How to Choose a Trade Show Exhibit Company

Your trade show booth has a big job to do, so it’s important to put a lot of thought into choosing a trade show exhibit company. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to research your options and ask lots of questions before making your choice.

When you’re choosing a trade show exhibit company, your process will look something like this:

  1. Start your search by checking out your options and coming up with a handful of companies to investigate
  2. Narrow your options by digging deep into each company on your short list
  3. Make your final choice

In addition to looking for a company to partner with, you should also be thinking about what kind of exhibit you want, and, in turn, what you want to get out of the partnership.

trade show exhibit company

Are you looking for design services, as well as manufacture?

Do you need a trade show exhibit company that provides other show services too? Some companies offer turnkey exhibit solutions, while others are focused only on design or only on manufacture.

Make sure you know what you want, so you can focus your search effectively.

1. Start Your Search

The first step in choosing a company is preliminary research. One method is to ask people you know for recommendations. Work colleagues or people in industry associations you belong to may be able to give you some ideas.

You can also perform a quick internet search and spend time checking out websites. This is a good way to get preliminary information about your options. Make note of what services they offer, and check out each company’s online portfolio to get a feel for the work they do. If the style doesn’t match what you have in mind, they can be removed from your list of options.

It’s also helpful to keep your eyes open at trade shows. Take a look at the range of exhibit styles and options available. If you see anything you particularly like, chat with booth staff to find out who they’re working with.

2. Narrow Your Options

Once you have a better idea of what’s out there, you can start to focus on building a shortlist. The trade show exhibit company you work with should ideally have a certain amount of experience, along with some vital credentials. What should you be looking for?

Vet Experience and Credentials

In terms of experience, the ideal company has been in the industry for at least a decade. This means they’ve had time to improve and refine their own manufacturing processes. It also means they’ve had time to build industry relationships and develop contacts both locally and nationwide.

The breadth of the company’s industry contacts is another important factor to consider. The company you choose should have local and nationwide contacts and be familiar with a wide range of venues. This is important because you may end up exhibiting in many cities across the country. If you choose a company with good industry contracts, the network you need is in place as you expand.

The company you choose should have multiple options and solutions for booths. Look for a company that can offer exhibits at different price points and in different configurations and sizes. A company that has custom exhibits, rental exhibits, and purchase options is perfect. That way, you can speak to them about your design ideas and your budget, knowing there’s an option for anything.

For the best quality and logistics control, it’s preferable to choose a company that does all its design and manufacturing work in-house. If they also take care of show services, such as transport, drayage, and setup, even better. If one company handles it all from start to finish, it’s much easier for you to feel confident that everything you need is taken care of.

Finally, ask about the trade show exhibit company’s membership in industry associations. If it’s a member of one or more associations, that’s a good sign that they work to high standards and are committed to the industry in which they work.

Some reputable associations include:

Ask the Right Questions

In your hunt for a trade show exhibit company, don’t be shy about asking questions! The company you choose should be happy to answer as many questions as you have, so don’t hold back. Consider asking…

  • What experience do you have building the kind of exhibit we want?
  • Can you custom-design to our specifications?
  • What industry awards and certifications have you received?
  • Do you have professional exhibit designers on staff?
  • Do you build the exhibits yourselves, or outsource?
  • Do you have warehousing facilities, and can you provide storage and transportation services?
  • Who are some other clients with whom you’ve worked? Can you provide references?
  • What professional associations are you a member of?

Avoid These Red Flags

These red flags are signs that an exhibit company might have poor standards or may not be able to meet your needs:

  • Their website is lacking in information, or the company isn’t willing to provide a portfolio or references – This is important information that helps you decide if the company can meet your needs. If the information isn’t available, this company isn’t worth considering.

  • They outsource work to other companies – This isn’t always a bad thing, but it’s generally better to choose a company that does its own manufacturing work. Otherwise, you end up with an unknown contractor working on your exhibit, and quality control becomes that much harder.

  • The company can’t provide references, or when you check their references, there’s a gap between their sales pitch and the reality of what previous clients tell you.

  • You’re discussing design plans, but the company rep isn’t asking questions and doesn’t seem to be interested in finding out what you want.

  • The company doesn’t provide full answers to your questions and/or seems disinterested in providing the information you need.

  • You ask your shortlist for proposals, and one company gives you a lowball offer that’s much cheaper than the others.

3. Make Your Choice

At this stage, you’ve either picked a company with which you definitely want to work or you have a list of two or three possibilities. If you’re in the first group—great! If not, then your final step is to request a proposal from each of the final contenders. Then you can make your decision based on their proposals.

Note that when it comes to trade show exhibits, you absolutely get what you pay for. Cutting corners on design and construction to save money will likely mean shoddy workmanship and higher long-term maintenance costs. It’s good to take price into account, but don’t let it be the only thing that you consider.

Look for a company that provides the services you need, is committed to the partnership, and has a great proposal. And if money is an issue, consider renting an exhibit instead of paying for one you own.

Take Your Time

This is an important decision, so don’t rush it. If you choose a great exhibit company, you can continue working with them for years to come. There’s no shortage of options, so there’s no reason to settle for a company that’s not willing to do the very best work.


This article on choosing a trade show exhibit company was written by Dick Wheeler, and expert in the trade show exhibit and event industry, 

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