Custom, Portable or Modular Exhibits … What do I need?

Facebook 2021 exhibit

The tradeshow world is full of decisions. Some simple and some not so simple, but, rarely is there as much confusion as what you need for an exhibit.

Do you purchase, do you rent, do you need a full custom trade show booth, a modular booth or a portable booth?

Let’s take a few minutes to review the major differences and help you make that decision.

Decision 1: Purchase vs Rental

The first step is determining if you should rent your tradeshow booth or purchase it. This is an entire discussion and decision in itself but the general rule of thumb that we advise our clients to follow is:


  • If you will be doing more than 5 to 7 shows of the same general size.
  • If you commit to a fixed configuration of your booth for the next 2 years.


  • If you are doing fewer than 5 shows.
  • You have not made the commitment to configuration and continuity in design.

Decision 2: Custom, Portable or Modular

Ok, the Purchase vs. Rental decision is made. Now, do you need a Custom, Portable or Modular booth? Let’s jump into the differences and rationale behind each.

Custom Tradeshow Exhibits are where the big boys play.

Custom Trade Show Exhibits
Your signature on the show floor

  • Intended for exhibit programs set on larger budgets.
  • Normally reserved for purchase.
  • Hugely impactful on the show floor.
  • Designed to accommodate larger exhibit booth space sizes.

Your Tradeshow Managers, with the support of the sales and marketing teams invest in custom designed structures that set you apart in every conceivable way from your competition.

A custom booth is your signature on the show floor.

Most often you will see hanging signs, backlit lightboxes, custom built workstations, custom desks and reception counters. You may even invest in custom tradeshow flooring such as a raised floor, printed carpet or vinyl woodgrain booth flooring.

A properly designed custom trades show display will attract more customers at a tradeshow and offers an atmosphere on the show floor as opposed to having a generic booth with some logos and a draped table with rented chairs.

Custom booths are virtually always a purchase and require a commitment to excellence. You will most likely need to commit to a booth space size and configuration such as an island or peninsula booth space as they are less configurable and adaptable to change or modification in structure. The size of your booth space will also be a factor as custom made tradeshow booths are less adaptable to varying sizes.

What if you are not ready to make the jump into a custom designed booth? You can go with a more modular design.

Modular trade show booths are the middle ground between custom and portable.

A modular booth is exactly what it sounds like. A modular trade show booth design, is much easier to reconfigure and adaptable to changing booth sizes and configurations.

Modular Booths
Your most adaptable option

  • Intended for a medium budget.
  • Available for rental or purchase.
  • Easily reconfigurable, adapting to every show.
  • Designed to accommodate a variety of booth space sizes.

Your exhibit house will likely have a “system” that they use to design and build exhibits. There are a variety of systems out there and you should consult with your booth designer
to determine your goals and the best system to use.

One of the most popular and globally recognized systems is Octanorm. Octanorm is an aluminum extrusion that becomes the skeleton for your booth. It is the building block that transforms structure into beauty.

Just like the frame of your car, an exhibit system simply holds all of the parts together. The paint color (graphics), interior options (counters and video walls) and engine (products and staff) are what really matters. Your exhibit designer will build your modular tradeshow vehicle around a system.

Modular tradeshow exhibits can be either a purchase or rental. They are also by far the most adaptable should you wish to change your booth size and configuration. You can easily increase or decrease your booth size or add and remove components etc.

If you exhibit in a variety of shows including large national shows as well as small regional shows, a modular booth is likely the perfect fit for your schedule. You will have the ability to use some, or all of your booth because it is modular.

What if you are just getting into shows or participate in several smaller shows with a hectic schedule or simply need a cost-effective solution that won’t break the bank? That is where a portable trade show booth becomes your best friend. Whether you require modular outdoor trade show displays, or portable modular trade show displays for indoor use, Archex can deliver results.

Portable Tradeshow Solutions are abundant in the market.

Every exhibit supplier has a bazillion different options ranging from the pull up banner stands to backlit backwalls with graphic messaging.

Portable Exhibits
Your cost-effective solution

  • Aimed for a lower budget.
  • Offered only as a purchase.
  • They exist to tell your story graphically.
  • Intended for smaller booth space sizes.

A portable exhibit is almost always a purchase and most often used in a smaller booth space sizes of 10’ x 10’ or 10’ x 20’. They will present your graphic message in combination with a small counter, a few products and some literature racks to support your efforts.

Although there are some beautiful portable offerings, they are not intended to be showstoppers or attract a huge audience. They exist to tell your story graphically. The vast
majority of your impact and results will come from your visual messaging and staff enthusiasm.

If you have a multitude of shows across the country or need to support your sales team’s efforts at local events, then you definitely need some portable exhibit properties in your

The decision is not all yours. Archex Display or your preferred exhibit house will work with you in making the right decision on which booth type you need.