Trade Show Evolution, Modular Unit Solutions


While it seems like the whole world is going digital and everything can be done online, there still exists a space for brand interaction, experiential marketing and good old-fashioned human connection. It’s the world of trade shows, and they continue to hold importance in today’s diverse business environment.

Many companies plan their trade show presence a full year in advance, working ahead to develop a floor plan and reserve square footage. But sometimes the real work begins when a trade show team decides to redo their display to better reflect their brand and better connect with customers.

While the possibilities for trade show displays are endless, there is a special niche for shipping containers – also known as modular units – in the design and activation of unique spaces. And because trade show schedules are always churning with no down time, it’s the quick design and construction timeframe of modular units that make them an ideal fit for companies who participate in multiple shows per year.

Making the Most of Your Footprint

One of the biggest challenges to having an impactful trade show booth is the size limitation of shows floors. Modular units are designed and engineered down to the 1/8 inch of space, leaving no corner unused. The units can be stacked for maximum impact and multi-level display space, ensuring visibility across a crowded convention center. While most standard shipping container or modular units are around 20- or 40-feet long, smaller containers are available in eight- or 10-foot lengths to better accommodate trade show booth sizes. Another option is to build up, or stack modular units for an impactful effect and literally rise above the trade show crowd.

The Live Demo Element

A combination of technology and social media has made trade shows into immersive experiences with online extensions. Many times, what is seen at shows is broadcast through Instagram Stories, Instagram TV and Facebook Live events to broaden a brand’s reach. One approach many companies are taking with trade show booths is to design them with live demonstration space in mind. From cooking demos to new product presentations, space for a live “how-to” can take on many different forms. With modular units, spaces like gourmet kitchens are possible, as well as room for elevated staging and multiple screens to broadcast in-booth events, ensuring attendees and social media followers alike are part of the action.

An Element of Privacy

While an open floorplan in a trade show booth is essential to securing attendee traffic, the need always exists for a bit of privacy. Trade shows are for more than just prospecting; they are a place where people come to do business. And because 81% of trade show attendees have buying authority, a built-in conference room can be essential to closing a deal. Many times, attendees are specifically looking to connect with their local sales representative and appreciate a space to hold a meeting or relax for a few minutes. Modular units are ideal for this purpose: while one side of a unit can be used for signage, screens or other display, the inside can serve as a functional conference or meeting room.

Inside and Out

Often trade shows have outdoor components such as show houses, demonstration areas and interactive elements, meaning that if companies want to have a presence in both areas, two trade properties are required. But what if a display could be built to serve as both an indoor and an outdoor property? Modular units allow for this flexibility, with durable components that allow for easy installation, open and closure in any setting. This flexibility means that the unit can be used as an indoor display for one trade show with easy installation for an outdoor activation at a different show, saving companies time and money in annual trade show planning.

Speedy Set-Up, Easy Storage

Trade show set-up day is usually a waiting game and rarely goes by without complications. While companies contract with display companies for design and installation, local labor is often required, and multiple forms and fees usually come into play. A modular unit trade show display can’t solve all the challenges of set-up day, but it can be easily moved into place and installed, taking on average one-fourth of the time to set up when compared to tents or other conventional displays. The unit also serves as self-contained storage, so that at the end of the day you can lock up assets in the unit rather than paying for additional storage at a convention center or arena.

Try Before You Buy

A brand-new trade show property is a pretty hefty investment and make-shift, or outdated displays just aren’t an option. Some modular units can be rented for one-time or multiple use, allowing companies to upgrade a display while trying out a different approach without the full financial investment of a new property. This solution is particularly appealing for those companies with multiple trade shows on the calendar where results from shows can be compared to see which display elements are most appealing to customers.

As trade shows continue to evolve with additional elements of experiential marketing and complexity, modular units will continue to be a design solution for companies looking to take things to the next level.

Interested in designing a shipping container space, or making an old space new with an adaptive design? Contact Boxman Studios for more information.