Types of Trade Show Displays

Business.com / Business Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Learn about several types of trade show displays available for your particular business needs

A trade show display (also called a trade show exhibit) presents a visual representation of a company's brand and its products/services. As the name implies, these displays are constructed and deployed primarily for use at trade shows, conventions, conferences, or similar industry events. A trade show booth is essentially a form of advertising designed to attract interest, convey information, distribute sales collateral, and collect potential prospects.

Trade show displays come in a variety of shapes, styles and functionalities. Some are small and easily portable, others are large temporary structures that require extensive on-site erection. Some cost a few hundred dollars, others can cost tens of thousands of dollars. There are modular off-the-shelf displays configured to fit a given exhibitor's needs, and there are custom displays built for a single specific purpose. Most trade show display vendors offer both standardized and custom configurations for rent or purchase.

Which you'll need depends on your budget, the trade show you're attending, your marketing objectives, and your creative preferences. Let's take a look at some of the options you have to choose from.

  • Table Tops
    A foldable frame is used to display graphics that are attached to the frame with metal fasteners, magnets or Velcro. Table tops are two- to three-feet high. When put on top of a table, the total height of the display is roughly five feet tall. Table top displays are easy to set up. Standard table top frames are sometimes provided by the trade show for exhibitors to attach their own graphic presentations to.
  • Table Covers
    Also called "throw covers," these are customized graphics that drape over a table. They are usually designed for industry-standard 96" long by 30" wide by 30" high folding tables. The company's message or brand is printed on the front of the cover, turning the front of the table into an eight-foot by two-foot billboard for the company.
  • Pipe and Drape
    Booths are formed using hollow metal tubes ("pipe"), connected at the corners and supported by upright bases. Basically, the pipe connects to make an outline of your booth space, then fabric drape is hung along the pipe to provide for a visual barrier between booths. Many trade show vendors will set up their own trade show display inside of the pipe-and-drape confines of the booth. Other vendors will use the pipe-and-drape as their booth, and attach display materials right to the pipe or drapes.
  • Pop Ups
    A pop-up display employs a flexible graphic panel stored in a spring-loaded roller. To set up the display, the framework is extended and then the graphic is unrolled and secured to the frame to hold the graphic taut and in place. Pop ups come in many different sizes. Display panels can be flat or curved. Graphics can be custom-printed on the panel or separate graphics can be attached to the panel. Pop ups are light and easy to transport. They are frequently connected together in a "daisy chain" to display an interrelated series involving two or more displays.
  • Banner Stands
    Similar to pop ups, but comprise only a single large graphic supported in a standing frame. Stand varieties include retractable, tension, motorized scrolling, cable, and telescoping for indoor and outdoor use. Heavy-duty stands are used increasingly to hold TVs or LED screens.
  • Panel and Frame
    Perhaps the most common type of trade show display, this is a series of interconnected panels joined together to provide a complete freestanding room. Panel and frame exhibits require on-site construction, either by the exhibitor's employees or by an approved contractor working the show.
  • Modular
    A hybrid between a pop-up display and a panel and frame exhibit, modular employs a series of lightweight frames and displays to create an exhibition space. Weighing at least half as much as panel and frame displays, modular displays are reusable and reconfigurable, allowing for an almost infinite variety of display heights, widths, and lengths. They can be easily transported and erected on-site by exhibitor personnel.
  • Freestanding Booths
    These are small, easy to set up and transport freestanding units that may also be used in malls or outdoor festivals and trade shows. The standard booth size in North America is 10 ft. x 10 ft., but can be larger. Exhibitors usually rent space on the trade show floor based on multiples of this standard size. Booths come in several configurations:

   - Linear (In Line): Booths are lined up next to each other, with a barrier like pipe-and-drape between them and behind them.

   - Peninsula: A booth space with aisles on three sides. These are also called "end caps," and often require purchase of a double booth (10 ft. x 20 ft. or larger).

   - Split-Island: A peninsula booth that shares a common back wall with another peninsula booth. The two booths together make an island, surrounded by aisles on all four sides.

  - Island: Exposed to aisles and foot traffic on all four sides. These booths are almost always 20 ft. x 20 ft. or larger.

  • Custom
    These are large rented or purchased exhibits fabricated from a variety of materials, often incorporating hard wall panels to create separated spaces and stages. Custom displays are usually shipped to the trade show for on-site assembly and disassembly by a specialized contractor. Some custom exhibits are as big as a city block.

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