When it comes to event furniture rental, clients usually think of canopies, fans, plastic chairs and round tables with covers. However, it can be much, much more!
Before you go doubting the importance of exhibit furniture in the overall scheme of things, I’ll impart the old adage about design: “Form follows function.” But to that I’ll add my usual exhibit-industry amendment, “… and function follows goals.” Think about the environment that needs to be established. For example, an event geared toward conducting business meetings might feature furnishings similar to those swanky options found in a corporate boardroom. Conversely, if the goal is to stimulate casual conversation among attendees and staffers, laid-back furnishings such as overstuffed loveseats and plush arm chairs paired with low tables will do the trick. And when a no-frills training environment is on the docket, classroom-style furniture such as long wooden tables and rolling desk chairs fit the bill. If a brief presentation or product demonstration is on the exhibiting agenda, consider using a “bum bar” against which attendees can lean rather than rows of chairs. Less strategic uses include employing furniture to create a certain aesthetic, reinforce a brand’s attributes or image, support a marketing theme — or sometimes just fill up empty space.
Whatever the reason, exhibit furniture is often a necessity, and it likely needs to exist in some form at your next event. But before you purchase custom pieces, bone up on the types of rentals available and the benefits associated with each. You might find that renting your furnishings makes a lot more fiscal and logistical sense in the long run.
Reasons to Rent
One of the most obvious benefits of renting versus purchasing furniture is that renting doesn’t have any initial upfront costs. That fact could turn furniture into a capital-equipment budget item compared to a per-show expensed item, depending on the amount of furniture needed and your company’s policy on purchasing assets. Rental furniture doesn’t have to be stored in a corporate warehouse or exhibit house, which eliminates warehouse handling and storage fees, and negates the need for expensive custom crates in which to store or ship the items.
What’s more, renting on event site from the event company or the official furnishings contractor negates the separate transportation and material-handling expenses typically associated with shipping heavy furniture. (Buyer beware, this cost is sometimes buried in the bottom-line rental pricing.) Plus, so-called “special-handling” surcharges that usually occur when blanket-wrapped furniture is mixed in with other crated and palletized exhibit components are non-existent.
In addition to zero storage and shipping costs, rental furniture is also essentially maintenance free. When you rent furniture at each event, you don’t have to worry about maintaining, refurbishing, or cleaning the items. And on the off chance that rental furnishings arrive at your event damaged, simply report it to the vendor, and it will likely grant a no-cost replacement before the event starts.
When it comes to flexibility, rental is king. Different looks can be easily created to suit your event theme and needs. From modern, sleek metal furnishings to colourful, curvaceous plastics and more conservative wood pieces, the possibilities are endless. Even if the same primary pieces are rented for every event, things can be kept fresh by simply adding a new chair, side table, decorative accessory or lighting.
Standard Rental Furnishings
There are two primary rental-furniture options most commonly found in exhibits: standard and custom. To decide which route to take, answer the following question: Are you simply looking for utility, or are you in search of utility plus eye candy? If you just want a piece of furniture to serve its basic function, standard furnishings are likely going to meet your needs. But if you want a little something extra to establish a theme, step up to custom rental furnishings.
Standard rental furniture is the most basic exhibit furniture and is generally rented by the event company. These standard furnishing are utilitarian in nature and are known for their ability to be stacked and moved without being damaged. In short, the term “stylish” doesn’t usually come to mind when you see them. This no-frills category of rental furniture typically includes round and square tables on pedestal bases with matching stackable chairs (with or without arms), basic stools, square and round display pedestals, lecterns, computer kiosks, and folding tables.
If you need to rent the standard draped rectangular tables, they generally come in lengths of 4, 6, and 8 feet, all measuring 2-feet wide, and in standard 30-inch table-height and 42-inch counter-height options. These fold-up tables are typically provided with thin white plastic stapled to the top and a pleated polyester fabric available in a variety of colors stapled to three-and-a-half sides. These tables are multipurpose in that they provide a display area or writing surface on top and storage underneath, which is concealed by the fabric skirt.
Other more unusual items on the standard rental-furnishings order form are product-display cases or showcases with differing amounts of glass and shelving, extra pipe and drape, pegboard and accessories, whiteboards and bulletin boards, plasma screens, various sizes and heights of hanging garment or bag racks, literature racks, coat trees, easels, wastebaskets, and even mini refrigerators.
Note that if you’re renting furnishings through the event company, there will generally be pricing options listed on the order form or in their quote to you, with discounts available for placing an order in bulk or for long periods of time.
Custom Rental Furnishings
Custom rental furniture is generally more than just functional; it also looks good. Think of the couches, chairs, and tables found in a corporate apartment or airport frequent-flyer club. These types of pieces can be rented from some event companies, or from official subcontractors if the event company doesn’t stock the particular pieces you want ,or from outside vendors. Furnishings that fall into this category include plush sofas and loveseats in faux leather or luxe fabric, easy chairs, benches with concealed storage, upscale wood or glass end tables and coffee tables, wood or metal tables with glass tops, director chairs or stools, table and floor lamps, and office furnishings such as wood desks, rolling desk chairs, credenzas, file cabinets, and even bookshelves.
Remember that there will usually be ancillary charges for renting “outside the event company box,” which may include delivery charges for transportation and labor, wait time to unload and reload, and separate per-pound material-handling fees. Some rental companies also require that you either provide an insurance policy covering the rental furnishings or place a security deposit that would cover replacement costs should the properties not be returned in the same condition as they were rented.
Regardless of the type or style of exhibit furnishings you ultimately decide on, there are rental options available to save you from schlepping in a boring card table and flimsy folding chairs. After all, your event — and its furniture — will speak volumes about your company and leave an impression on guests. Make sure the message is a positive one.
-Candy Adams, adapted by Best Events
About the Author
Author & Editor
Based in Malaysia, Best Events specializes in Conferences, Seminars, Murder Mystery Dinners, Gala Dinners and Team Building events.
We believe in continuous learning for both individuals and as business owners. We strive to deliver the highest standards in our production value ensuring that our customers leave our events with the best memories and overall growth.