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7 Reasons to Avoid Traditional Custom Exhibits

As the saying goes, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. As a Systems manufacturer, I would like to recommend everyone build system based exhibits, but the reality is that there are situations where a traditionally built custom exhibit is the right decision.  That said, here are 7 reasons you may want to avoid traditional custom exhibits.

  1. Your yearly marketing budget is uncertain and the amount you can spend on the exhibit may vary per show (including shipping, technology, labor, promotions etc.). Shipping, drayage, and ability to rent an exhibit in the exhibit city can significantly affect your costs.
  2. The exhibit will be used multiple times and the overall show schedule has some overlaps. This will make it difficult to manage to ship a custom property that is heavy and bulky.
  3. Exhibiting in highly unionized venues with inexperienced staffers attending some of the shows.   Labor costs can skyrocket when you exhibit in certain cities with high labor rates and high labor minimums.   New York, Boston and Chicago can be challenging from a labor cost standpoint so you should budget carefully.  Rigging requirements, in particular, can severely increase your labor costs.  Often riggers charge per rigging point so minimizing the number of rig points can be important.
  4. The exhibit space sizes vary from show to show so you will need to reconfigure the booth from show to show.   Systems typically improve reconfiguration options. A well-designed system exhibit can maximize your budget dollars by creating an exhibit that can shrink and grow for multiple size booth spaces.
    • Market pressures and competition have required system providers to create systems that deliver on style, fit and finish. There is a constant pressure to create systems that setup faster, are lighter weight and can create visually arresting designs. Over the last couple decades, we’ve seen designers becoming more involved in the product development process of exhibit systems. Designers have been instrumental in identifying architectural styles and design aesthetics when developing systems. In the past, it was very common to see poor fit and finish between hardware and graphics. That’s less common today, clients expect a seamless transition from hardware to graphics and the graphics need to be wrinkle free. Clients expect aesthetics and design of modular systems to be on-par with custom exhibits.
    • A good resource to determine what to request from a prospective exhibit builder is our blog post regarding RFP’s
  5. Your boss wants you to consider renting all or part of the exhibit for a particular show.
    • While you can rent a custom exhibit, the look is less flexible and if it gets rented again to someone else, the design will not be unique to your brand.
    • There is a lot more flexibility and reconfigurable capabilities where systems can be mixed and matched to create a unique design that is cost effective yet unique.
    • Rental systems enable clients to keep even more flexibility for their design and budget as they can use rental system components along with purchased graphics and hardware to change their display from show to show while maintaining a consistent brand image.
    • Rental system components can be reconfigured in a way that is not possible with custom. Even custom houses have recognized this and have started using standard systems to complement their custom exhibits.
    • Rental system components can also be enhanced by adding custom components as needed.
  6. The life expectancy of the new exhibit investment is uncertain.  Your company may have some re-branding or a new campaign in your near future.
    • Back-lit capabilities, modular accessory options, and fabric improvements have made systems much more customizable and their design capabilities more impactful. Yet, exhibit systems are flexible enough so you can easily change out the graphics, accessories, and lighting, and maybe even reconfigure the layout to a certain extent to accommodate an evolving brand or message.
  7. You will need to exhibit internationally and may need to ship the exhibits.  Consider that you will face different exhibiting rules and standards than those in the U.S.  A modular system or rental exhibit may be more practical for those shows.
    • Modular systems are great for reducing shipping costs, particular in rental scenarios because the exhibit can be rented locally wherever your show is happening.
    • Packaging for modular systems has also evolved to improve install and dismantle efficiency therefore further saving on labor time and costs.
    • System providers are generally part of a larger group of exhibit providers that are also familiar with the system. This is a benefit because you exhibit is more likely to have a local provider of that system. This is beneficial for getting local install and dismantle crews that are familiar and efficient with the system. It also is a great peace of mind in the event you need to add or replace product very quickly.

When choosing a modular system or rental exhibit you can always add custom elements to it to make it more unique or to tie in better with your branding or exhibit theme.   In fact, if your vendor does not have custom capabilities they may even partner with a custom builder to help integrate those elements as needed.   Also, you may choose to go custom for one of your exhibits, or your biggest show or event, and choose modular systems or portable exhibits for the rest of your show schedule.

Regardless of what you choose, remember that your exhibit designers and vendors can be great resources especially when you give them clear goals, ask good questions and think of how this new exhibiting program will fit into your overall marketing strategy.

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Danny Pace
About the Author

Danny is a Product Manager for Skyline Exhibits where he helps develop and launch products and services. His responsibilities also include managing Skyline’s product catalogs. He’s an experienced booth staffer with 19 years of trade show related experience. Danny has helped launch numerous award-winning products and services and has been part of Skyline’s internal creative agency which develops trade show marketing programs.

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