Trade shows and other exhibition venues are a great way to get out a message and/or expand your company brand. They’re also stressful, chaotic, expensive – basically a headache from start to finish! They can also be very lucrative – especially to a new business – when it comes to networking with other professionals and driving sales figures through the roof.

Equipment selection for these events can take up a huge chunk of your creativity, time, and marketing budget. There’s so much to consider, and most businesses rarely get it right the first time – something always gets overlooked!

Fujifilm CEE 2015 booth

Here’s 5 tips for choosing the right exhibition equipment for your next event:

1. Available space

You’ll definitely need to know where your booth location is and how much space will be available in your booth before deciding what kind and size of equipment you’ll need. This needs to be the obvious first step before you start shopping around for the items you’ll need.

Budget will be a definite concern when it comes to whether you choose an aisle or corner booth, or full-on peninsula or island space. Carefully weigh the costs of the space at the exhibition with the costs of equipment, then come to a compromise (if needed) that makes your mission most effective.

2. Preferred suppliers or you choose?

Trade show organizers almost always offer a list of “preferred” suppliers they recommend you to use for renting or buying your equipment. Some of these vendors merely rent or sell the equipment and deliver it to the exhibition site for you. Others offer fully comprehensive services including helping you to choose what you need based on available space, and what ideas or products you sell.

When it comes to making a decision, you’re not obliged to go with recommended vendors. There’s a lot of politics that come into play in this situation, and who the organizer recommends might not be the best option for you. Often handshakes, perks, and money exchange hands in order for vendors to get on these preferred lists in the first place – as opposed to being based on the level of service or equipment quality they offer.

3. Buy or rent?

You’ll definitely need to shop around, compiling the top 2 or 3 prices for both rental and purchase costs of lighting, sound system, temporary walling, and other equipment you’ll need. While this might be your very first trade show ever, you’re probably not banking on the upcoming event being your last, right?

Rental is an attractive option because you don’t have to worry about storing or selling off the items when the trade show event is over. If, however, you have storage space available, and there’s an inkling or definite possibility you’ll need it again, purchasing is the smart option. Adaptable stands, display cases, signs, furniture, display monitors, and electronics are staple exhibition equipment that can be used over and over.

Rental costs often include hidden fees to cover transportation, cleaning, and maintenance costs incurred by the rental company – costs that add up quickly when you rent the same items more than once. If you choose to purchase, these costs fall on you, but they’re very often way overblown by rental agencies who have to consider damage and theft, and work those costs into their prices.

Business exhibition

4. How much staff will be onsite?

If it’s just going to be you and one other person in the booth, you can probably cram as much equipment in there as you want. However, if you plan to have a lot of staff directly at the booth, and plan to present your brand to prospects in the booth area too, the last thing you want is a bunch of bulky equipment in the way.

5. Should you choose a full service trade show display vendor instead?

This was mentioned briefly earlier. After you’ve got an idea of what you need, the next thing to consider is just how involved you want to be in the selection and setup process.

There are vendors out there that can offer out-of-the-box solutions, determining your exact equipment needs, transporting and setting up that equipment, printing custom signage, graphics, furniture, giveaway items, display cases, office and other supplies and accessories.

This option will raise costs significantly, but can reduce a lot of headaches too. Consider them similar to the staging companies that work for real estate companies. As with any such service, going this route saves you a lot of time and puts you in cahoots with trade-show-staging professionals who likely know a lot more than you do about what to expect on game day.

Parting thoughts

If the stress of choosing the right space and equipment feels overwhelming right now, don’t despair. At the end of the day, you’ll learn valuable lessons for next time, and it’s a given that you’ll meet tons of people that can help drive more business for you as you push forward.

While they can be a hassle, trade shows are, bar-none, one of the best marketing opportunities any business can take advantage of.