Is it Better to Rent or Buy a Trade Show Exhibit?

Categories: My First Trade Show, Trade Show Booth Rentals, Trade Show Tips

Our most successful trade show customers are planning out their schedule months in advance and many times a large decision that comes up is whether to rent or buy their trade show displays.

(Related Article: 4 Things You Can Do Now To Help Your Next Trade Show Go More Smoothly)

These are some of the questions that these customers consider and that we like to ask our clients when evaluating what kind of display setup that would best fit their needs:

  • What their Trade Show Booth Sizes will be
  • Number of trade shows that you’ll be exhibiting at
  • Trade show Exhibit Budget
  • The overall appearance of your booth (IE mix and match display brands or sticking to a single brand/style)
  • Logistics of the show (who sets up the displays, traveling with the displays, etc.)

These questions aren’t supposed to be in any particular order, but rather you should think of them as variables in an equation and each one will affect your decision:

Trade Show Booth Sizes

To start off, you’ll want to start approximating the different booth sizes that you might be using in the following 1, 2, or 3 years.

For example, your plan might include having six 10×10 booth spaces, two 10×20 spaces, and a single 20×20 space.

Or you may just have two 10×10 spaces and four 10×20 spaces.

Whatever way your plan pans out you’ll want to make sure that the booth system that you choose can work with this plan.

If you plan on attending a considerable amount of shows with differing booth sizes, you’ll want to consider a modular booth system for different booth sizes while keeping your branding consistent and equal per show or that will let you flip displays around to display different messages at different shows.

However, if your schedule consists of, say, a singular 20×20 space but many other smaller spaces, then you may want to consider buying a display dedicated to those smaller spaces and then renting a display for the 20×20 exhibit.

Number of Trade Shows Planned

Continuing with your exhibit schedule, another thing to consider when deciding to rent or buy is the frequency of your exhibits.

What I mean by this is that it might not make sense to buy a huge 20×30 custom exhibit when you would only use it every other year. Not to mention that the marketing material on those graphics will probably be out of date by then.

However, if you’re consistently going to events each month or year, it would probably make sense to buy a display set up at that point for your more common exhibits and rent for any displays that you don’t go to very often. 

Determining Your Trade Show Exhibit Budget

Smaller budget trade show booth versus a high budget trade show booth

Your trade show schedule and booth sizes will always be directly tied to your show budget.

However, determining what you’re doing (or able) to do now and what you would like to do are very important in this whole process and when designing and getting a budget approved.

Return on Investment (ROI) is the key performance indicator (KPI) for this marketing channel and finding that sweet spot between exhibit expenditures and returns is what you’ll be focusing on before, during, and after your shows.

This means that when talking about budget, the main topic of renting vs buying is more important than ever and you’ll have to start seriously thinking about buying if you’re currently renting or renting if you’re currently buying each year or for each show you go to.

Overall Exhibit Appearance

Another thing to consider that many people don’t even think about is how each display style matches another.

Using an SEG style display (sharp edges) with a slip over, tube style frame system might make your whole set up look “off” from the exhibit floor.

This small detail might not be obvious in the sense that people will know why it looks off, but rather that it just looks off for some reason.

To avoid this, you’ll want to consider display frames that can match your present and future needs.

The Waveline display system is an example of such a frame system. With this system, you can start off with a 10×10 booth space set up and expand over time with counter displays, Merchandiser components for merchandising items, and even air-inflated towers!

On the rental side of things, you’ll want to consider the Panoramic-H display system which is a fully pre-configured full booth package system that breaks the tradition of stale, ugly, and old trade show rental exhibits.

Logistics of Exhibit Rentals vs Exhibit Purchases

The last important consideration is the logistics of the show(s) you’ll be attending.

Did you know that there are full service rental options available to where you can just walk into your booth and not have to deal with anything related to transportation or setup?

And no, I don’t mean delegating it to other employees!

With rental exhibits, you can elect to have your booth logistics 100% handled by someone else so you can just walk in and then walk out.

Exhibits that you own are a bit different.

With owned exhibits, you’ll have to dedicate time and energy to transporting the displays, setting up the displays, tearing down the displays, storing the displays, and not to mention, all the time that goes into planning all of that!

Of course, you could also go with a hybrid approach and mix and match what you farm out to other companies (such as transportation), but you’ll definitely want to weigh the different options available such as:

  • Are you setting up your exhibit?
  • Is the show setting it up?
  • Is it the show or a 3rd party vendor handling it for them? If so, who handles shipping and freight?
  • How does this company handle logistics on a booth that you own?

(Related article: Setting Up Your Trade Show Booth: When to Call For Help)

To Sum It Up

Our most successful trade show customers spend a significant chunk of time planning out their company’s trade show schedule and related considerations.

The decision on whether or not to rent or outright purchase the display system is certainly a decision that is discussed by most trade show exhibitors and with the frameworks written in this article, we hope that this particular decision is a much easier decision to make.

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