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Should You BUY or RENT a Trade Show Booth?

Eye Services Trade Show Display

Which is a better choice, to buy or rent a trade show booth display for trade show exhibits?

Question: We were wondering if it is better to purchase a trade show booth exhibit or if we should rent one instead?

We would ask, in response to your question, “What is your objective?” Or maybe “What is your long term objective?” Are you planning to use this one time? Is this an experiment?

Trade show booth bannersIf you’ve never exhibited at a trade show in the past, but you’d like to give it a whirl, then maybe you’ll want to try a less expensive route by purchasing graphics only for a booth, rather than the whole enchilada.

However, if you’ve already got a show or two under your belt, and you’d like to make it part of your marketing budget, then it is probable or at least possible that you’d want to pony up the funds for a more permanent addition to your marketing repertoire, especially if you’re going to be using the same graphics from show to show or if you’re doing multiple trade show booth displays annually.

Considering How Trade Show Booth Works

If you’re laying out a large booth that is custom built, then obviously you’d be in the market to purchase a booth, as you’ll be customizing it, almost branding it, to your product. The cost of a custom booth can vary widely – I’ve seen booths that cost the client $250K, a huge multi-national car manufacture in this instance – so you’ll have to calculate your budget accordingly.

Generally speaking, you would figure, for a simple booth with sidewalls, backwalls, brochure stands, a multi-media display or two, possibly merchandising displays, retractable or X banner stands (to go along the aisles), table runners and table top roll up banners or easels, and the like, between $25 and $50 per square foot of booth space. Of course, you can go much higher if you choose to, and there are many companies who create and sell trade show booths who would love to help you spend your entire budget to create your company’s amazing trade show display and booth graphics. Find more about retractable banners in here: www.visigraph.com/fabric-vinyl-cloth-banners/banner-and-stands/

Trade show bannersHowever, you can get a very nice booth for the lower dollar figure if that is your budget. A trade show booth space measuring 10’ x 20’, then, would cost around $5000 to $10,000 based on our above estimate. This includes the space, typically, and your booth graphics and the other items mentioned previously.

It does not, of course, include employees time, travel costs, hotel, food, or other miscellaneous expenses. Trade show costs, for a 4 day show, can easily hit $50K or more, but it doesn’t have to be that expensive to be successful.

In 2002, I worked a trade show with the company I was working for at the time, and we did the entire show, with a 10’ x 10’ booth, a couple of tables, a nice 4’x 10’ banner on the backwall, and examples of our wares exhibited on a couple 8’ tables (we had a corner spot), for around $5K including airfare, lodging, and food. My boss was a cheapskate, but we were a small company, and the shows were always profitable for us because we had a good product in a niche market.

The Short Term Solution

Back to the other side of the equation…the short term solution for trade show displays. It is highly likely, if you’ve never been to a trade show before, that you’ll want to “test the waters,” so to speak. In this case, renting a booth might be a good solution.

If you do this more than once, you’re about a break even, dollar-wise, but if you go to a show, and it’s a loser, you’re not out as much as if you’d purchased a booth. The booth rental company will tell you exactly what size your graphical elements need to be for the display rental booth you choose, and your graphic design firm or in-house graphics team can create your graphics.

If you’ve tested various advertising venues with your headlines/slogans, you may already have a good idea of what your client’s “hot buttons” are, so translating these to your booth graphics should be a no-brainer. Good luck with whatever direction you decide to go with this!


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Barry K. Brown

Barry Brown has been in the Sign, Banner, Decal and Display Business for over 20 years. It isn't what he thought he'd do with his life, but he says he knows too much now to do anything else!

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