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common sense trade show display ideasThe very first thing people will see as they approach your trade show booth is your trade show display, and as you know, first impressions are critical. In fact, sometime your first impression is the ONLY impression you'll get to make. Numerous trade show industry research studies have show that the typical trade show display at the typical trade show only gets about three to five seconds of a visitor's attention, before the visitor decides to stop and talk, or just keep walking. So with all the options available for trade show displays today, which one do you pick, and what factors make some trade show displays better than others? While the importance of your trade show display cannot be overstated, what kind of tradeshow display to chose is less important than what your tradeshow display does. Worry less about what it is made out of, and more about what is on it. But also focus on how portable it is, how durable and rugged it is, how easy it is to set up, how easy it is to take apart, and how easy it is to upgrade and change. Also make sure that your trade show display compliments and highlights any trade show booth ideas or trade show giveaway ideas that you are using at your trade show exhibit booth.

trade show display idea #1 - graphics are everything!1. Graphics
The three most important factors or elements for a good trade show display are (1) graphics, (2) graphics, and (3) graphics. Your trade show display graphics need to catch peoples' attention, and they need to make your trade show display stand out from all the other trade show displays. The cost of trade show graphics has really come in recent years, so there really is no excuse for not having full-size trade show graphics that cover your entire trade show display. And, as the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, especially a HUGE picture. Luckily, stock photography costs have also come way down, and the selection of different relevant, eye-catching trade-show-graphics-worthy images is enormous. If you do a quick search on istockphoto.com for any image idea or ideas you have, I'd be surprised if you can't find an image that works, and you will also probably be surprised to discover just how affordable that image is! Of course, you also need your trade show display graphics to quickly, clearly, and forcefully communicate your main trade show marketing message, including who you are, what you do, and what makes you unique! Just remember, your trade show graphics are very IMPORTANT, and can determine whether or not you are a trade show success, so worry less about whether your tradeshow display is made of partially recycled plastic bottles, and worry more about your tradeshow graphics! Make sure your trade show display design will rock the show!

trade show display idea #2 - it must be portable!2. Portability, Drayage, and Shipping Costs
Don't forget that any trade show display will need to be shipped to the tradeshow, shipped back from the tradeshow, and stored in between trade shows. Modern trade show displays tend to be more portable than what was available even ten years ago, but still just how portable a trade show display really is can vary from design to design. Some trade show display still come in two cases, and with those displays that now come in one shipping case or carrying case, you will want to see if the shipping case will hold "everything", such as display lights, and of course, your display graphics. You'll also want to know if the trade show display case can be taken on an airplane as checked baggage (and if extra fees will apply), and if the tradeshow display shipping case can handle being shipped via UPS or FedEX. Many smaller tabletop trade show displays will only come with a (flimsy) cloth carrying bag, which precludes you shipping them via UPS or FedEX, unless you then find the right size cardboard box, which will then only last a few shipments and will need to be replaced. Regarding drayage, many tradeshow convention halls will charge you drayage, a fee for each piece that is shipped to directly to the show, and it can be based on a combination of number of pieces and/or total weight. However, if you can hand carry your trade show display into the convention hall and back to the trade show booths area of the convention center (or in some cases, you only have to be able to roll it in if the shipping case has wheels), then you can avoid paying drayage. Just remember that shipping costs can add up quickly, especially if you are doing priority overnight trade show shipping, so the more portable your trade show display actually is, the more you will save on long term shipping costs.

trade show display idea #3 - your display must be durable and dependable3. Dependability and Durability
It probably goes without saying, but having a falling apart, broken trade show display can be a real trade show bummer. When you need to use it, you need your trade show display to work. Dependability and durability should definitely be factors in reviewing a trade show display and in deciding which trade show display to buy and plunk down your hard earned cash on. Keep in mind that some trade show display designs are inherently more reliable and durable than others (think less moving parts, and less small, delicate, and/or losable parts). Similarly, some materials are much more durable than others. And the quality of trade show display manufacturers can vary (generally, the longer a trade show display manufacturer has been around, the more trustworthy and reliable their display probably are). Many tradeshow display vendors offer lifetime warrantees on their displays, though often the lifetime warranty is limited to the display frame, so it is important to see what the warranty support time is on the other elements of the tradeshow display. You also want to see how you get warranty service, and how long it takes. It's not uncommon that something can break at a tradeshow, but then nobody gets around to doing anything about it until right before the next show. And one last thing on dependability... there are a lot of portable trade show displays being produced in China now and being imported into the United States. From the little I've seen of these Chinese trade show displays, the quality is just not that great, and getting service and replacement parts is next to impossible. When you're purchasing a trade show display, don't overpay, but also remember that there's a reason for the phrase, "You get what you pay for."

