Ordering a trade show display online can seem overwhelming at first. There are a lot of vendors and thousands of display options to choose from.
The display order will represent your company in front of potentially thousands of important decision makers. This purchase is a significant investment in time and money. You have to research vendors, display styles, figure out the graphic design, work through the shipping details, get approval and funding all while on a strict deadline.
The process seems daunting but working with a quality trade show booth provider will make a huge difference for you.
Fortunately, finding a quality provider is much simpler than it was 10 years ago. Online trade show display providers offer a great value both in terms of saving time and money for your company.
The biggest drawback to using an online vendor for many people is not being familiar with the process of ordering such a customized and in some cases, large ticket item, online.
We’ll quickly go over each step of the general ordering process to give you a better base understanding of how everything works.
Step 1. Finding A Trade Show Booth Display Provider
Finding A Display Provider
Most customers find their exhibit provider through search engines, social media, and word of mouth.
We always recommend asking your friends and colleagues first. Find out what exhibit vendors people you trust have had positive experiences with. Knowing you can trust and communicate well with your display provider will be a big part of your relationship.
After your friends and colleagues, use a search engine to find highly rated providers. Be sure you look for past projects on their site. You want to make sure they have experience and skills delivering the type of exhibit you need.
Finally, check their social media to see if it’s updated regularly. Typically, you can get a feel for the displays they produce and the type of culture the brand has. Outlets like Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn can be a great way to get a general idea of the vendor.
Picking Out Your Display
This step can really go one of two ways.
- You want to build a fully custom display
- You shop around the web for a pre-designed display kit that works for you
Either way, the process can seem overwhelming but it’s usually pretty simple.
Custom Built Trade Show Display
If you’re looking to go fully custom, you really need to talk with someone at an exhibit house who knows show regulations, packaging and shipping best practices, assembly needs, etc.
Having a rough sketch or visual of what you’re thinking is a great starting point but whatever company you work with, they should provide you 3D renderings throughout the process and before you start graphic design and production.
Be sure to ask what the price is for renderings and design. Some places will charge extra or hourly for these services.
The main thing you need to know going in is how you plan to use the booth, what your budget is, and how you will assemble and store the display.
Ordering A Trade Show Display Kit From A Website
If you’re more inclined to pick your exhibit from the prebuilt kits and layouts found on popular distributor websites, the process is much simpler.
You could literally find a display kit you like, add to cart, and move forward.
If you’re new to trade show displays or have any questions, contact the distributor. These companies are happy to help answer questions about turnaround times, product material, possible configuration adjustments and more. With displays, it’s definitely better safe than sorry.
Once you have landed on the right display, you will either order the exhibit online or through a sales representative.
Step 2. Graphic Design For Your Trade Show Display
This may be the step that you are looking forward to the least. Figuring out what files you need, what goes on your booth and how to get your vision to show through in your booth. While this step can be more intensive, it’s nothing to fear.
Again, you will probably pick one of two methods.
- You will provide print ready art
- You need to pay the booth provider for graphic design services
Uploading Print Ready Art
If you have a company designer or work with a third party design agency already, they will handle the technical aspects of the design. You will just need to provide them with a vision, necessary text and art elements and graphic templates for the displays you want to use.
Often, graphic templates are available for download on the product page(s) of your trade show display providers website. If they are not there, you may need to request them.
When your designer is finished creating your graphics, the print ready art should be uploaded to your booth provider. Be sure the art is set to the appropriate template and following the recommended graphic guidelines.
After the art is uploaded, it should be reviewed at no cost to confirm the technical aspects of the graphic design. When picking a display provider, make sure to ask if this service is included.
Purchasing Graphic Design Services
If you need help completing the graphic design for your trade show exhibit, most display providers offer a graphic design service of some sort. Generally, this service will be provided by their in-house designers.
Costs for trade show display design is typically offered at an hourly rate or a flat fee rate.
