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How to Not Pay a Hunk for a Piece of Junk

Did Anyone Remember the Duct Tape?

We’ve all been there before. Whether it was buying a bargain car that costs more to repair every month than the payments, the great deal on a TV that keeps showing everyone’s faces in green, or the exhibit booth that was going to save us a lot of money but the graphics look awful and keep falling off. None of us are immune to that feeling in the pit of our stomach that tells us we made a mistake. We find ourselves frantically checking to see if anyone has perfected a design for a time machine so we could turn back the clock and have a “do over.”

It gets even better when your VP of Marketing or CEO see the exhibit for the first time and demands to know what you were thinking when you bought this “hunk of junk.” That instant wave of nausea you feel followed by fear for your job security can easily be avoided.

Close up bolts nuts and money

Consider What You’re Getting Into

I’ve seen two great (or poor, depending on how you look at it) examples of customers buying junky exhibits and then panicking to get them fixed.

First, a software company had been cobbling their exhibit together for a number of years using secondhand parts purchased from a company that went bankrupt—is there a hidden message here? They were attaching graphics with Velcro that peeled off during the show, and then had to use duct tape to hold them in place. The CEO wondered how they expected to convey the message that their software was cutting-edge in the marketplace, when their exhibit looked like something out of the 1990’s.

Second, I witnessed a Fortune 500 company sending a 10×20’ exhibit in 6 4’x4’x8’ crates to every show, running up a tab of thousands of dollars. Their entire exhibit was manufactured out of custom materials that didn’t condense down and weighed several tons. They could have just used a modular approach with something that packs down small, weighs less, and that could have been functional repurposed for both smaller and larger exhibits. By changing to a modular solution, their savings between shipping and material handling would be approximately $8,000 per show.

If you’re hoping to avoid paying a large hunk of money for a piece of junk, here are 6 tips you need to consider:

1) Research your vendor
a. See their product in person before making a commitment to buy
b. Touch and feel their products to make sure they are consistent with the quality and image your company wants to convey

2) Design for your objective, not theirs. It’s your company, your message, and your goals that need to be reached. Design an exhibit that is centered on your message. This can’t be done if you’re using an exhibit that was designed for a different purpose. Remember you are on the line for this.

3) Don’t turn your exhibit into a science project with too many test tubes, flashing lights and reams and reams of print outs. Work with a professional exhibition company that can work with your team to develop a clean look that conveys your message concisely, and gives attendees a reason to stop and take a look. In the exhibition industry, sometimes simpler is better.

4) Don’t use somebody else’s leftovers. They look just the way the word sounds. Need I say more?

5) Set a realistic budget for your exhibit, and look at a longer term view that can save thousands over the life of an exhibit. Remember the Fortune 500 Company I mentioned above that will save so much in shipping and material handling if they used a modular exhibit? Those savings will cover the cost of their new and updated exhibit in under a year.

6) Consider using modular rather than custom. Modular systems are lighter, pack into smaller containers, allow for reconfiguration and cost less than custom systems to purchase or rent. Not only can they save you significant dollars up front, but save you over and over again as you reduce your shipping and material handling fees year after year.

Follow these 6 tips and you can ensure you’ll be on the right track to making a sound, cost-efficient decision for your next display.

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About the Author

Rob Wheeler is a Marketing Consultant for Skyline Exhibits and Events, Skyline’s Raleigh, North Carolina office. He has over 25 years of marketing experience.

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