 

trade show display idea #4 - how hard is it to set up?4. Set Up and Take Down
Simply put, you don't want your trade show display to require an engineering degree to be able to set it up. The best trade show displays can be set up by anyone, quickly, and without tools. Well, I would change anyone to "almost anyone". It seems there are always a few trade show exhibitors that have absolutely no mechanical sense what-so-ever, and think the solution to getting a square peg into a round hole is a bigger sledgehammer. These trade show Neanderthals prove the old saying, "You can make something fool-proof, but you can't make it idiot-proof." That said, the best trade show displays will have set up instructions that are simple and intuitive, and that the average trade show exhibitor can figure out easily and quickly. It's important to be able to set up your trade show display in under half an hours (and hopefully in less than ten minutes), otherwise some convention halls will require you to hire trade show union workers to set up your display, even though you are able to and want to set it up yourself. Also, if any tools are required (even a screwdriver), you may need to hire a convention hall contracted union worker. And if you need any electrical work or connections that exceed simply plugging in cords for lights and computers, then you will need to pay for a convention hall electrician, though there's probably good reason behind this! And don't just think about setting up your trade show display. Find out how easy (or difficult) it is to take it down and get it safely back into the trade show display shipping case or container. Remember when you pack it up, you want to be able to easily and correctly pack it so that it survives the subsequent shipping, and that it is in good shape for your next trade show! Shoving and cramming are verboten!

trade show display idea #5 - should you rent?5. Should You Rent?
It depends... but usually not. Typically renting a trade show display costs about a third or half as much as just buying the trade show display outright, but you don't have to worry about shipping or drayage costs. Whether you rent or buy, you still need to invest in quality trade show graphics. If you rent a trade show display, you will likely need to bring your trade show graphics to the show and then attach them to your rental display with Velcro. But if you buy a portable trade show display, you can incorporate the graphics in to the display, and have them printed directly on the trade show display panels, which almost always looks more professional and polished. If you know you are going to do multiple tradeshows, it's a no brainer to purchase a portable tradeshow display. But what if you only want to commit to one tradeshow initially, and then see how it goes? While a rental display may seem cheaper, the image it creates may also seem cheaper and less committed, which may hurt your trade show image. In general, whether you're only starting with one show or whether you know you'll be doing multiple shows, I think it's best to spend the money necessary to put your best foot forward. So almost always, the best decision and choice is to purchase a portable trade show display, and to avoid the generic convention hall rental booth displays.

Other thoughts on trade show display ideas...
Trade show display banner stands seem to be all the rage these days, and are often reviewed and suggested as good ideas. This may be because banner stands seem super portable and cheap. From what I have seen though, many trade show banner stands (the kind that are similar to pull-up projector screens) are actually pretty flimsy (both in appearance and in actuality), and the banner graphic panels aren't supported on the sides and tend to fold back and look a little bit cheesy. Since you want your trade show display to make your company look polished and professional, perhaps saving a bit of money by using a banner stand that turns out to be flimsy and cheesy is being penny-wise but pound-foolish? If you are going to use a banner stand or banner stands, make sure you actually see one and test one first, and confirm that it will hold up long term and also that the banner stand with graphics portrays a trade show image that you are happy with.

update: costs - trade show displays can cost a lot more than just the initial sticker price.
It sure would be nice if you could pay whatever the tradeshow display price tag is, and be done with it. Unfortunately, like with most things in life, portable trade show displays can and will cost you a lot more than just the initial price, so when you're budgeting for a trade fair or convention display, you really need to budget for all the possible (and necessary) expenses, both initial, and recurring and ongoing expenses. It's easy to think that the tradeshow display only costs x dollars, but you will need graphics for it (which should either be included on the display or purchased separately and attached to the display). You will also need a graphic design, which generally means hiring a graphic designer (with experience in designing trade show displays and booths), and you will likely need images (photographs) for your design (which means either hiring a professional photographer, risking taking your own photos, or finding stock photos that meet your needs). Just keep in mind that your graphics need to be awesome and amazing, and also have a clear message. Don't skimp or be cheap and try to save money on your trade show graphics! And the associated costs of owning a trade show display don't stop with getting graphics for it. You'll probably need to update and replace your trade show graphics, since you don't want your trade show marketing message to become stale and/or dated. Most new exhibitors also don't realize how much shipping your trade show display to and from the show can cost. Until the Star Trek transporter becomes a reality and you can beam your tradeshow display straight to the show, you need to ship your display to each show. If you plan ahead, you can ship via ground service, which is fairly economical, but if you wait until the last moment, or if you exhibit at shows that are back to back, you will find out how expense overnight shipping a trade show display can be (and you will then appreciate how important portability really is). Shipping costs can be based on the weight of the display, but they can also be based on the dimensional weight of the display, which is based on the size (volume) of your shipping case. And at the show, you will discover the meaning of a word called drayage, which is what a trade show charges you for having your portable display delivered at the convention hall. You often avoid the drayage fee if you bring your trade show display with you and hand carry it into the show, but you'll have to decide if it is worth it. And if your trade show display requires any tools to be used when setting it up, or if setting it up takes more than 30 minutes, many convention sites and venues will require you to hire and pay union contractors to set up your display. It can be mind boggling and depressing to trade show novices how many "hidden costs" there are associated with having a trade show display. Graphics and shipping are two of the larger additional expenses of trade show display ownership, but if you get a cheap trade show display that breaks easily and often, you'll also discover how much maintenance and repair parts can cost (or you might become an expert at the use of duct tape and baling wire). Just remember to consider all the initial costs for a portable trade show convention display, as well as the on-going costs too, which in some cases can end up being more than the initial cost. The best advice is to get a high-quality, durable, reliable trade show display system that is cheap and easy to ship, and that is also cheap and easy to update and replace graphics on, but that will also hold up to the rigors of your trade show schedule and will be there and work for you when you need it.

 

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