Should I Stay or Should I Go – the 2021 Trade Show Dilemma

2020 was the year of zooming (in sweats), homeschooling, learning to cook new things like sourdough bread (not sure why), and very little networking face-to-face. The challenges were real for everyone, but just as humans do, we learned to adapt and to find new ways to make things happen. 2021 is the year of moving forward, and while there are still some obstacles out of our control, it is time to get out there and get back to business!

The big question our customers are pondering right now is “SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO TO THE SHOW THIS YEAR?(Yes, the song by the Clash is playing in my head right now. You’re welcome!) However, opposite of the Clash song – if you stay there will be trouble, but if you go there could be double. What do I mean by that? Well while you are debating to go to the show or not, most likely one or more of your competitors are strategically planning to go to claim more market share, and may be taking full advantage by exhibiting in a bigger space. So, if you don’t go you could potentially lose existing business (trouble), but if you do go you could gain more leads and sales (not sure it will be double, but who knows).

A recent EXHIBITORInsight research by Exhibitor Magazine reported “68 percent of corporate exhibitors are planning to return to trade shows by the end of September 2021.” Will you one of them? 

Assuming you are planning to attend a show or two this year, you need to put together your production timeline to make sure you, your team and your display are ready for it! There are some new challenges you need to be aware of and take into consideration before you nail down your timeline.



BC 2019 (before covid), you could procrastinate and wait until 30 days prior to your event to finalize your design details; however, in 2021 timelines and expectations are very different. Take my advice, this is not the year to wait too long to see what happens before you pull the trigger.

The reality is that about a third of our industry folded last year and closed their doors, so there are fewer design partners available to work with. Many of those that are still in business most likely had to reduce their staff by half and therefore have limited capacities.

Another thing to keep in mind is the limited availability of materials and/or shipping delays. For example, with the construction industry booming, the availability of some building materials like wood are in short supply and taking much longer to get. We have also found that a lot of AV and technology hardware are on backorder, taking potentially 6 months to get. If any of these things impact your design, we usually always have a back-up plan or temporary solution. But the earlier you plan it is more likely that we will be able to provide you the design and end result you want. These are all important factors you need to take into consideration when you look at your timeline.


Apple Rock is staffed up and ready to help you get ready for your upcoming shows. Our design, estimation, and engineering schedules area booking up so I would not recommend you hesitate too long. I am sure other exhibit houses are experiencing the same increase in requests along with the same supply chain challenges.

If you are still not sure you can pull the trigger just yet consider this – go ahead and meet with our team, get your design into the queue and we can hold off on building your exhibit (that part that actually costs money) until we get closer to your show. This way you already have your spot reserved in line and you won't run the risk of waiting too late and running out of available options. We are also offering our customers a money back guarantee if show mangement cancels the show 90 days or more before the show date. So no excuses to get started now! 

Most clients potentially have a 2-year-old or older display and graphics that will need to be updated at the very least. In BC 2019, we used to be able to turn designs and estimates quicker, but right now with the decrease in available partners and increased demand you need to anticpate longer turn times. 


We have been having a lot of conversations with potential new customers that lost their exhibit house to the pandemic. They are not sure where to turn so they are taking the 3-bid approach. We have even seen a few competitive estimates that are lacking clarity and potentially missing some very important costs that you will be hit with later. We pride ourselves in estimate transparency. We always show our clients an itemized estimate with all the build and show service costs that we know will happen as we want to avoid an unnecessary overage chargse at the end. Be careful with this, even if the designs are different make sure you are comparing the overall estimates for similar line items. Sometimes the lowest bid ends up being the biggest cost in the end. 

So you gotta let me know - will you stay or will you go... so we can get bust a move (wrong song) on your new display design! Let the experienced and proven design team at Apple Rock bring you success this year. 

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