Partner Perspectives: Three Ideas to Cut Your Exhibit Costs

Rising costs continue to be the No. 1 challenge for brands in the industry as organizations and their partners navigate economic headwinds and disruptive market dynamics. The 2022 Material Handling and Labor Rates Survey by The Exhibitor Advocate association showed a continued rate increase, which for certain services and markets outpaced inflation by double digits. Anecdotal evidence from showfloors this year—and interviews with our peeps on the ground—suggests the upward trend continued through 2023.

For our “Cost Cutter” series, EM caught up with a few exhibit houses to get their take on how they’re helping brands eliminate inefficient spend, invest wisely and make overall better budget decisions for their booths and activations


Skip the Hanging Sign

Hanging signs are great for adding height to peninsular or island exhibits, but they can be unreasonably pricey because of the cost of rigging and advance warehousing, says Marty McGinnis, business development, Trinity Displays. Instead, McGinnis suggests achieving height with free-standing structures, such as leveraging a 16-foot central tower or other attention-grabbing design elements. “You’re paying for labor to set up your exhibit anyway, so why pay for additional show services, rigging, renting the machinery, when you might as well just roll that cost into the labor install,” he says. “Besides, hanging signs only work if attendees already know your brand and are using the hanging sign for wayfinding, not for brand awareness.”


Go Digital for Demos

Bringing heavy machinery or bulky products to the showfloor can add significant weight to the budget, so to speak. Many brands are turning to digital kiosks and interactive displays to help attendees experience and demo products. For its presence at AHR Expo (for HVACR professionals), Johnson Controls wanted to minimize product presence and maximize brand impact, pivoting to focus on industry leadership, brand stewardship, and smart, sustainable solutions—all in a smaller, more budget-friendly booth footprint. Nothing in the booth was static.

A large pathway divided the space leading from the reception counter to the hi-res LED screen backdrop showcasing campaign messaging, live streams, and other digital content. Lynne Damer, vp-strategy for Hamilton says, “When budgets are tight, and you need to do more with less, consider shifting from the traditional exhibit showcasing physical products to digital solutions where you can create content to showcase your brand and solutions more effectively.”


Consider the Lifespan

Of course, a critical piece of information that should be part of every event asset design and build brief that impacts pricing is the desired lifespan of the asset, says Matt Kraus, president, Evolve Concepts. This is one of several key factors that drive design, engineering and build direction around material, hardware and software choices, fit and finish, and logistics and /asset handling.  The approach to building an environment for a one-time use vs. for a three-year touring schedule will be unique enough that it will likely produce different pricing levels. Kraus says: “As a buyer, thinking through what the ideal life of an asset looks like can help frame their investment strategy to set fair and appropriate budget thresholds.”

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Featured Image: Johnson Controls at AHR/Hamilton

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