Top 5 Fallacies of Rental Exhibits
Do you feel like trade shows are a secret religion where you need a high priestess to explain the path to enlightenment? You shouldn't... but it's easy to waste a lot of money before you discover trade show nirvana. Take rental displays for example. So many misconceptions, even by trade show professionals.
Probably nothing has changed more in Trade Show Land than exhibit rentals. What used to look like subsidized housing on the show floor is now indistinguishable from purchase exhibits. Well... in most cases. I recently saw this design on a custom house website as a rental option. I kid you not -- THIS was the BEST of the six offerings. Sigh.
It's no wonder there is so much confusion about rental exhibits. Let's explore The Five Most Common Fallacies about renting an exhibit.
Attendees Will Know It's a Rental Exhibit
Yes, if you rent the crappy display shown to the right. Otherwise, no. At any major trade show, 15-20% of the exhibits are rentals. Quality exhibit rental suppliers have hundreds of rental designs based on successful purchase designs. These include extrusion, modular wall, and custom modular designs from 10 ft. inlines to 40 x 60 islands with large format fabric graphics. Even double-deck displays.
In the end, most rental suppliers will personalize the rental for your trade show needs. It may not be a custom exhibit, but it will be attractive, functional, and cost-effective.
Rentals Can't Be Customized or Personalized
Well that would certainly make our lives easier if it was true. But, it's not. Everyone wants an exhibit, purchase or rental, that's tailored to their trade show marketing needs. That's an expectation. If you are shown 6 examples and told to pick from the list, pretend you are Usain Bolt and sprint to the next exhibit house. If you are told that that purchasing is a better option if you want any customization, then put your track shoes back on. It's time to sprint... again.
That's not to say there aren't limits. And in many cases, it makes sense to purchase some or all of the exhibit. But it's not either/or. It depends on your supplier's inventory and manufacturing capability. Some work from an in-house inventory. Others rely on a large rental supplier which supplies rental displays to distributors in North America. That volume allows for greater flexibility in design requests and accessory options. Need 30 counters. We got it. Need 25 monitor stands. We have that too.
It Will Cost Less. It Will Cost More.
Regardless of what anyone tells you, there's no magic formula when it comes to deciding whether to rent or purchase. In general, renting is less expensive, particularly if you reuse the graphics for multiple shows, but that's the same for an exhibit purchase. Because marketing is always a moving target, graphics will always change over time. On the other hand, if you make "sprockets," which never change, and plan to keep the same structure and graphics for several years, then it would be smarter to purchase your display.
You decided to purchase the exhibit. Now you (or someone else) has to store the exhibit. And pack and prep it for each show. That's a cost that's often ignored during the design phase. Are you a company that wants the flexibility to change the exhibit design, size, or accessories depending on the show or your budget? Then renting makes more sense. Or consider purchasing the core structure, but renting the kiosks, counters, monitor stands, charging stations, etc. giving you greater flexibility from show to show.
My Show is in Chicago. Should I Rent the Exhibit in Chicago?
Perhaps. Is your show always in Chicago? Do you only go to shows in Chicago? Are you based in Chicago? Otherwise, it doesn't really matter. Work with the exhibit house that fits you like a glove. It's not about location. It's about relationships and success. You have shows all over North America. Does it really matter where the rental exhibit ships from? Honestly, it has to ship from somewhere. If your exhibit partner is truly a partner, they will work with you on the design and your trade show marketing goals, and ensure your exhibit ships as economically as possible.
Do I Have to Rent from the General Show Contractor (GSC)?
The displays from a GSC can be cost-effective, which might make sense for a first-time exhibitor testing the water. However most GSCs have a limited rental inventory and mostly basic designs, although there are exceptions. That said... a GSC is focused on that show. What happens at the next show with a different GSC in a different city with different design offerings?
Exhibitors who view trade shows as an investment do not differentiate between a rental or a purchase. It's all about creating the best possible ROI for the company. That means working with a partner who understands your company and your goals, someone invested in your success over the long-term, not just for one show. That might seem obvious, but exhibit rentals are often seen as a "Hail Mary!" just to meet a limited budget. A partner will ensure your rental is not a compromise.
Still a bit confused? Renting an exhibit is not for everyone, just like leasing a car isn't for everyone. However, it's wise to know your options, particularly since rental designs are much more flexible and attractive than ever before. There's no longer a stigma associated with a well-designed rental exhibit, and most rental exhibitors are primarily interested in flexibility, both in structure and cost. It's a worthwhile conversation to have with your exhibit partner, regardless of what you decide.