Trade Show Booths: To Rent or Not To Rent?

It seems almost daily someone is offering to rent a trade show booth (for a “very reasonable price”). Is that really the way to go? If you have a small business, the idea of renting a booth may seem attractive because of the “low” initial outlay, but is it your best bet in the long run?

Trade shows are a way to get your business into the competitive arena generated largely by the advertisers of the trade exhibition. Who doesn’t appreciate a little help with advertising and marketing? But it shouldn’t be a once in a while kind of event for you – if it gets you a new audience and potential clientele, it should be something you make a long-term investment in and plan for in your annual marketing budget. This includes an attractive, professional booth you put together, maintain, and can grow.

Having your own booth allows you to design its layout, its flexibility, and its potential desired impact on your customers and your product. Yes, the initial investment in a trade show booth will be more than a rental, but it will pay for itself very quickly. You won’t have to adapt your product to someone else’s design, and you’ll be able to make improvements and modifications as you evaluate the booth’s performance from show to show. Does traffic flow need to be adjusted? Was ease of access an issue? Was it conducive to customer interaction? With your own booth, you can make these modifications affordably and intentionally for each venue.

So what makes a good booth? Well, certainly the things just mentioned, for starters. A booth that’s accessible to customers doesn’t block their access to examine your product. It’s open, inviting, and intuitive to navigate. Sometimes you end up with a space in the exhibition hall that is less than ideal, so you have to make the best of it. With a booth that is inviting and accessible, you stand a better chance of getting customers to engage.

Engaging the customer or potential client is key to a successful trade show experience. The first thing they need to be able to do is see your product and know it’s something they’re interested in. Make sure the design of your booth highlights the product, not an entertainment activity or some other gimmick. The booth itself will speak volumes about how seriously you take your business, so your booth should communicate professionalism, seriousness of purpose, and 100% commitment to customer service. Focused lighting on the product or brand name can make it easier for customers to see what’s offered. Staff who are accessible, energized, and not stuck behind a table will be more approachable. And an elegant booth design, perhaps including some attractive, stand-out-from-the-crowd flooring will add to the appeal of the booth.

You don’t have to spend a small fortune on your own booth, but having your own will allow it to evolve and adapt from venue to venue. Forego the rental. Spend some time thinking about how to make your product or service the most appealing at the next trade show, design the booth accordingly, and you’ll never consider a rental again.