Ultimate Guide to Exhibiting
So you have acquired floor space at an event and ready to plan for your display and navigate the maze ahead of you. What you could use is the ultimate guide to exhibiting to help you every step of the way. Well, here it is, your ultimate guide (at least we like to think so). Within this guide we will also explain how Echo Exhibits builds your display and the services we provide and why it is done this way…and it always comes back to ensuring your show goes off without a nasty curveball.
Here is the first questions to ask and answer.
Do you want to own this exhibit or rent it? Once this is sorted out everything after that is similar in practice for either scenarios.
Below are reasons to own an exhibit and what you should think about when deciding what type of exhibit you want.
- Less hassle — When you own an exhibit, there is no need to redesign for every show like renting.
- Cheaper — It could be but this is dependent on your company’s volume of events. If it is one event per year, renting may be a better solution. Rule of thumb is that if you rent an exhibit 4 times you could have owned it (this doesn’t include show related services).
- Expandable — If you have several shows per year in a 10x10, 10x20 or island configurations. You will want to own an exhibit that is designed and packaged to be used for any floor space. Renting wouldn’t be suggested here because of the volume of events.
- Logistics is often an ignored factor when deciding on what type of exhibit to purchase but it is a critical factor. The logistical questions that need answering would include crating vs individual plastic casing, who is setting up and taking down and how much is too much to spend on material handling and shipping. If the impression the exhibit gives is the most important factor then a crated custom exhibit that we manage for you is a recommended course or if keeping logistical costs down is the important factor then we would suggest an exhibit that is super light. My one suggestion would be not to dismiss an exhibit design just because it requires crating. LTL shipping is not expensive and many times when using a crate it means certain elements of the exhibit ship assembled like counters which shortens labor hours significantly.
Here are some reasons to rent, these are somewhat mirror opposites of owning to some degree.
- Design flexibility, change the design of your exhibit for every show and floor space, this is true but be careful since a new design typically also means new graphics.
- Cheaper — This is accurate if your show volume is low. If your show volume is high, we would suggest owning and then perhaps renting for your larger space.
- Product launch — perhaps you are launching a new product or company, instead of owning rent so you do not have to consider what you do with the exhibit if the business decides to stop doing shows or the product launch doesn’t quite lift off.
Once it is decided what the preference is then you need to determine who you want to work with on the manufacturing of the exhibit. Sometimes knowing a company’s policies and procedures help in sorting this out.
Here the some of the questions I would suggest asking before discussing an exhibit
- What is the policy on rental exhibits, will my team be able to set up or do you require we use your team
- Warranty policy on purchases
- If stored, where and is it temperature controlled
- How easy will it be to communicate, is it just email and phone, or is there also skype or texting available
- Approximate Lead time for an exhibit matching your floor space
- Payment policy
- Cancellation policy
- Are there specific design types that your company is most know for
Once you know these answers I would then weed out the ones you didn’t like and focus on approx. 4 exhibit houses, any more than 4 exhibit houses and your project may not be taken as seriously as it needs to be.
I can tell you that if the first question an exhibit house asks is, what is the budget, I might suggest weeding that company out, the reason is there are too many variables to consider before establishing a budget and may indicate that particular person may not be well experienced. For example are they asking for a budget that includes shipping, electrical, flooring, material handling, furniture or is it just the exhibit build. The better approach and the approach we take is to make certain the exhibitor is aware of all the budget variables and then work collaboratively between exhibitor and exhibit house to find the right solutions. The best designs are always partly the result of the exhibit house and the exhibitor providing clear input on preferences and requirements. When we get requests for designs we insist on working together to come up with a design concept before doing renderings.
Here are some of the variables that need to be considered when determining a budget. We say some of the variables since there is still entertainment and travel that should be considered as well. These are broken out into 2 categories, the services we typically provide and the services the show typically provides.
Services from us
- The rental or purchase exhibit build and graphic production
- LTL round trip shipping unless shipped on a client’s common carrier account # like Fed Ex
- Installation and dismantle service at the event
- Post show management — storage and inspection
- Flooring — If it is being purchased, standard carpet flooring should be rented from the show to avoid paying shipping and drayage on your flooring.
- Furniture — We can provide tables and chairs (bar height or standard height), larger furniture we can provide as well but we need to sort out what is cheaper, renting from us or just renting from the show or a third party like Cort or AFR.
Services from the show
- Material handling/drayage — this is the cost to deliver your exhibit to your floor space from the warehouse or dock and bring it back after the show
- Electrical service
- Rigging of signs to ceiling
- All other services like booth cleaning during the event, internet or coffee service.
