Trade Show Table Covers & Runners
When you’re planning your trade show display, you want to make sure every aspect fits the theme and look of the space. That includes your trade show table covers – advertising space is at a premium in trade show booths, especially the smaller shows, so take advantage of all of your available advertising space.
This means, don’t settle with a dull black or white, boring table cloth! Instead, use a trade show table cover to synchronize with the rest of your displays, display your company color and logos, and highlight the products that you want to promote.
Table Throw Options:
Table Throw Accessories:
Hand-held Fabric Steamer
Table Throw Carrying Bag
Table Throw Information:
When selecting printed or unprinted table cloths, try to keep in mind that not all fabric is created equal. The cheapest table cloths typically use the cheapest fabric, and may prove to be one that easily wrinkles or tears, or one that does not meet convention and trade show flammability requirements. Most of the trade show table covers offered by American Image Displays use 100% twill polyester, and pass NFPA 701 Small Scale & California Section 13115.
Planning your printed trade show table covers is simple and doesn’t take much time. Let’s walk through the process:
1) What size Trade Show Table Covers do you need?
There are a couple of basic choices for table throws; the first is whether you want to print your logo on an entire table cloth, or just on what is called a “table runner”.
Table runners are narrow strips of cloth, typically 30″ or 48″ wide, draped over a solid color table cloth (see black runner on yellow below). Printing narrow trade show table runners is less expensive than full size printed table cloths, so table runners can be a good option for tight budgets. Table runners also help provide contrast your trade show table cover and your table runners. The contrast provided by using table runners can help your printed logo “pop”. Table runners cost a bit less than printing the entire table cloth. If you want a table runner, then all that is left is to choose the size of the runner, the background color, and the print method.
If you want a table cover, not a runner, then you need to select the size of the table cloth, so it fits the table. Standard trade show table sizes are 6ft wide and 8ft wide, approx 2ft deep, and 28″ high. If you’re unsure, keep in mind that an 8ft wide table cover will work on a 6ft table, simply by tucking the extra material under the table – but a 6ft wide table cloth will be too short to properly fit on an 8ft table.
There is also the choice of whether you want a back panel on the table cover, or an open back – some people prefer to hide what might be stored under the table, others prefer slightly easier access to that storage. The black table cover in the picture above illustrates a 3 panel, or “economy” table cover – one without a back panel. The back panel only adds about $10 to the cost of your trade show table cover, so this choice is mostly about the desired style and look, not price.
2) Print Method for your trade show table covers
There are three primary methods for putting your company logo on a table cloth. The first is to use a vinyl logo, applied with a heat transfer. This is the method used for current day professional sports teams, and provides a durable and attractive logo tablecloth. This is also the most economical method, but the trade-off is that you need to use the available vinyl colors, and the available fabric colors. If your company has specific PMS color requirements for the logo or background, or if there are color gradients (fading, etc.), then a vinyl logo tablecloth won’t work. And since each vinyl color is applied separately, logo’s with more than two colors become cost-prohibitive, compared to other print methods.
Screen printed table cloths used to be quite common; screen printing allows PMS color matching and provides great looking trade show table covers. The screen printing process, however, requires manual setups, and these days, is a bit more expensive than other print methods, unless you need a large number of identical prints – if that is the case, then screen printing is a great choice.
Dye sub printing is the most common print method for companies that only need a few trade show table covers. Dye sub printing allows full color prints, with PMS matching, and can be used to print just the front of the table covers, or the entire table cloth, as needed. Printing the front of the table cloth is less expensive; that printed panel is then sewn to pre-printed colored fabric on the other 2 or 3 panels. A front panel print works great if the background on the front panel will match the available pre-printed color choices; otherwise, a print on the entire front of your trade show table cover is the best solution.
Trade show table covers or table throws can be easily overlooked and are surprisingly underrated as an important and effective aspect of your trade show displays. Almost all exhibitors focus on the “heavy lifting”, creating an exhibit or trade show booth design, selecting the best trade show displays, and preparing large format graphics for the signs and banners. Those tasks are indeed the most important, but don’t forget the small details that can also impact your sales efforts.
Most companies have invested in professionally designed logos and branding, and that branding should be carried across all of your trade show display materials, including not only the banners and signs, but also the business cards, brochures, and other advertising. The branding should be consistent and uniform, and your table throws are just one more place to display that branding.
Picture this; your main display stand and trade show graphics are inviting and attracted some clients. Your representatives have welcomed these potential clients into your trade show booth, and you now have them in the sales area. They are ready to pick up pamphlets, or to give their contact information, or even to sign an order form, and their hand makes contact with a drab unprinted table cloth.
Up until this point, everything has been attractive and appealed to their sense of sight. That drab, plain black table cloth that the show gave you can look boring, if not cheap, compared to the rest of your booth, and is a lost opportunity to upgrade the look of your display space at a very low cost.
Printed trade show table covers are one of the most inexpensive tools available to use for marketing your products – they cost about the same as a single banner stand. They are appropriate in the smallest and largest of booth spaces. They can be used by themselves at small chamber of commerce and recruiting events, and can also be used at major trade shows. They always help to make the simplest display look attractive and professional, and can make a powerful combination when used with table top displays.
