. At Classic, we’re not just different. We’re better.
Let’s say you are a small company. Whatever that means. But you want to appear bigger because bigger is better, right? How do potential customers perceive you when they see your website? What clues do you leave that tell your story and let customers know you are big enough to handle their business, yet still small enough to build a good working relationship?
Why would you want to appear big? Not everyone does. Many entrepreneurs position their company as a boutique business that specializes in working with a very specific type of client.
Perhaps the question isn’t that you should look bigger, but to ensure the right companies find you. Not so long ago, prospective clients would judge you based on size of your brick-and-mortar store and zip code. Then they’d gauge your ability to handle their needs. Sometimes a small neighborhood hardware store with personal service will serve a customer better than a big box store.
Looking Bigger and Attracting Crowds
Perception is everything, especially in the beginning. I’m guessing that 98% of your potential client’s first interaction will be online, even if they’ve gotten a referral. They type in a search term in their browser, look through the first 5 or 6 results, click one, and begin eyeing your website. All assuming you appeared in those search results. Or if they have your company’s name, they’ll search directly for you.
When I first started my website many years ago, I chose not to go the pay-per-click route. Instead, I wanted to share my tradeshow knowledge and the knowledge of others online. Yes, it takes more time, but the results won’t disappear if I don’t feed the PPC meter.
One way to appear bigger – to show that you have a larger reach than bigger companies – is to blog. And to do it consistently. Hundreds of people come to my blog, TradeshowGuy Blog, through random searches. The most popular might surprise you. For instance, one of the most-viewed this year is a post on how a SWOT Analysis applies to tradeshows. Yes, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. A good 50% are folks outside the USA. Interesting.
With over 700 posts in the past 9+ years, the search engines have archived them all, so random tradeshow-related searches will find them.
Many years ago, I made a commitment to post regularly on a variety of industry topics. The goal was consistency. Write one or two a week and see if it leads to more opportunities. And, it did.
Each week, I publish the TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee vlog/podcast. While individual podcasts aren’t in the Top Ten, the category is in the Top Five most-viewed. Which means that a specific podcast might not get a lot of views, but people are searching to see what’s been posted recently. Together that tells me three things: the podcast is gaining traction, the time investment is worth it, and each interview builds relationships with interviewees, who are mostly in the tradeshow industry.
Someone once asked me, “Does blogging, podcasting, publishing a weekly newsletter, posting videos on YouTube channel and spending time on social media actually result in more business?”
In 2016, 66% of our business at TradeshowGuy Exhibits came from people who found me online. In 2017, it was less than ten percent. In 2018, frankly it’s a bit fuzzier. But, when I communicate with potential clients, through cold calling, email, or simply reaching out to folks I know the feedback is always positive when they receive a link to specific post, video, or podcast. Just experiencing the extent of the posts (video, audio, photographic, lists, etc.) provides me with instant credibility. They realize I’m offering expertise and solutions, not just a product.
I’ve had a YouTube channel for almost a decade. In the beginning, I had no idea what I was doing other than creating a few how-to videos and tradeshow advice. I didn’t post regularly, and the views were limited. In a sense, that’s still the case, although I create a video version of my podcast and post it as another way to share content.
I believe that creating good content makes the TradeshowGuy Exhibits look bigger, and putting it online makes it easier and more likely for potential customers to find me.
Exhibit Design Search
Frankly, so does Exhibit Design Search (EDS), which is a branded search tool that looks like it’s part of our websites. EDS is the work of our main design and fabrication partner, Classic Exhibits, and we use it all the time. When we send ideas from EDS to potential clients the reaction is often “Wow! I had no idea you could do all of that!” Aligning yourself with a company that offers great tools expands your virtual heft.
We also have a handful of other URLs that are used for various purposes. For example, TradeshowSuccessBook.com is a landing page that offers a free digital download of my first book in exchange for subscribing to my newsletter. TradeshowSuperheroes.com is a book-specific page solely for promoting and sharing information on my second book. TradeshowExhibitBuyersKit.com is a landing page to promote a package of tools for potential exhibit buyers. And TradeshowGuyWebinars.com is a collection of helpful webinars.