Ok, you finally feel like your arms are around the project, you have a design and price you like and the trigger has been pulled on the build. It is now time to do your show forms and that is where the maze begins. Some exhibit houses do the forms for you, some assist and some want nothing to do with your forms. We suggest avoiding exhibit houses who submit your forms for you. The reason is that they will need your credit card and will also sign documents on your behalf. Sounds good on the surface until you get your bills and it looks like the exhibit house took too long to order your services and you didn’t get the early rates. We suggest keeping control of your show forms. Also avoid exhibit companies who don’t assist with your forms…what good is that. Our approach is to assist with all your show forms but the exhibiting company submits most of them, we provide grided overheads of our designs with an electrical layout, hanging sign positioning and general orientation of exhibit. We also provide all the details needed to fill out your forms. We make it easy, but you keep control.
Here are some things to know about show forms:
- The dates when the rates go up. You will always want to submit orders prior to this date.
- EAC form deadline, this form allows a contractor to set up and dismantle your booth and requires insurance. This is one of the forms we would submit on your behalf.
- Blanket credit card, the show will require this.
- Electrical, if you are in an inline exhibit this is easy, if it is an island you will want to know if the electric is coming from the ceiling or the floor, if it is coming from the ceiling then you will want to plan out your main drop as so the cord can be routed in a way as so it is not an obstacle.
- Material handling, the exhibit house provides an approximate and that weight gets converted to a CWT value which is then ordered.
- Rigging — this form is easy, but keep in mind hanging signs typically ship separate from your main exhibit, have a specific label and must arrive to your advanced warehouse.
- Carpet — This is straight forward, color choice and padding thickness, one option to consider is Visquen, which is a plastic cover over the carpet which then gets removed after set up. This is a choice you will have, we typically don’t recommend it since it is just really wasteful, to put plastic down, then throw it away…we usually send along a small vacuum with the booth which then makes Visquen and booth cleaning unnecessary in most cases.
- Furniture — We have seen this done in so many ways and no one way is best, we can supply furniture (keep in mind the material handling the show charges) you can rent from the show or a third party like Cort or AFR. We have even seen some exhibitors order furniture from Amazon and then at the end of the show throw the furniture out. I wouldn’t recommend this, but it was actually an economical choice, which says something about the costs to rent furniture.
- Lead retrieval — this is needed but perhaps not in the typical sense of renting the little zapper machine the show provides. You may want to consider third party resources for this like Bartizan.
- AV/tablets — If you can we think it is always best to own your AV or tablets for your events, in particular if you own your exhibit. You can rent AV from us or the show, but keep in mind the AV screen you get from the show maybe different from one show to the next which then means your content needs to function by way of HDMI, Memory sticks should always be tested on the AV screen prior to use to make sure there are no compatibility issues preventing video content.
- Booth Cleaning — This depends on who you work with, we provide a small vacuum with our island exhibits, but if we didn’t include then yes it would be recommended.
- Outbound shipping forms — Typically the best way for this to work is for the install team to handle submitting forms for freight that they are storing after the show. For anything else the exhibitor should submit these forms. It is important that everything be accounted for since if there is anything that needs to ship that does not have outbound paperwork the show will force the freight. This means they will ship it to the address they have for your company and then bill you for it. Forced freight is always avoidable as long as you are aware that everything needs outbound paperwork.
- There are many other services that could be ordered like fork lift service for heavier products, Coffee or liquor bar, water and drainage service and so on. For any of these services just let us know they are needed and we will guide you.
The exhibit is built, all your services are ordered, so what is next, aside from making travel arrangements and receiving images of your new booth. Your focus should shift to pre-show marketing. An effective pre-show marketing for trade shows strategy begins with the identifying and contacting your target audience. A targeted audience can be derived from the pre-registration list and/or your list of existing customers and clients. Be certain to tailor your messages to the concerns, interests and needs of your prospects.
Next, you should have an enticing offer. Brainstorm with your staff to determine what will bring in qualified buyers and important customers to your booth. Is it an exclusive “by invitation only” savings offer, an educational seminar lead by an industry expert, or the promise of a new product? The classic “two-part” promotion can also work well. Targeted audiences are sent one half of a useful gift before the show, with an invitation to pick up the second half at your booth.
As you can see shows are a cumbersome maze to navigate, but with our help we can design a great booth on budget, be able to service it for years to come and provide all the support needed.