You’re planning to exhibit at a trade show. You’ve done your research and think you’re ready to take the plunge. But there’s one last thing you need to do before signing on the dotted line with a trade show exhibit house: ask the right questions.
Getting the right answers will help you understand what you’re getting into and ensure that you work with a reputable, reliable company. It will also prevent unpleasant surprises down the road.
There’s more to exhibiting than just showing up with a display. One of the necessities is having a good relationship with your trade show exhibit house. After all, they’re indirectly representing your brand and providing a platform for you to engage with your target audience.
Here are 20 questions to ask your trade show exhibit house before you sign:
During exploratory meetings with potential trade show exhibit houses, be sure to review their portfolios. This will give you a sense of their design style and the types of exhibits they’ve created in the past. It’s also a good opportunity to get an idea of their level of experience and expertise. Any exhibit house worth their salt would present an impressive portfolio — if they don’t have one, that’s a red flag.
A reputable trade show exhibit house should have no problem furnishing you with solid recommendations from their clients. These are equivalent to credentials and can give you insights into their work quality, customer service level, and more.
Loyal clients will also share how the company has handled difficult situations, like last-minute changes and other exhibit issues.
When working with a trade show exhibit house, you want to ensure they have a clear and concise design process. It should include every step, from the initial consultation to the final installation of your exhibit.
Ask them to walk you through their design process, so you know what to expect and can plan accordingly. This will help you have more efficient discussions with decision-makers and your creative team.
Everyone wants to know how the trade show booth design they are creating will help them stand out from the crowd and competitors. The whole point of exhibiting at a trade show is to promote your product or service. So, when meeting with potential exhibit houses, don’t hesitate to ask them how their design will support your marketing goals.
A reliable exhibit house factors in these and other elements while envisaging the design process. Good designers can leverage your physical location in addition to various other factors to present a more impactful layout. Give them your trade show booth number (if they don’t already have it), and see what they can do for you.
You want an exhibit house that offers full creative services, from CAD design to Photoshop, Illustrator expertise, and everything in between. Their designers should also have a good understanding of the latest trends in design and your industry as a whole. Ask about their usual turnaround time for designing and building exhibits, too, so you can be sure they will meet your timeline.
This may not be necessary if you order a portable display for your exhibit. However, when you dedicate the time and effort to construct a rental or custom booth exhibit that costs thousands of dollars, you should expect to see pre-show photos and even a walkthrough.
Having clients at a show is an indicator of the exhibit house’s experience with running the show, managing the venue, and also their ability to leverage shipping costs. Not many booth owners are aware of this huge cost saving. When an exhibit house has booth space or other clients at a trade show, they can often offer to ship your booth components in with theirs at a fraction of the cost.
“Turnkey” is a term thrown around relatively loosely in the trade show industry. If the exhibit house promises turnkey services, ask for the specifics included and excluded under this blanket. This will give you an idea of the components you will need to outsource and the ones you can expect the exhibit house to handle for you.
If you’re going to need booth storage between shows, it is always better to ask your exhibit house to handle it for you. They can often provide this service at a much lower price than renting storage space on your own.
This is very important for tech and software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies that conduct demonstrations. It is also essential for those who need extensive audio-visuals, interactive elements, and other advanced technical components incorporated in their booth. If the exhibit house doesn’t have the skill set internally, it should be connected with strategic partners that can satisfy your technical needs.
This question is relevant only to those who plan on exhibiting internationally in the near future. But if this might be part of your marketing plan within the next couple of years, it is certainly worth asking.
A proven management team has the expertise that can only be gained through hands-on experience. Investigate the track record of your prospective exhibit house. You want to be sure that the people you are working with are skilled professionals who have handled booth projects similar to yours in the past.
Show site event management should generally be included in any turnkey exhibit package, as it’s a very important component. There is nothing worse than something going wrong right at the start of the show and not having anyone around to assist you. Your exhibit house must confirm the presence of a show site manager to help you work out all the last-minute kinks, should they arise.
If you don’t fully understand I&D labor (e.g., price per city, straight vs. overtime vs. double time), have your exhibit house explain it to you. They should also explain how it factors into their proposal.
Some will incorporate the estimated cost into the original quote; others will wait until the show and have it billed directly to the client. Either way is acceptable; the latter is simply more accurate.
Much like I&D labor, material handling is a show site expense that cannot be accurately calculated until the day of the show. Many companies will estimate this cost in the proposal, while others will wait to bill it on show day for complete accuracy.
It’s always good practice to ask how materials are handled. The exhibit manufacturers should provide you with their policy and address any concerns you might have. Don’t be alarmed if these policies differ from company to company, as they normally do.
As discussed earlier, most experienced exhibit houses will utilize this technique to carry-down savings to clients. With multiple shipments being made to the same show (or at the very least the same warehouse), there is a lot of room for combining loads to save money. If the manufacturer doesn’t have any clients at the show to share freight with, ask what other means they can offer to help you reduce shipping costs.
This is a given with any reputable booth manufacturer, but it is worth asking nonetheless. All the paperwork and coordination can become quite daunting if you plan on having multiple displays at different shows throughout the year or exhibiting internationally. Let your booth manufacturer handle all these details for you.
In most companies, you will have more than one point of contact (typically a sales representative and a project manager). But you should be able to identify one primary contact who will be your “go-to” person for any questions or concerns. This is essential because as the project progresses, you will develop a working relationship with this person and should be able to rely on them for honest feedback and guidance.
Bonus points if you have their personal cell phone numbers and can reach out to them at any time, even outside normal business hours/days.
If you are satisfied with an exhibit house, you should see if they offer contracts. This way, you can lock in discounted pricing with a company you know can satisfy your needs. Try not to sign a contract for too long a term, though. Keep it to three years or less, then renew as needed.
The next step is to start working with your booth manufacturer on the design and development of your booth. This will involve a lot of back and forth between you and the company until you finalize the details. Once the booth design is complete, the manufacturer begins the production process and keeps you updated on the progress of your project.
If you need help conceptualizing your trade show display or have an idea that needs to be translated into a custom booth design, look no further than Metro Exhibits! Our team will gladly assist you from start to finish to ensure that your trade show exhibit booth is everything you hoped it would be.
We also offer exhibit rental, custom booth rental, trade show booth rental, and portable exhibits to suit your needs and budget. Give us a call or send us an email today to get started on your booth design!
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