Guide to Portable Trade Show Displays

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Collection of portable trade show displays

Portable trade show displays are a balance between size and visual impact. On one hand, you want a display that stands out (in a good way), but you also potentially want to re-use it and carry it to another show. This guide looks at considerations you should take when purchasing a portable trade show display, provides tips on getting the most visual impact, and looks at considerations you should make before purchase. Finally, we’ll discuss some of the most common types of booths and where you can buy them.

How much should you spend on a portable trade show display?

The answer to this depends very much on the type of booth, your total budget, and how long you want to reuse your display. On the very bottom end of the scale, you have roll-up banners. These simple displays are easy to travel with and come in a variety of sizes. Expect to pay between $300 and $600 depending on the size and features to get something of reasonable quality that you can take to more than one show. More expensive roll-up banners may have replaceable cartridges, be dual sided, or come with spotlights. At the high end of the scale, truss displays start around $1,500 and can cost upwards of $10,000. A more typical pop-up booth with a travel case will set you back around $1,500 to $2,000.

What portable displays can I carry with me on the plane?

Oversized luggage sign at airport

If you don’t want to check luggage, you are limiting yourself primarily to roll-up banners. If you are physically able to pull a roll cart that weighs between 80-100 pounds or so, you can check a pop-up display. Some truss displays can be checked on a flight, but if you have shelves or TV mounting brackets, you most likely will want to ship a truss display due to the weight. 

Which portable trade show display is right for me?

Aside from cost and portability, you will want to consider the space you are exhibiting at. Where you have limited space, the roll-up banner is typically your best bet. You can configure the banners to fit the space and use techniques like staggering displays, linking displays together, or using contrasting color to create visual impact. As your space gets larger, roll-up banners are still helpful for adding dimension to a display, but larger spaces require something like a pop-up display or hanging display to fill the background.

If you have a more common 8×10 or 10×10 space, a more substantial booth will make the most impact. If you have a pre-built shell, do not attempt to use a pop-up booth or truss booth inside of it. It will look completely silly (dear reader, the writer of this article has made this very mistake). Take the option of printing on your shell and use portable elements like roll-up banners, lighting, and stands.

Can I use a TV with my portable display?

Some portable trade show displays can accommodate a television, but you’ll need to buy one rated for its size. Unless you have a relatively small TV, you’ll find that TV’s are too awkward to travel with, so you’ll end up either renting a TV (expensive) or shipping your TV (difficult). We’ve found the cost of renting a TV so cost-prohibitive that shipping a TV or buying a TV at the destination is often a better alternative. Exhibitors who purchase a TV at the show location sometimes donate the TV or raffle it away to an attendee.

The best way to ship a TV is inside a heavy duty ⅜” PLY ATA case. Keep the box the TV was purchased in and pack foam around the TV box to insulate it. The heavy ATA case will take a lot of abuse and will need to be replaced every year or so depending on the number of shows you attend. The combined weight and awkwardness of the box will require at least two people to transport it.

Can I bring my own portable furniture?

Unless your brand can get away with inflatable furniture, you are better off hiring furniture. The exceptions to this rule are portable counters which are also sometimes the container of a pop-up display’s kit.

 

Trade Show Portable Display Types 

Roll-Up Banners:

Lightweight displays that can be rolled up for transportation.

Pros

  • Easy to travel with
  • Inexpensive
  • Provide a lot of visual impact relative to size
  • Modular – you can mix and match multiple displays

Cons

  • Although you can put several together to create a graphic wall, these are not the right choice for larger spaces
  • Limited lighting options
  • Support poles are prone to breaking and bending
Salesperson in front of a roll up trade show display

Pop-Up Displays:

Foldable displays that typically are made up of printed panels

Salesperson in front of a pop-up trade show display

Pros

  • You can create texture and use lighting effects
  • Reusable – print out a new background for different shows or messages
  • Can be handled by one (relatively strong) person
  • The shipping container will sometimes double as a counter at the show

Cons

  • Depending on the display, it will require some level of assembly
  • Your exhibitors will still complain about lugging it around

Truss Displays:

Displays with a rigid framework that utilizes fabric between structural components

Salesperson in front of a truss type trade show display

Pros

  • Basic displays are lighter than pop-up displays
  • Can accommodate larger spaces and more complex configurations

Cons

  • Visible supports contribute to a more industrial look that isn’t right for all brands
  • Larger structures are too big and too heavy to transport

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