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HIMSS Booth Design & Vendor Selection Tips

Trade show and event expenses often account for over 40% of the average B2B company’s marketing budget1. Booth design, set up, tear down, shipping and rental or purchase make up a large amount of the trade show expense, so it’s important to be smart with booth design and selection.

We have over 16 years of experience designing, selecting and optimizing trade show booths of all sizes. Major events like HIMSS are prime opportunities to showcase your latest features or launch a new product, service or brand. To help you make the most of your booth investment, follow our best practices and guidelines below.

When is it Time to Get a New Booth?

If you already have a booth, it may need an aesthetic update or complete replacement. If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, it’s probably time for a new booth.

  • Has your company recently rebranded?
  • Has your logo changed?
  • Do you have a new tagline or drastically new messaging tact?
  • Are you introducing a major new product or service?
  • Does your booth often get overcrowded?
  • Do you need more private meeting space, open floor space, tabletops, monitors or other functionality?
  • Has it been more than five years since your last booth redesign?
  • Do you need duct tape to hold your booth upright?

Selecting Booth Layout

Above all else, the booth layout is the most important step in any trade show booth project. The layout determines how easily foot traffic can enter and flow through the space, how long visitors stay, what elements they interact with, and more. Many shows will reprimand you if your visitor traffic leaks out into the aisles. There are several things to consider when selecting booth layout, including:

  • How many employees will be in your booth at any given time?
  • Do you want visitors to stand or sit?
  • Do you want visitors to gather into large groups or meet individually with sales reps?
  • Do you need private or semi-private meeting spaces?
  • Will you need monitors for demos or videos?
  • How much storage do you need?

See how the layout of two booths we designed for eMedApps and Mach7 Technologies differ based on their goals and preferred visitor flow.

Determining Booth Size

Before selecting a booth size based on your HIMSS exhibit location, take inventory of all other shows you plan to attend in the next couple years. Your booth spaces are likely to vary based on event and venue, so it’s wise to choose a booth that can adapt to fit several location sizes.

We’ve designed several booths that can shrink or expand to accommodate 10’x10’, 10’x20’ and 20’x20’ spaces.

Rent or Buy?

Clients often ask us if they should rent or buy their booth. This decision can be a major cost savings and prevent many logistical nightmares.

If you rent your booth, you’re not responsible for the shipping and storage costs or the logistics, maintenance and repairs associated with booth transportation, which can be major expenses. Renting gives you the flexibility to change your booth design and footprint from show to show if you need to.

Buying your booth makes sense if you know you’ll use the same booth for at least three events. Three events is an estimate, so you’ll have to calculate your break-even point. It’s also much more difficult and more expensive to make frequent changes to a purchased booth, so be confident in your design and layout before buying. The initial investment of purchasing a booth is much higher than renting, so you’ll need cash up front.

“One of the most common misconceptions is the notion that booth rentals only come in a small range of colors, sizes, and configurations. You can rent an exhibit that is unique to your company. Whether you need a simple 10’ x 10’ inline booth or a massive two-story modular exhibit complete with towers, conference rooms, and innovative graphics that complement your brand, you can have it all in a rental solution.

You’d be surprised how many big recognizable brands exhibit with trade show booth rentals. Some are participating in multiple shows in different cities during the same week and some like the convenience that comes with renting. Most importantly, they know doing so doesn’t mean foregoing the aspects of exhibit design that draws people to their booth.”

Matt Waterwall, Senior Exhibit Consultant, TradeTec Skyline

Cutting Costs Without Sacrificing Impact

One of the most expensive and non-essential booth elements is suspended signage. Installation of hanging elements is very costly and not allowed by every venue. Instead of suspending signage for extra visibility, get the same impact with a taller booth. Just be sure your booth height is adjustable to fit in normal 16’–20’ tall venues, as well as smaller venues with 12’ ceilings.

Another way to cut costs is to buy smaller furniture and display items near the venue and carry them in, such as folding chairs or small stools. Renting these items from the vendor is much more expensive.

Clean your booth instead of paying the venue’s cleaning crew. A cheap carpet sweeper, some basic cleaning supplies, and a little elbow grease will get the job done for a fraction of the cost.

Save money by being prepared. Packing a basic trade show rescue box will prevent many disasters and save you from purchasing expensive last-minute supplies at the show.

Note: Special thanks to Colin Hung for some of these tips. 

Selecting a Booth Vendor

Trade show booth vendors should be judged on the same criteria as any other vendor: price, responsiveness, quality, knowledge, reviews, etc. In addition to the usual benchmarks, also consider the vendor’s:

  • Manufacturer Location: U.S.-based manufacturers tend to use higher-quality materials and can ship faster than overseas vendors.
  • HIMSS Experience: If a vendor has never been to HIMSS, they are not the vendor for you. Vendors are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the rules, regulations and logistics of the HIMSS host cities and venues.
  • Honesty: If your vendor is open and honest up front about processes, timelines, costs, and ROI, you are likely in good hands. Choose a vendor you can trust and that has the best interest of your company at heart.

Some of our favorite trade show booth vendors to work with are TradeTec out of Chicago and Skyline in Seattle.

Expert Booth Designs for All Events

We have helped companies of all sizes enhance their perception and attract the right attention at the industry’s largest trade shows and niche regional conferences.

Learn about our best practices for drawing traffic into your booth with creative pre-show and at-show campaigns.

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Need a Show-Stopping HIMSS Booth?

Our health IT marketing agency knows all the ins-and-outs of HIMSS and can help you succeed no matter your experience level. If you want to rock HIMSS, get in touch with us.

1CEIR: The Spend Decision: Analyzing How Exhibits Fit into the Overall Marketing Budget

About the Author:

Brian Shilling
Brian is a Branding & Digital Marketing Director with experience leading diverse teams of marketers and designers in strategic marketing, content creation, and crafting comprehensive messaging and positioning platforms for our healthcare and tech clients. To learn more about Brian's experiences and qualifications, visit our Meet Our Executive Team page.

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