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By Karen E. Klein

The Exhibitor's Quest: Good Display Gear For Less
Trade-show equipment prices seem sky-high, but it's worth spending for durable goods

Q: I'm looking for lightweight floor stands to display two eight-foot-by-two-foot banners that I'm taking to a trade show. I also need two shorter, wider stands. I've been quoted $159 for each stand, plus $29 for a carrying bag. That seems high for some plastic and metal pipes, especially when I'd like four of them. Can you help me find a better deal?
--E.E.H., San Francisco

A: If you need the banner stands just for this show -- or just for one or two trade shows a year -- consider renting them. You'll pay less (even though rental fees may not be a bargain), you won't have to worry about carrying cases, shipping charges, or lugging them to and from the shows yourself. The rental company will set them up in your booth before you arrive. Each trade show typically employs a show-services contractor that functions like an in-house foreman, renting out and assembling furniture and equipment that exhibitors don't want to bring with them. Contact the general management of the show, and ask for the contact information of the show-services contractor to see if you can rent these stands.

If you plan to attend several trade shows annually, or use the banner stands for other purposes, you'd probably do better to purchase them. Trade-show veterans say it's best not to scrimp too much on something like this. You will want stands made with light, high-quality components that fold and unfold easily and that will last through heavy use.

Many companies manufacture and sell exhibit designs and furnishings. Some of them specialize in "tabletop" or "popup" exhibits, which pack up very small and expand into full booths. Others make "modular" units -- heavier-duty versions of the popups, with components that interlock like Tinkertoys. Go to a search engine, and type in keywords like "exhibit designs" or "tradeshow booths." You'll find many potential sources. The Exhibit Designers & Producers Assn.,, is a trade group that represents these exhibit-manufacturing companies. Pete Dicks, executive director of the Atlanta-based organization, says the EDPA can help you find referrals for companies in your area if you contact him at (404) 303-7310 or by E-mail at

If you have the time and want a more individual look for your stand, you might try contacting non-trade-show sources, such as home and garden supply stores, or companies that sell fixtures to retail stores for displays and promotions. Or have someone build something to your specifications. If you're looking for used equipment, try the classifieds at Exhibitor Magazine's site,, or get in touch with the Las Vegas-based Exhibit City News, a monthly publication that goes to the companies that set up and service trade-show exhibits, at (702) 309-8023.

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