ILLUSTRATION: MARK FISHER
Our exhibit is beginning to show its age. How do I decide whether to refurbish it or to build a whole new exhibit?
Many exhibitors find themselves in your shoes several times during their careers. That's because exhibits typically last anywhere from three to seven years, but a lot can change during that time. Maybe your booth is beginning to show the wear and tear of years of shows and shoddy forklift drivers. Or it may be outdated, making you look a little "less than" next to your competitors. Perhaps it no longer fits your program's evolving needs, or maybe its ancillary costs are burning through your budget faster than a wind-stoked flame in a tinder-dry forest.
All of these factors point toward some kind of change, but how do you know whether to simply fix and update your existing exhibitry or take the plunge and buy a new booth? Obviously, you need to take your own long-term needs, strategy, and budget into consideration. And you'll need to do the buy-versus-refurb math – and even consider rental exhibits among your options. But here are a few factors that will aid your decision-making right out of the gate.
Current Marketing Objectives
Ask yourself some key questions about your existing property and its ability to meet your needs. Try to look at it as a home buyer considers a new property. Does the structure have the bones necessary to meet your marketing objectives, necessitating perhaps only a touch-up here or some change of messaging there to suffice? Or is the edifice so far off the mark that only a bulldozer can make it work?
For example, do the bones of your exhibit address your overall messaging requirements (e.g., ability to incorporate changeable messaging, overhead signage, multilevel messaging hierarchies, etc.), and are you able to showcase your products or services in the best possible light? Are there adequate areas for conversations and presentations (e.g., lounge areas, private conference rooms, theaters, demo kiosks, etc.) as well as administrative requirements such as storage? Does your existing structure present opportunities for updating the look and feel to stay on trend in terms of colors and materials or perhaps technology and experiences?
Also consider how well the structure supports your branding objectives. A key reason to exhibit is to position your brand in front of a receptive audience. So ask yourself whether your current exhibit can truly tell your brand story effectively.
If you can answer "yes" to most of these questions, or if you can envision ways that your existing structure can be adapted to meet these needs without breaking the bank, then refurbishment is a viable option. If you've answered "no" to these queries and there's no clear fix in sight, then you're probably better off starting from scratch with a new property.
Future Plans and Ancillary Costs
While your booth may fit your current needs, you also must consider what challenges, changes, and plans are coming down the pipe, along with the associated costs of operation.
Consider how many times you intend to use this exact footprint – and any others that your current exhibit can accommodate – during the next three to five years. If you plan to employ it only a handful of times, refurbishment is likely your best choice, as you don't want to invest in a new property that's going to sit in storage for the majority of its lifespan. However, if the exhibit will be used regularly, assess the charges incurred with its use as they compare to similar charges a new booth might incur. In particular, shipping, drayage, and storage fees, as well as setup time, are all important considerations.
Take a close look at your shipping, drayage, and storage charges to determine if their costs are palatable considering your exhibit's overall deliverables. Along these same lines, assess the amount of time and complexity involved with setup and teardown, as well as the costs associated with storing your property.
Are you're willing to pay these related fees given the benefits your booth offers, or do they seem out of line? Could you switch to lighter-weight materials, eliminate bulky elements, or replace custom exhibitry with more modular components that can be easily reconfigured to fit multiple footprints? Might a new structure allow you to do away with expensive equipment for install, a massive labor crew, and thousands in labor costs? Would incorporating more fabric components cut fees considerably and still meet your needs?
If you stand to gain a ton of money and lose very little impact by switching to a different type of core structure, then a new booth may be the way to go. But if you already own a booth that fits all of your needs and doesn't break the bank with weight-related charges, then refurbishment is likely your ideal solution.
But as you noodle your way through these options, be sure to research the latest industry advances in terms of materials, connectors, technology, etc. You may discover new solutions – some that likely weren't even on the market when you purchased your previous booth – that can drastically cut costs and still deliver on your objectives.
Again, always run the numbers to see which option is right for you. But you can get a head start on your decision-making if you carefully assess your current needs and the ancillary costs of your existing property.
— Malcolm Gilvar, vice president of sales, The Trade Group, Carrollton, TX