Display Buying Guide

There are so many different types of trade show displays, and it may be difficult to decide which is the best choice given a company's particular circumstances. This article was written to help guide you in your decision.


Whether you want to generate leads or sales, educate potential clients, publicize your business or certain convention products, or build an image for your company, you'll want a travel-friendly & easy-to-assemble trade show display. Pop-up trade show displays and panel trade show displays almost always fit the bill and similarly configured pop-up and panel trade show display systems come with similar price tags.

  • Pop-up trade show displays: Pop-up trade show displays are fairly lightweight and compact. A 10-foot display can fold into one or two cases, each about the size of a large golf bag, and weighs less than 150 pounds. Pop-up trade show displays are fairly easy to set up, but offer little in the way of size flexibility. Their frames must be fully open to remain stable, so you cannot adjust them to fit smaller or larger spaces. Pop-up trade show displays will require either small graphics or graphics that you can apply to flexible curved surfaces.
  • Modular Trade Show Displays: Modular trade show displays are composed of many separate folding panels that you can arrange in different configurations. This functionality allows you to use the same frame for different exhibition spaces. These displays can support large Graphics. You'll typically need more than one person to assemble this type of exhibit.
  • Custom Modular Exhibits: Custom Modular trade show displays are particularly convenient if your spatial requirements change often. You can combine them with custom display components to create your booth at a lower cost than buying entire custom-designed units.
  • Frameless Graphic Displays: Frameless trade show displays have a plastic panel that you bend so the ends meet to create a standing structure. The side of the structure that contains graphics faces out. Frameless exhibits combine the convenience of a lightweight package, which translates into much lower shipping costs, with the ease of one-person setup.
  • Tabletop Trade Show Displays: Tabletop trade show displays are a smaller versions of pop-up display and modular exhibits. This is good if you require a smaller display exhibit. You can quickly set up and disassemble travel-friendly tabletop trade show displays, use only part of the display, or fold panels in and out to fit smaller or larger spaces. Briefcase trade show displays, a form of tabletop trade show display, offer even more convenience for frequent travelers. Keep in mind that smaller tabletop displays, such as briefcase displays, may limit the extent to which your display will stand out.

A variety of materials can be used to cover displays, including plastic and fabric. When choosing a fabric covering, keep in mind that heavier carpet-like fabric tends to withstand wear better than smooth fabrics.


Once you decide what kind of trade show display you need, consider its design and setup. The average visitor spends less than three seconds looking at your trade show display, so your design must quickly grab attention. You want your graphics to grab people's attention, but they also shouldn't take up too much of their time. If you're including text, be sure to use large letters, and keep the message clear and concise. Let trade show visitors know who you are, what you do, and how you can help them. Avoid complex explanations or elaborate descriptions of the company; instead, focus on messages that will prompt visitors to stop at your booth, where you can explain everything they might need to know.

The impact of your trade show display hinges upon the different elements of your design, including graphics, sample products, promotional products, business cards, brochures, and lead cards. Most systems can be equipped with shelving to display products your company manufactures or sells, or promotional products that provide publicity for your business.

  • Graphics & Artwork: Trade show displays can feature both text and image graphics. You can either use mounted graphics backed with Velcro, which then attach to fabric-covered trade show displays, or incorporate text and images into the trade show display surface (typically by applying large photo-murals to the display). Begin shopping for trade show display graphics about two months before a trade show to allow time to create the proper artwork. The seller who provides you with your display often sells graphics for it, or you can turn to a graphic designer who specializes in producing artwork for trade show displays.
  • Sample products: Select sample products that are easy to travel with and display, and give your booth visitors a good idea of what your company sells. Demonstrations, if possible, always attract booth traffic.
  • Promotional products: Think about useful, small, and unique promotional products. Consider keeping higher-end promotional products tucked away so that you can give them to potential customers showing genuine interest. Leaving a basket full of promotional products in front of your trade show display might generate a high level of booth traffic, but most people will come only for the gift.
  • Business cards: Always keep business cards handy. If you rely on them for leads, also try to find ways to stand out next to other booths handing out business cards.
  • Brochures and other literature: The majority of literature handed out at trade shows ends up on the floor or in the garbage. If you plan to hand out literature to every person who passes by, use simpler, less expensive flyers or brochures. Save literature printed on nicer paper for genuinely interested visitors who have questions.
  • Lead cards: Lead cards are the best means of collecting information about potential clients. While establishing contact with potential customers, keep in mind that they want to know you're genuinely interested in satisfying their needs. Find out what they're looking for first and then ask for mailing information. Be sure to contact your leads within a few days after the show. Even the best impressions will only last so long without follow-up.

On top of the basic trade show display cost, you should expect to pay an additional 40 percent to 75 percent for graphics and accessories.


Trade show displays receive a lot of rough treatment from shippers, customers, and those setting them up. To ensure longer life for a display, make sure it can be securely packed. Look for trade show displays with cases that have separate spaces for each display component and avoid tucking non-display components into trade show display cases. Portable trade show displays fit into cases that you can check onto airlines or have transported via standard ground shipping services. This portability allows you to bring in and set up displays yourself, avoiding the added complexity and expense of professional movers and builders. Remember to consider airplane, ground shipping, and personal car requirements when determining the overall cost of a particular display system.


Some sellers offer trade show display warranties. Pop-up trade show display frames typically have a lifetime warranty while the warranties on panel trade show displays vary a bit more, lasting anywhere from two to five years.

Be sure to read the fine print. Some manufacturers require you to send a trade show display back to them if a display breaks, which could take more time and put a freeze on your trade show attendance. Others, however, can be fixed in the field or at a distributor.


We hope this buying guide has given you the information you need to make an informed decision. If you require more information, we are more than happy to assist you. Please phone us at 877-702-6684 for contact us via email.

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