So, what’s important to me? When I consult with clients and prospects, I want them to know two things:
When you work with TradeshowGuy, you’re always working directly with me or someone with the same expertise. We’re small but with big resources.
Our success is tied to your success. If we make a company’s tradeshow manager look good — by doing a great job, by providing an excellent service, and by designing and fabricating an exhibit that gets noticed on the show floor –we’ve done our job. If we make you look good, we feel good. It’s as simple as that. And if looking big makes us a better, more approachable partner, then that’s a great byproduct.
—Tim Patterson (Guest Post)
After 25+ years as a radio on-air personality, Tim Patterson became the TradeshowGuy. He blogs regularly at TradeshowGuyBlog.com and is the host of the weekly vlog/podcast TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee. After spending 9 nears as VP of Sales and Marketing at Interpretive Exhibits, Tim is currently owner of TradeshowGuy Exhibits in Salem, Oregon. His company works with exhibitors to improve their tradeshow marketing presence and bring in more qualified leads. Find him on Twitter at @TradeshowGuy and on LinkedIn @ https://www.linkedin.com/in/timothypatterson/
Thank you for a CRAZY FALL SEASON. We’ve had strong sales, including a record number of AMAZING custom projects. You kept us busy and inspired in Q3, which the Classic Exhibits Family appreciates.
The rental division, Classic Rental Solutions (CRS), saw the largest surge. And that’s not surprising. Exhibit rentals are growing at Classic and throughout the industry. More and more exhibitors are attracted to the smaller upfront investment and the luxury of changing their design from show to show or year to year. The exhibitor’s desire to “mix things up” challenges many builder’s design flexibility and capacity. Not every company has the capability (or willingness) to stretch their rental program.
But We Do. And Here’s Why.
#1.Classic Exhibits and CRS support over 200 distributors. Not every distributor taps into our rental division, but the vast majority send us multiple projects every year. That volume means we have an unmatched inventory when your client needs five LED lightboxes, a double-deck display, a 40 x 40 island, or 37 monitor stands for an event. There are few requests we can’t handle.
#2. We are the manufacturer. We’re not ordering modular frames, cut aluminum extrusion, or custom wood counters. We’re building them. If the rental division needs a custom counter or curved Gravitee One-Step frames, it’s done in days, not weeks. It also means we control the quality. We have no hesitation about throwing away damaged aluminum, chipped laminate, or rebuilding or replacing crates. What we ship has to be perfect because we’re answerable not only to you but also to your client. Happy customers mean more rental orders. And that makes us happy.
#3.We are the designer (in most cases). That gives us enormous flexibility to create customized rental designs. We can choose to build a custom component for a specific design. So many rental designs on the show floor are cut-and-paste, carbon copies of modular panel templates. Be honest. How often have you seen the same rectangular tower with four arches and stock counters? Rentals are growing but some of the designs on the show floor are getting pretty stale.
#4. We are Classic Exhibits. Over the years, we’ve built our reputation on design, quality, flexibility, and nimble engineering. And especially predictability. When you open a rental crate there should be no surprises. It will include detailed instructions, immaculate packaging, and graphics that fit, since the display was staged and photos taken in our facility.
#5.Lightboxes, Charging Stations, Monitor Stands, Tablet Solutions, LED Accent Lighting, etc. Trade show industry trends change FAST. Those trends should apply equally to rentals as they do to purchases. Sadly, that’s not true for all suppliers. At Classic Exhibits, we have no reason not to cross-pollinate purchase trends with rentals. We benefit. You benefit. Your client benefits.
So…. you may be wondering about the title of this blog post — “We Don’t Care. We Really Don’t Care.” On occasion, a distributor will apologize for a rental order. Their client considered both a rental or a purchase but eventually decided to rent. Yes, the initial order is is smaller but that’s fine. Rental orders, over time, tend to be larger than purchases. And frankly, the margins are better. There’s no need to apologize. We don’t care whether you purchase or rent from Classic Exhibits. We only care that you do one or the other.
Thanks again for a remarkable fall. Be sure to visit the Rental Display Gallery. We’ve added over 120 designs in the past two months, all with rental and purchase prices.
Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, hybrid, and custom 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.