Hourly Graphic Design Rates
These generally range from $50 to $200 per hour and up. Depending on your design complexity, stock image purchases and general art quality, your total cost will be dynamic.
Time in design varies greatly but you can expect somewhere between the 4-8 hour range as a rough average.
Flat Fee Graphic Design Rates
These are much easier when it comes to quoting and budgeting. These prices will vary from vendor to vendor and sometimes product to product.
A general flat fee design range is $200 - $500. Keep in mind, some flat fee design services are charged per product. That means if you have three products, you pay a fee for each. Other vendors charge a flat fee per project so you only pay once no matter how many displays you're ordering.
Make sure to ask your display provider how they charge for design services up front so there are no surprises later on.
Trade Show Booth Digital Proofs, 3D Renderings and Hard Proofs
When it comes to trade show design, you need to know what digital proofs, 3D renderings and hard proofs are.
Digital proofs are digital art files, using your specific design, set to the appropriate graphic template. Print teams will use these files to print your display and designers will share these files with your team during the art approval process.
Often overlooked but very important, 3D renderings allow you to see a digital 3D representation of your display with your graphic design. Most display producers charge for the files but a few, like MODdisplays, offer them at no cost with every display purchase.
Most orders don’t need hard proofs but you should know they are available. A hard proof is a small, roughly 11”x17”, sample showing a section of your display graphic printed at full size.
For example, if you have a certain image on your 10x10 graphic that you're concerned may not be high enough resolution, you could have a hard proof done to see how that image will actually print.
Another reason to have a hard proof done would be to confirm how a specific color, or group of colors, will print on the display fabric or other substrate.
Just know that hard proofs will add time and cost to your order. Generally speaking, you’re probably adding 3-5 days and $100-$200 dollars per proof. Of course, the added wait and cost could be well worth it in the long run.
Step 3: Finalizing Your Trade Show Exhibit Purchase
Payment & Approval
Depending on where and how you purchase your display, you will either pay at the start or pay at the end. Some vendors may offer payment terms for your company but a good rule of thumb is to be prepared to pay in full before a custom printed display goes into production.
Generally, production houses will not produce a display until you have also submitted written art approval via email.
Most places take credit cards and checks by mail. Some places will extend credit to loyal customers and larger organizations through purchase orders.
Why Am I Receiving Numerous Tracking Numbers For My Trade Show Display?
Like with all online purchases, you will receive tracking when it’s available. It’s important to note you may receive numerous tracking numbers from different locations.
Shipping complete means your entire order will arrive in the same shipment at the same time. This shipping method is common when ordering packages from large consumer retailers because the items you purchase often come from the same warehouse.
If your packages are shipped complete, you will likely receive one master tracking number for the entire shipment.
Split shipping means your order will arrive in different shipments, often on different days and by potentially by different shippers. This method of shipping is more common when you are ordering custom designed items because they come from different production teams.
In some cases, all of your items can be shipped to one central warehouse and then shipped complete to you.
If you have a tight deadline, your trade show producer is likely to have the hardware and graphics split ship to your address to save time. Hardware will often arrive first followed by the graphics. In this situation, you will likely receive numerous tracking numbers, potentially from different shipping companies, with different in-hand dates.
Receiving Your Display
When you receive your display, you should immediately check that everything is correct. Most of the time, everything will be perfect. With that being said, you don’t want to find out at your show that you’re missing something.
If something is missing or seems off, take photos of what you have and the tracking numbers you received. Send all of these photos to your display producer right away for them to review.
Ordering a trade show display online can be a simple and straightforward process. Thousands of brands, big and small, order their displays this way every year.
Be sure to check out several trade show display providers and get a feel for their products and processes. Ask about their products, turnaround times, graphic design, renderings, and warranties.
If possible, allow yourself enough time to set up the display before you leave for your event. Most potential issues or concerns can be avoided by just taking the time to review the product before your event.
Consider MODdisplays as one of the trade show providers you investigate. We offer quick turn times, portable displays, free renderings and flat fee in-house graphic design services. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.