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6 Tricky Trade Show Display Terms

Posted by Jessica Diers on

I was in Croatia in August, sailing the Mediterranean Sea with a friend of mine from college. We started our trip in Split and sailed down to Dubrovnik, stopping off at several Croatian islands. It was one of the most memorable trips I’ve taken. Our mornings were spent exploring new islands and eating Croatian cuisine. In the evening we would lounge on the top deck of our boat and watch the sun set. Croatia is stunning. Sandy beaches that meet crystal clear blue water surrounded by rolling mountains. It was a dream. I cruised with mostly Australians, Croatians, and Italians. Americans could learn a thing or two about travel from Europeans and Australians. A small amount of my time was spent on work, I would touch base with clients and stay in the loop on current projects. While I was checking my email in the lounge, I had a Croatian friend of mine ask what I did for a living. And I thought it was difficult to describe what I did to native English speakers. I tried the spiel I give most of my clients, colleagues and friends, but couldn’t seem to get the point across. I ended up describing a show that people attend to view displays with large, eye-catching graphics. It was the best I could do, and my friend seemed satisfied with my answer. Even though I could tell he was still a bit confused.

I get a little nervous when someone asks me: “What do you do?” I usually fumble my words and say something about trade show displays and banner stands. The exhibit industry is tough to explain! My dad, the founder of our company, would describe his career to me as a kid and I never quite understood. It wasn’t until I found myself in the business several years ago that I started to get it.

So, what do I do?

There are so many ways to say it. I sell trade show displays. I offer trade show displays. I help design trade show displays. I provide and design trade show displays for a variety of clients and companies. You can call me a trade show display expert. I am also a brand expert. Which means that I have an eye for developing trade show displays for specific brands. A lot of my time is spent selling and project managing. I enjoy partnering with companies to help them develop a trade show display that exemplifies their brand in a beautiful and captivating way.

There are a handful of important terms to know in our industry that help categorize what we sell. For example, a portable display is used to describe any type of trade show display that is less expensive. Portable can be used to refer to a banner stand, outdoor flag, or even a 10’ tension fabric display. Portable is also used to describe a display that is easy to set up. There are 6 telling trade show terms that will give a better understanding of what I do for a living.

Tricky Term #1: Portable

Portable displays can be used to describe any affordable trade show display product. The word Portable on its own technically means any display that is easy (ish) to set up. Portable can also be used to describe small display units; banner stands, pop up displays, outdoor flags, event tents, etc. However, I use the term portable to refer to some of our larger displays. For example, I have a handful of companies that exhibit in 10x20 booth spaces and want a portable exhibit. We offer a portable line that I often have my clients peruse, but we might also build a custom display that is referred to as portable. I use the term portable display for anything that is remotely easy to set up. It is all relevant to what you size, style and design you are looking to create as a company.

Tricky Term #1: Modular 

Modular refers to a trade show display design that is configured to be used in more than just one size trade show space. For instance, a modular 20x20 booth can break down to be used in 10x20 and 10x10 booth settings. This can also describe a modular element of a booth. We can create counters that are modular and can be used in unique configurations in a booth space.

Custom displays are my favorite side of the business. A custom build is a design made specifically for one brand. If a client needs a custom display then we typically develop a concept from scratch or, we customize one of our current designs. In which case an existing display kit would be made into a custom kit. I feel like the word custom brings to mind a large, bulky wood build, but sometimes we can create custom displays that are portable and modular. Custom just means you want your companies design to be unique and you have the budget to get there.

If you have exhibited at a trade show, these last three terms will be familiar. I wanted to quickly explain the difference between an inline, island and peninsula booth. It is important to know what size space you have at your show before selection a specific display.

An inline booth is technically a 10x10, 10x20 or a 10x30 booth space. Inline means the booth space is nestled between two other exhibitors, and there is usually an exhibitor behind the space, too. Typically you would see portable modular displays in an inline booth space.

A peninsula booth space is reserved for 10x20 or 10x30 displays and usually there are only two companies per peninsular space. Often front and back. This is a good mix of modular and custom builds.

Finally, an island display is usually a 20’x20’ booth space or larger. Usually an island does not attach to another booth space, and stands alone. Most of the custom builds exhibit in an island booth space.

After laying this out, I can see where my Croatian friend was totally confused. A lot of our terminology is used interchangeably in this industry with little explanation. I hope my explanations provided a bit more clarity on what I do for a living. In a nutshell, I partner with my clients to develop trade show displays that reflect their brand, and are aesthetically pleasing to their prospects. The display designs provided can be portable, modular or custom and used in inline, peninsula, or island booth spaces.

If you need any further clarity, contact me any time! I will gladly, but likely a little nervously, explain my career in even more detail.  

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