How do I choose the right exhibition stand supplier?
Posted by Tom Oakes
Finding the right contractor for your next exhibition stand can be difficult given the amount of choice there is out there. A quick google will show you there are numerous suppliers offering seemingly the same service so how do you decide which one is right for you? When looking for an exhibition stand design it is vital that you understand the various processes and costs that go in to delivering that stand to a show. Once you understand how a stand design is produced and delivered you will have a better idea of which service provider best suits your needs.
Read on and we will explore some of the potentially hidden costs that go in to exhibiting and how you can best source a supplier that will help you to come in on point and on budget.
What do I need?
First things first what do you need. You have decided to exhibit at a trade show and for the purposes of this blog we will assume you have booked a space only stand. In booking a space only stand you will need to organise everything you require from the stand itself to the utilities you will need such as water and waste, electrics and WIFI. Depending on your level of experience you may be able to organise and source some of this yourself but for the majority of marketing professionals out there organising an exhibition stand is an unwelcome distraction. Below we will look at some of the services you will require in order to exhibit successfully.
Exhibition stand design
First and foremost you are going to require an exhibition stand design. In an ever competitive world of advancing technology making sure you stand out at your next show is absolutely vital to its success. You need to research thoroughly the type of stand you require as there are many options out there. For maximum impact choosing a bespoke exhibition stand design to be manufactured to your exact specification is essential, however cheaper options are available.
Exhibition stand build
Once you have an exhibition stand design you are happy with you will need someone to build it for you. Exhibition stands require specialist builders who specialise in timber and metal construction as well as a multitude of other construction techniques. Exhibition stands need to be built quickly and efficiently and be able to be installed and dismantled in a very short period of time whilst giving the impression of permanence. You cannot build an exhibition stand yourself, a regular joiner cannot build your exhibition stand and if you choose to use a none specialist construction team then you are setting yourself up for a multitude of unforeseen problems.
Your exhibition stand will require graphics. Modern print techniques mean that the options open to you regards the type and design of the graphics you want are endless but alas, you will require a specialist to design print and install any graphics and images you require on your stand.
Once your exhibition stand is designed, built and ready for install it will require transporting. Transport is one of the most common hidden costs in exhibiting. Logistics are often difficult to organise given the tight timeframes involved with exhibiting and the nature of getting large vehicles in and out of exhibition halls all at the same time as everybody else.
This is the big one. There is no avoiding them and no matter how great your exhibition stand design is, big, small, modern, vintage the cost of site services will remain the same. It is often forgotten in the cost of exhibiting. Your electric feed, fork lift truck and heavy plant hire, waste, water, Wi-Fi it all adds up and you need to make sure you bear them in mind when sending your design brief out to tender as part of your budget.
iPads, LED screens, Computer monitors etc. etc. If your stand requires any Audio visual equipment it will often require specialist installation. There is a cost of hire and installation that needs to be considered. Getting AV wrong can be a disaster for your show so make sure you research your supplier well.
If you are planning on exhibiting at multiple shows you may want to consider storage. Often times this is cheaper than having a new stand built each time but there will always be a re-furb cost due to the nature of dismantling an exhibition stand which has to be done often under very restrictive time frames.
Who’s out there and what do they do?
Once you have considered all the potential costs there are to exhibiting it is time to find a supplier. There are several different types as discussed; offering often times a very similar service however, they do differ on several key points and most importantly on cost.
Full service exhibition contractor
A full service exhibition contractor offers a full end to end exhibition service from design to installation, dismantle and storage. Anyone offering a full end to end exhibition service should be able to manage all the aspects we have discussed above including transport and specialist installations. The benefits of using a full service contractor is the confidence you get from dealing with just one supplier. There is also potentially a cost saving by utilising all services in house. Many suppliers will offer a full service however; will often outsource elements like build, logistics and graphics which will ultimately affect your budget. If you decide to use a full service supplier then make sure you ask whether all of the above is included in their service and insist on a fully transparent quote.
Another choice to supply your exhibition stand is a design agency. Being design driven they can potentially offer a wider range of designers to create your stand. Often times a design agency will offer a full service but will ultimately have to outsource many of the elements listed above. Although they will project manage your stand that can be more expensive than using a full service supplier.
An exhibition contractor or stand builder will manufacture, install and dismantle your stand for you based on a design you have sourced elsewhere. This option can give you greater control over who you choose to build your stand and closer control over project management however, using multiple suppliers will cost more.
A free- lance project manager will again manage your stand for you whilst outsourcing all the various elements. This is not an option often open to the smaller exhibitor but for larger companies using a free- lance project manager offers greater flexibility than employing someone in house.
So how do I choose?
Choosing the right supplier for you definitely requires some research. Let’s keep things simple though, do you like their previous work? Do they have an extensive gallery and portfolio? Does their website display positive quotes from previous clients? That is your starting point. You should dig a little deeper though. Are you sure your supplier is truly supplying all the elements they suggest on their website or are they outsourcing? In our previous blog “The top 5 questions to ask your exhibition stand designer” we offer advice on negotiating your initial conversations when sourcing an exhibition supplier and you should be sure going in to your conversations what it is you want to find out.
Ultimately your choice will be dictated by budget and the type and style of exhibition stand you want. By using a true end to end exhibition service provider and avoiding mark ups and outsourcing you will be able to save a good percentage of your budget to spend elsewhere, maybe better literature, promotions and entertainment or better still accommodation for your stay, just don’t tell the boss.
Finally, quotes. When sending your design brief out to tender as discussed make sure you insist on a fully transparent quote detailing precisely where your budget is being spent. Some suppliers may separate their design and build costs from site service costs and then land you with a further bill later down the line. Some suppliers who don’t have their own transport may hide their costs for sourcing logistics etc. Make sure you a fully clear on where your money is being spent and if ever in any doubt. Ask.
In summary make sure you are aware of the supplier options open to you and do your research. Many exhibition suppliers will be happy to help you with your enquiries and be open about what they charge and why so don’t be afraid to ask.