Choosing your Exhibit Company!

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At Dimensional Design, we know picking your exhibit builder / supplier can be a challenging process.  There are so many exhibit companies in this industry, with even more levels of talent and skill.  While seemingly overwhelming, an exhibitor’s choices generally fall into one of four main categories; Custom, Modular, Pop-up booths, and I & D companies (Installation and Dismantle).  Because many exhibit companies overstate their level of capabilities, we wanted to break it down to better explain each type’s strengths and weaknesses.

 

Custom Exhibit Houses

A true “Exhibit House” is actually a custom exhibit house that produces the dynamic, brand- focused exhibits that are unique from the other booths at a show. They are created solely for a specific client and their brand.  Their main goal is to define the company while separating themselves from the crowd.  They have the capabilities to handle every aspect from design to installation and they approach the exhibit design from a marketing and sales aspect.  A strong design team gives the exhibitor the confidence to know that their brand image will stay consistent from show to show.  Most custom exhibit builders also sell some form of modular system and/or pop-up booths with custom rental programs in which they own property that can be combined with the modular systems.   A great custom builder takes pride in having well thought-out exhibit environments that not only look inviting, but also perfectly represent the corporate brand.  Due to the involved nature and extensive design goals of custom exhibit houses, they are not the most cost-effective solution for companies.  Custom booths are never cheaper than pre-fabricated ones, but for high impact, stand-out booths, there’s also nothing as effective.  As the saying goes: you get what you pay for.

 

Modular Exhibit Companies

 

Most exhibit companies fall into this category and are usually merely “Suppliers”. These companies resell prefabricated wall systems that national companies like Nomadic and Abex manufacturer. This type of system is great for small booths or companies who show mostly graphics, not products.  Modular panels are fabricated for easy reconfiguration, easy setup and can be transported cost effectively.  These company’s strengths are their high-volume cost-effective products, strong logistics program, and large storage facilities.  They are a cost effective alternative to a custom exhibit, but are limited in visual impact and often look like other booths, limiting your ability to differentiate yourself from your competition. Modular booth supplier’s biggest weakness is that usually they have a basic design team with very limited marketing experience.

TIP:  If all of the structures on a website look similar but have different graphics, this is a Modular Exhibit Company and you will probably find these same renderings on other modular exhibitor’s websites. They buy the structures from a mass manufacturer and add your graphics. Most of these companies claim to do custom work but don’t.

 

Pop-Up Display Suppliers

A Pop-Up display’s greatest advantage is its cost efficiency; they act as back drops for 10 x 10 or 10 x 20 inline or aisle booths.  When Googling “Exhibits”, these are the companies that pop up first.  They also sell the prefab products needed for exhibiting such as flooring, lighting, and…???…  Many even claim to have designers and build custom displays, but almost all are simply suppliers of pop-up frames.  These types of displays are also called spider frames, retractables, panel displays, banner stands, collapsibles, and tabletops.  Most Pop-Ups rely solely on high graphic impact and little or no product displays.

TIP: A well designed graphic can garner the right attention while a poorly designed one can drive potential clients away. Don’t skimp on the design.

 

EAC or I & D

In order to get your booth assembled onsite you or your exhibit house sometimes has to hire Exhibitor Appointed Contractors (EACs) or Install & Dismantle (I&D) companies.  These companies tend to be local labor, usually union labor. Unless it is a pop-up frame, most convention halls require union carpenters and electricians to assemble structures.  These are very professional, large scale national union shops like Nth degree, Czarnowski, and Momentum. They often have a wide range of pricing depending on which city the exhibit is in.  Some EACs also build exhibits, but they subcontract to a custom builder.  Their core skill is assembling and disassembling exhibits.

 

Words of advice when developing exhibit graphics:

Graphics are usually last minute and rarely well thought out, but they are one of the most critical aspects of the exhibit.  Often times they can make or break a booth.  They are the only things that really draw the attendees into an environment. They can make it inviting or boring, educational or confusing.

Exhibit marketing is Face-to-Face.  When choosing a design firm to create your graphics, make sure it has extensive experience in both designing for, and actually attending, tradeshows.  They must attend shows to understand the complexities and challenges of tradeshow marketing.

Many ad agencies design a graphic like they would an ad campaign or a brochure, but the reality is that a tradeshow graphic needs to be thought of like a billboard.  People are walking past the booth quickly and you are surrounded by your competition.  You don’t have their complete attention like a magazine ad.  You don’t have time to be overly clever.  They need to “get it” the second they see it.  They also need to be clear and concise with copy. People don’t stop and read a paragraph, they copy should be talking points for the salesmen in the booth.

 

Be Aware:

On the internet you will see that almost all companies state that they do complete custom exhibits but very few do. If a company mainly sells pre-manufactured systems, then they usually have the capabilities to fabricate crates, cases, and simple structures, but not branded booths.

A tradeshow is one of the most critical marketing tools at a corporation’s disposal.  It is the single place where you are surrounded by both your clients and your competition in the most hyper-competitive environments possible.  While all exhibitors are there to gain new clients, the fact of the matter is that it is easier to lose existing clients.  By displaying a brand-focused, inviting and appealing exhibit show after show, this is something that all companies can avoid.