Selection Process for Printed Expo Table Covers
Planning your printed trade show table covers is simple and doesn’t take much time. There are a couple of basic choices for table throws; the first is whether you want to print your logo on an entire table cloth, or just on what is called a “table runner”. Table runners are a printed, narrow piece of cloth that is placed on top of a plain, unprinted table cloth – they can be used to provide a contrast of colors, to help your printed logo “pop”, and table runners cost a bit less than printing the entire table cloth. The adjacent photo shows a black printed runner placed on top of a plain yellow table cloth.
You have two other choices involving the size of the table cloth; most tables used at trade shows and events are either 6ft or 8ft wide; besides the two standard sizes, there are some smaller 4ft demo table sizes, as well as round tables that can also be covered. As part of the process of selecting printed table covers, you’ll need to specify which size table your printed table cover needs to fit.
You can also choose between having the table cloth cover all four sides of the table, or to leave the back side of the table open, as shown in the black table cover above. The normal recommendation is that you should not sit down or stand behind tables or counters while making sales presentations, but this doesn’t apply for special uses like registration tables, and if you will be sitting at the table, leaving the back panel off can make that a little easier.
The next choice involves the fit of your trade show table cover; these table cloths come in styles that drape loosely (for example, the red table cloth above), but they can also be styled to be a close fit, or even a stretch fit on your table. The picture on the left shows a fitted table cover (no, that’s not a wrapped gift!); on the right are examples of printed, stretch table covers.
Once you’ve decided what size table cover you need, whether it needs a back panel, and how you want the actual printed table cover to fit to the table, the only selection left is the print method and coverage.
The print methods commonly used are screen printing, dye sublimation printing, and vinyl heat transfer. Vinyl heat transfer isn’t actually printing, but involves using a computer to precision cut your vinyl logo. This vinyl in the applied with heat to transfer it to the table cloth.
Vinyl heat transfers are the least expensive method, and produce a very nice looking result which will last for a long time. These don’t peel, curl, or fade, and are nothing like the vinyl t-shirt designs in the 70’s that peeled and curled off the cloth.
The main limitation with vinyl heat transfers is that the process only works for solid colors (no color transients) and you can only choose to use the vinyl colors that are available. For example, if you need a specific pantone matched color, then a vinyl heat transfer will only work if your color happens to be one of the available vinyl colors.
The other limitation for vinyl heat tranfers is that each color in the logo needs to be cut out individually and applied separately. Thus, if you only have one or two colors, this method is cost effective. However, if you have multiple colors, then this process gets too expensive compared to the alternative processes.
Screen printing has been very popular since the 90’s, and is still a good choice for printing table covers. It allows you to choose specific solid pantone colors to match, guaranteeing corporate logo color requirements are met. The screen print process also produces printed table covers that will also last a long time, and screen printing is effective if your logo is made of solid colors (no transients). It is especially cost-effective if you need many copies of the same logo. The manual setup process for the screens required is very efficient if you do one setup and multiple prints, but, similar to vinyl heat transfers, this proces also gets too expensive if only making a couple of table throws with multiple colors.
Dye sublimation (or more commonly, “dye sub”) printing has grown into being the standard print process for trade show usage in the last decade. It provides a full digital print, with no limitations on the number of colors, and it also allows pantone color matching if needed. Dye sub printing costs a bit more than vinyl heat transfers or screen printing, especially if your logo only has one or two solid colors. However, if multiple colors are involved, it quickly becomes the most cost effective – and if you need color transients and transitions, it is the best way to print on fabric.
Dye sub printing is offered on most table throws; you can choose to print just a piece of fabric that is applied to the front of the table (called a printed appliqué), you can print the entire front panel of the table throw, or you can print the entire table cloth with your logo design.
It may seem complicated the first time you review the options, but it really isn’t that difficult. To sum it all up, the selection process for choosing printed table throws and runners is:
- Decide whether you want a table throw or a table runner
- If you want a table throw, select:
- the table size
- whether you want a back panel
- the fit of the table cover:
- drape loosely
- fit snugly
- stretch to fit the table
- (some of these choices also affect the available print method.)
- Select the print method that is appropriate for your logo:
- If your logo has only one or two colors, only printed on the front of the table throw, you can use any method (vinyl heat transfer is least expensive).
- If your logo has only one or two colors, but includes a solid color with a pantone color match requirement, you need either a screen print or a dye sub print (screen printing is least expensive, especially in higher quantities of the same print).
- If your logo has multiple colors, or has color transients, or if you want a full print on the entire table cloth, then dye sub printing is the way to go.
Most printed trade show table covers are made with a 100% polyester twill, selected to be wrinkle free if handled properly (take a minute to fold it up and keep it in a plastic bag, don’t crumple it up and stuff it somewhere for weeks between uses!). These table covers should be treated and certified to meet trade show flammability and smoke requirements. Most can be machine washed (gentle cycle, gentle detergent), and tumble dried on low heat or laid out to air dry (don’t dry clean or press any trade show printed fabric graphics!).
As you can see, planning for printed table covers require a little bit of thinking, but it’s not rocket science – the selection process is pretty simple. The most expensive printed full-size table throw costs about $400; average costs for printed table throws is $200-$300 – about the same price as a retractable banner stand, and just as universal and effective!