Come One, Come All
Each trade show season thousands of companies globetrot between conventions, spending millions on the chance to directly connect with their target audience for a few minutes at their exhibit booth.
In many cases this happens a few times a year, but even if your company only attends one annual convention, the transport, set up, exhibition, disassembly and storage of your trade show display can produce costly wear and tear if not handled properly.
With so much of your marketing budget going into the purchase of a display, it is very important that it holds up to repeated use. After all, budgets rarely get larger and the entire purpose of your trade show strategy is to make a stunning impression on attendees time and time again. Let’s learn the most common pitfalls that companies fall into, and how maintaining your trade show display helps protect your investment for years to come!
A Case Just in Case
Your first line of defense in protecting your display booth investment is making sure you are transporting in a hard back carry case. The most dangerous phase of your display’s life will be the transportation (more on transit safety later) where items will shift in the back of a truck or van and may even have other packages stacked on top.
The easiest way to gain peace of mind is to invest in a carry case with a hard exterior to protect the outer shell from impact, and a product specific case with a snug-fit interior so your sensitive components don’t shift during the move from point A to B.
Think of it in terms we are more familiar with: would you carry a guitar without its case? Protect your display from scratches and dings; those little eyesores will quickly begin to impact your brand’s professional appearance.
Disassemble with Care
Your display is relatively safe when the booth is set up (making sure to keep food and drink far away). Most of the damage comes when a convention is over and your booth staff begins taking down the display in a hurry, eager to put a long day behind them and get back to the after hour social scene.
Hastily removing panels and graphics can cause them to tear or become wrinkled. It is also important to train anyone handling the display on common things to avoid and areas where it is more prone to damage, such as lighting kits.
This is one area where you get points for taking the time to do it right, and gives you the chance to inventory your pieces to make sure you don’t leave without any crucial components. Also make sure to use all protective packaging included in your booth. All those bags, inserts, dividers and boxes are there for a reason.
Develop Good Habits
It is always good to get in the practice of inspecting your display before packing it to the next event. Look out for tears, fading color, wrinkles, broken parts and missing screws so you can try to get everything fixed on time. This helps you avoid the ever too common last minute trade show rush, which often costs you more money versus having the time to price hunt between competitors. You will also be able to better tell whether your display got damaged before or during the show.
Before packing your display away for your next show, always do a quick cleaning to get rid of dust or gunk that accumulated during the show. As with most materials, the longer a mess stays the more damage it does and the harder it is to clean later. You will want to use a mild mixture of detergent and water for this quick ‘once over’ wipe down, remembering to never spray directly onto your display.
Simple rubbing alcohol can work wonders for this, while others prefer to use on hand cleaners like Windex, 409, or Mr. Clean spray bottles. Similarly to technology and other delicate surfaces, never spray directly onto your canvas or frames. Instead, spray onto a towel and gently wipe your booth for best results.
Keep a policy with your staff of avoiding any food or drink near the booth. Staying hydrated and not running on fumes (uh-oh cranky booth staffers) is important since conventions often last most of the day – just not near the marketing materials! Spilled soda will certainly cause damage as the moisture and sticky syrup invades the folds and spaces between the display.
Treat Graphics with Care
The graphic elements of your booth are like beautiful flowers, they are the livelihood of your exhibit space. These areas should truly be a focal point of maintaining your trade show display. They thrive with persistent care; wither easily when mistreated and before you know it they will be replaced with a newer, fresher message that fits the changing needs.
The type of care needed will depend on the type of material used. Some graphics will have a laminate layer – these are the easiest to maintain. Just wipe them clean with a soft cloth. Use rubbing alcohol or lighter fluid to clean up dirt. If the panels are stored rolled up, always roll them up with the graphic facing out. I know, it sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s the right way so that the layers stay together. Try it the other way around and you will find your graphic panels full of air bubbles and nasty waves. If your laminate is good, it will be some type of polycarbonate. The downside of this great material is that dents are permanent and visible, so be extra careful as you handle them.
Let’s talk about non-laminated graphics now. Although they are more common with the new technologies that offer better quality and adherence of the ink to the media, they are still very fragile, so stay away if possible. Clean them only with a soft cloth, no water or cleaning agents. They will scratch a lot easier and will not last as long as their laminated counterparts.
Finally, let’s look at fabric. There are several print technologies to decorate fabrics. The best solutions will offer results that are washable and hold up to steam. Not that you will throw your trade show graphics in the washer, but you can use mild detergent to wash away dirt. A portable steamer will be a great addition to your exhibit tool-kit, to help them look crisp and clean every moment of your event. To store them, make sure to fold gently and place in a plastic bag or container, to protect from moisture or external agents. If they attach with Velcro to your frames, make sure to keep them away from the hook side of the Velcro, to avoid tears.
Shipping and Storage
Avoid hot, muggy areas like garages and storage pods that don’t have temperature control. Heat and moisture are enemies of any trade show display. Your panels will warp and begin to create rippling in your graphics. Leaks or flooding can cause mildew to grow and any exposure to water will almost immediately begin to ruin any wooden surfaces permanently.
Another down side of heat and moisture are the pests. You want your display’s storage area to be free of insects and rodents that would love to chew it to pieces or leave behind nasty reminders of how you could have done better.
When in doubt, hiring a professional takes the stress off your hands. You wouldn’t dream of drilling your own teeth, but in an effort to cut corners companies most often handle transport logistics themselves. Your exhibit booth is often worth thousands and trying to maintain and take care for these materials yourself can become a costly mistake.
This is especially true if you are running behind schedule and unpacked your display to check its condition much too close to your convention date. The last thing you want when stressing about planning your marketing presence, transportation, and booth staff is the revelation that the musty garage you stored your booth in has been warping your graphics the last few months.
Why Should I Care?
Not practicing good post-show clean up habits can turn a bad situation into a nightmare as you try to replace a gunky part and now struggle to purchase a matching piece. If you are forced to replace graphics that become damaged you’re going to face the almost impossible task of matching up the colors.
Even if you are using the exact same Pantone color, with the same paper weight, and the same coated or glossy scheme – even printing from the same shop will rarely be able to reproduce an identical graphic.
And although the colors, material and scheme all match, the undamaged graphics will have a different level of fading and wear than new ones, further contributing to the mismatch dilemma. It is best to take care to maintain your entire booth, or you may find yourself forced to replace many of its parts.
Never forget that the state of your display booth represents your brand. As with your logo, staffers, and ability to communicate with attendees, your trade show exhibit is going to give a heavy psychological association (sometimes unfairly) with your company’s service.
A prospective client is going to have a hard time looking past your flimsy, wrinkled booth and still purchase with confidence. The mental perception unfortunately becomes “if they don’t care about how they look in front of hundreds of people, how are they going to treat me?”
Regularly practice these expert tips to properly caring for and maintaining your trade show booth and you can ensure it lasts your company for many years (and shows) to come.
Have questions about how to best care for your trade show display? Our exhibit experts are always happy to discuss options and recommend the best display for your company’s needs.
The Monster Displays team can be reached at Sales@MonsterDisplays.com or call (888) 484-3344, we’d love to put our experience to work for you.