When you decide to exhibit your product or service at a trade show or other industry event, a lot rides on your booth. It has to draw in a crowd and then inform and entertain them, while converting them to leads. It’s your chance to make a great first impression with thousands of prospects.
Your choice of trade show company is one of the most important decisions you’ll make ahead of a trade show. Don’t go into the process blind! Here are a few questions any contender should be able to answer.
Do you have the experience we need?
Opt for a trade show company that has plenty of experience—a decade or longer. That means experience designing and building trade show exhibits and experience designing and building those exhibits within your industry.
More experience offers obvious benefits, like learning from those who came before you. But experience brings other important and immensely valuable perks as well, including:
- Familiarity with cities and venues – The most experienced and connected companies can offer tips about the best places to network after-hours, best placement on the trade show floor, and more.
- Local industry contacts
Being familiar with a venue goes beyond the best spot to exhibit. You’ll get optimal results when the company’s designers and manufacturers understand the exhibit space they’re designing for and the amenities the venue offers.
Can you handle all of our trade show needs?
There are many elements to consider for an exhibit: design, manufacture, shipping, installation, dismantling, and storage. All this takes a lot of time and causes plenty of stress. Whomever on your team leads this process will need to spend all their energy on making it successful. That’s one reason to hire a full-service trade show company for your exhibit needs.
Another reason is the fact that staying in contact with several different companies, each of which is handling a different aspect of your exhibit, can be a logistical nightmare. Let a single trade show company deal with all that for you, and you’re free to work on other elements of the event, like training exhibit staff and developing great marketing content.
All the research, preparation, and organization that go into designing and creating an exhibit can be especially daunting for small-business owners or first-time exhibitors. If that’s you, go with a full-service trade show company. They’ll take care of every aspect of your exhibit, from start to finish. And if they’re really good, they’ll show you the ropes along the way!
Can you offer multiple options for creating our exhibit?
When you look for a trade show company, keep an eye out for one that offers multiple design and construction options. The more options you have, the more likely you’ll be to find a solution that fits your needs and your budget.
For example, if in the past you’ve used simple portable displays and want to upgrade, ask the exhibit company about the range of options available. They should be able to match your needs and budget with a variety of choices and design ideas. Rather than a generic, one-size-fits-all stand, you could opt to rent an exhibit that’s customized for your brand, or even purchase a custom-designed stand. Work with a company that offers a range of design, rental, and purchase options, and you’ll be much more likely to get exactly what you’re looking for while staying within your budget.
Do you outsource fabrication work?
If you’ve been looking solely for an exhibit design company, have you thought about who will be doing the manufacturing work? For best results, choose a trade show exhibit company that both designs and manufactures exhibits, rather than contracting production work to another company.
A trade show company that does everything in-house—from design to production—typically achieves greater control over the quality of the exhibits they create. When you work with a company that designs, builds, and also handles all the logistics of transport and set-up, it’s easier to relax and feel confident that everything is taken care of.
Can I see my exhibit before showtime?
You put a lot of trust—and money—into a trade show exhibit company when you decide to design and build with them. It would probably ease your stress to know what to expect! Ask the company you’re vetting to tour their facility. Many will be happy to show exhibit examples in their showroom and answer any questions you have on-site.
Some will even show you your final product before it’s shipped to its destination. This can be done in person at the facility or over video chat. It’s a fantastic way to know that what you asked for came to fruition and can give you an opportunity to ask last-minute questions.
Can you offer references?
If the company you’re vetting has ticked every box so far, you can also inquire about their references and customer satisfaction results. Many companies provide testimonials and portfolios on their websites. Some even follow up with their clients, surveying them for feedback. The best companies review results regularly to continuously improve the design and fabrication process based on their clients’ experiences.
Are you a member of professional associations or have you been honored in your industry?
Trade show companies that are members of professional associations—or on their boards—are dedicated to the growth of their industry. Look for membership in reputable associations like:
- The Experiential Designers and Producers Association (EDPA)
- The Healthcare Convention and Exhibitors Association (HCEA)
- The Events Industry Council Sustainability Initiative
- Octanorm Service Partner International
Trade show companies that have been honored with awards have been recognized by their peers for their innovation, customer service, and more. You can expect them to apply the same values to your exhibit.
Your Trade Show Company Checklist
- Industry experience – The more the better, but look for a company with a minimum of 10 years.
- Venue experience – A company that’s familiar with venues across the whole country is one you can rely on for the long-term because they’ll be able to provide service at every event you attend.
- Full-service, in-house – Exhibiting is vastly easier when you work with a company that handles all exhibit and venue details, from design and production through to shipping, storage, set-up, and dismantling.
- Flexibility – Even if you’re sure of what you want in terms of an exhibit, it’s safe to choose a company that offers multiple options, including rentals and custom designs. You never know how your needs will change in the future. It pays to be prepared!
How Do You Get the Answers to Your Questions?
1. Look at the websites of the trade show companies you’re interested in.
Check out their online portfolios or galleries to see examples of work they’ve done for previous clients. Look out for Resources, Services, or What We Do pages to see if the services they offer are what you need.
2. Get on their mailing list.
It’s a great way of staying in the loop when the company offers deals or launches new products or services. You’ll also get a feel for their style and experience.
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3. Check out the websites of competitors.
If you look at several different sites, you can get a good idea of what kinds of services are industry-standard and what services indicate a company goes the extra mile.
4. Pick up the phone.
When you’ve narrowed down your options to two or three companies, give them all a call. Talk to a representative to get down to details such as cost, timeline, and other specifics of the project you have in mind. Once you know what each company can offer, you’ll be able to decide which one to work with.
Exhibiting doesn’t have to be stressful! Choose the right trade show exhibit company, and you’re ensuring your future events go as smoothly as possible, improving both your trade show experience and your ROI.