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Tabletop exhibits
In addition to exhibiting in national shows, my company plans to branch out into local and regional trade fairs with a tabletop exhibit. However, I don't know anything about these displays. When it comes to tabletops, what basic options are available?


Even if your booth space is merely the surface of a table, you can still create an effective display using a tabletop exhibit. What's more, tabletops are relatively inexpensive (about $300 to $1,500 for a bare-bones display), and given their lightweight, easily portable design, you can bring one with you practically anywhere - and spread the news of your company and its wares far beyond the confines of a typical trade show.

In addition, tabletop displays are just like traditional exhibits, in that you can accessorize them with everything from shelving and built-in flatscreen monitors to lighting and 3-D graphics. But generally speaking, basic tabletops fall into one of the following four categories.

 Pop-ups - As the name implies, a pop-up tabletop is a form of a pop-up exhibit, as it features a flexible light-weight frame typically comprising extruded aluminum, Fiberglas, or carbon composite. The frame is compressed into a relatively small area, and when prompted, it literally pops open to create a structure several times its initial size. You then apply graphics to the frame, often via hook-and-loop fasteners or magnets. Since the frame retracts back to a compact unit, it's easily transported and often fits airline requirements for carry-on baggage. The downside is that when these exhibits pop open, they often take up a considerable amount of space on the table and significantly more than the other three tabletop options mentioned here.

 Panel systems - A panel system usually comprises two or three fabric- or graphic-covered panels that are connected together. However, the flexible seams between the panels allow you to fold the panels inward for transport, creating a damage-resistant tabletop option. The protected interior sides of these panels, then, house your graphics, and setup involves merely opening the folded panels and positioning the system upright on a table. While a panel system is a reliable and sturdy option, it's the most traditional among the four choices, and as such it doesn't exactly scream "cutting edge" or "high tech."

 Briefcases - While a briefcase tabletop is essentially just another type of panel system, it actually folds down to the size of a briefcase - making it easy to carry onto airplanes or even fit inside suitcases, and the perfect presentation tool for both exhibitors and salespeople in the field. A briefcase-style display typically comes with an attached handle and a hard-plastic exterior that protects it during transport.

 Banner stands - Generally speaking, a traditional banner stand in and of itself doesn't make for a great tabletop display, as its vertical, columnar shape looks a little awkward alone atop a table. But combine a pair of banner stands, or use a short, wide banner stand (maybe 4-by-4 feet), and you've got a portable display with a professional feel. Also consider a double-sided banner stand, which can broadcast your messages to attendees on both sides of the table. The compact, rollable nature of banner stands means they take up very little space on your table, providing plenty of room for literature or product displays as well.

Compared to more traditional exhibits, tabletops might seem somewhat limited due to their smaller size. But as you can see, there are several display options available, making tabletops small but mighty compact marketing vehicles.

- Linda Musgrove, president, TradeShow Teacher, Aventura, FL


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