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  • Writer's picturePatriot Data Graphics

To Display or Not To Display | Deciding If A Trade Show Can Give You A Competitive Advantage

92% of trade show attendees say they are looking for new products!

Chances are you've considered at least attending a trade show recently and maybe you've even considered displaying at one. But with high costs and an ungodly amount of conventions, how do you choose which venue will be best for your business?

Below we break down the different things to consider before reserving your spot at a trade show.


Trade shows can be a great tool to put your product or service on display for masses of people to see! But conversely it can also be the biggest money pit if you don't know what you're in for before you sign up.

Booth Space:

There are many costs to conventions. First, you will need to purchase your booth space, which is usually billed by square foot so keep that in mind. I've seen 10'x10' booths go from $500-$7500 to reserve them for a show.

Booth Setup:

Now keep in mind that there is always a show contractor that will have items available for you to rent or you can always bring in your own. Keep in mind you will most likely need to purchase or rent: carpeting (sometimes mandatory), furniture, electricity, cleaning (optional), floral arrangements (optional) and a few other things should you need them.

Pro Tip: Weigh the benefit to renting these items. Though it may be expensive, keep in mind that there is a peace of mind when you know everything is going to automatically be there.

Booth Display:

The best option is to have your own backdrop, roll ups, tablecloths, etc. customized with your company logo before you go to a show. Though many of the exhibitor contractors can print these materials for you, it may be more expensive in the long run.

Pro Tip: If your show is in a foreign country, you may want to have everything done on site from printing your materials to designing your backdrop to setting up your booth, just to avoid the headaches.


A lot of businesses ship their materials, backdrops, giveaway items, etc. ahead of time. If you have the show's warehouse hold on to them you will need to pay for storage on top of the cost of actually shipping your items. I have also seen business development teams bring everything with them in their luggage. Both are acceptable but both come with their own set of headaches.


You've decided to display, awesome! Now you need to get your team there. Make sure to account for travel, rental cars, hotels, meals, etc. How many bodies will you need at the show? Usually the answer to this question has everything to do with who will be attending as your customer.

Marketing Materials:

These are all of your brochures and giveaway items. You may already have these on hand or you may opt for customized items, specific to the show.


Quite possibly the most important question, who is going to be there? Knowing your audience is key in all aspects of marketing. Are you a B2B or a B2C? Both have their own separate trade shows. Knowing who will be attending is knowing how much you stand to make from being present at the convention.

Every trade show you attend should have a goal. It could be brand recognition, individual sales, introductions, service sign ups, etc.

Pro Tip: Make sure you take a look at the rules of the show. Some don't allow you to sell anything directly. Make sure you know ahead of time to avoid running into trouble.

Could You Just Attend?

It is always an option just to attend a show instead of display. You can still set up meetings and walk around with business cards to make introductions. I had a boss once call it, "waving the flag," whenever we'd exhibit at a show just to show that we were still in the market. Evaluate whether or not you stand to gain enough to justify your costs.

History of the Show

Most small businesses can only afford to go to a handful of these shows throughout the year. Make sure you do your due diligence in regards to researching the show you're looking to attend. How long has it been around? How many attendees show up? Who else is displaying? You may not want to throw the money down for a show that the industry hasn't completely bought into yet.


As I said above, you should always go into a show with a goal. And that goal should correlate directly with your marketing plan.

Trade shows are an exciting way to get your name out there and build relationships. You have an opportunity to get your product, service and people out there in front of the customer. Just make sure you're not getting sucked into something that won't end up giving you a competitive advantage.

In a couple days we'll be posting our trade show checklist to make sure you're prepared for your next show!

If you need any help with trade show planning, backdrop design or just want a team to bounce ideas off of, as always, you can contact us here!

Hope to see you guys out on the road some time soon!

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