No matter how careful you are with handling and repairs, your trade show exhibit won’t last forever. Eventually it will get to the point where you consider retiring it in favor of something new. If you’ve decided to get rid of an old trade show exhibit, you have several options. What will you do with your retired exhibit?
4 Ways to Reuse or Recycle Your Exhibit
1. Refurbish an Old Exhibit
Your retired trade show exhibit might not be ready for the scrapheap just yet. If some components are still in good shape, you might be able to extend their usefulness, rather than disposing of the entire exhibit.
One option is to refurbish the exhibit, by replacing any elements that are no longer up to scratch. Keep what’s still in good shape, and use those elements as the foundation for a new exhibit. For instance, if display stands and cabinets are still intact, a new set of graphic overlays might extend their lifespan. Update signage and other graphical elements and you give your exhibit a whole new look—for a fraction of the cost of replacing it.
2. Reuse What You Can
If most of the exhibit is too old or worn-out to salvage, there may still be one or two elements that are usable. Those items might be repurposed to extend their lifespan and keep them out of the local landfill. If you’re running a small business, it’s always important to make every cent count. Finding a new use for parts of a retired exhibit may help you save elsewhere in your business budget. For instance, a cabinet or set of shelves that’s too old for exhibiting might still be fit for office storage. Any old furniture from the exhibit might find a new home in the office lunchroom. Or if you have a set of graphics from a trade show product launch, they might now be perfect for in-office branding.
3. Make a Donation
You may not have a use for your retired exhibit, but someone else might. Have a trade show exhibit that isn’t of use to you any longer but still has plenty of life left in it? A local charity, school, or other organization may be the perfect recipient. This option has the potential to benefit both parties, as you’ll be able to avoid paying disposal fees and can also write the donation off at the end of the year.
It’s just a matter of finding a charity that can use your old exhibit. This may be the most difficult part, as your recipient will need to be able to transport the exhibit and refurbish or otherwise alter it to suit their branding and other needs. To make sure everything proceeds smoothly, it may be wise to prepare a contract that stipulates who pays for transport and any changes that are needed.
4. Sell the Exhibit or Components
If you’re getting rid of a trade show exhibit, selling is typically the most financially beneficial method of disposal. You won’t have any disposal fees to pay, and you’ll even be able to recoup a percentage of your original investment. The downside is, if it takes a long time to sell, you’ll still be paying storage fees in the meantime, which will eat into the money you make from the sale.
There are several options for listing a used exhibit for sale, including websites such as:
If you have a show coming up, why not post a “For Sale” sign in your booth during the pre-show setup and post-show teardown periods? You may get some interest from exhibitors who are looking for a secondhand exhibit or for specific components.
Pro Tip: Selling an exhibit involves more than listing it on websites and waiting for buyers. Make sure you have all the relevant paperwork on hand, including blueprints and renderings, as well as setup instructions. Buyers will want these documents, so it’s good to have them before you list your exhibit for sale.
3 Ways to Get Rid of an Old Trade Show Exhibit
Reusing and recycling old components is a great option, but it’s not always possible. If your trade show exhibit is just too old and worn-out for any part of it to be used again, your only option is to replace it entirely. The question then becomes: What do you do with your retired exhibit?
Obviously, if the exhibit is no longer useful, the best solution is to throw it away, but you actually have more than one option for achieving this.
1. Plan for Disposal After the Next Show
If you know your exhibit is nearing the end of its lifespan, consider keeping it for one more show—then jettison it immediately afterward. With this option, you’ll arrange with the venue to have your old booth collected for disposal. The venue will take care of collecting and disposing of the entire exhibit.
This can be a cost-effective and convenient option because you don’t have to pay for transport or storage of the booth after the show. It is important to compare what the venue will charge you for collection and disposal with what you would pay via another disposal method. It may be that it’s more cost-effective to ship the exhibit back home instead.
2. Pay Your Exhibit Management Firm to Manage Disposal
The simplest way to get rid of your trade show exhibit is to have your exhibit management company do it for you. If they’re storing your exhibit, all you need to do is notify them that you want it disposed of.
To get rid of your old exhibit, they’ll take it out of storage, dismantle the components, and then dispose of those components appropriately. Depending on the materials, this might mean some parts are recycled, while others are sent to a landfill.
The cost of this service is highly variable because it depends on what local restrictions and fees apply. Some states charge more than others for disposal, and some have more stringent restrictions on what can go in a landfill versus what must be recycled. On the flip side, your exhibit management firm may discount your disposal charge with any proceeds that are gained from recycling.
3. Opt for the Buy-Back Option
If you purchased or commissioned your exhibit from a design or management company, one option might be to sell it back to them. This won’t be an option in every case, but some firms may be interested in buying an old exhibit back if it’s still in good shape. Most companies don’t pay cash for old exhibits but instead offer a discount on the next purchase or design commission.
There’s Still Plenty of Life Left in an Old Exhibit
A retired exhibit may have outlived its usefulness to you, but that doesn’t mean it’s not useful to someone else. When you decide to get rid of a trade show exhibit, you have multiple options for reusing, recycling, or disposal. Some options may help you recoup your investment, while others offer less payback but are more convenient. The key to getting the most out of an exhibit is to explore all your options and choose whichever suits you the best.