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Backdrops for In-Person Events_blog-1

Backdrops for In-Person Events

Selecting the Best Backdrop for Your Needs

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As much of the meeting and events industry is working to transition from smaller regional or hybrid events to large-scale in-person events, there is an increased need for larger and more impactful backdrops and signage on-site. Bigger venues mean larger spaces to brand and more flexibility and creativity to work with to create that memorable attendee experience. With these larger spaces and blank walls, a smaller banner or sign might look lost, so what options are there for branding and messaging? 

The same as with smaller events or virtual events, backdrops can truly elevate your event and branding. If you've read our "How to Pick the Best Backdrop for Virtual Events" blog, you're likely to be familiar with some of the key characteristics you'll want to prioritize when it comes to selecting a unit.  Features like pricing, size, ease of setup, and lead times can all play a pivotal role in a backdrop or step and repeat's success. It is key to have an idea of what features are the top priorities for you and your team before you begin the shopping process. Below we'll dive into what factors to consider and prioritize when selecting a freestanding unit or backdrop for your next event. 

Selecting a Unit and What to Consider

1. Size

It comes as no surprise that the first step to determining which backdrop aligns best with your needs is selecting the unit that fits within the space constraints of your location/venue. Finding the perfectly sized unit to elevate your branding and event might seem like a tall task, but thankfully there are many size options on the market. The sizing of the backdrops can be customized to meet the exact dimensions of your space, or if you plan to reuse the backdrop, some units offer the ability to adjust both the height and width and fit nearly any future space need.  Having a good understanding of the space that you’re displaying your backdrop, and future storage locations can help you quickly choose the appropriate unit for your particular space constraints. Whether it’s manually measuring the space you have available or having the venue relay the information to you, knowing the exact dimensions you’re working with can help ensure your unit’s impact and success.

2. Material

Of course, when you've decided to invest in a backdrop to brand your event space, how it looks and how it elevates your branding or event is at the forefront of your mind.  Whether you’re using your backdrop or step-n-repeat as a photo backdrop or on stage for a presentation, you want to ensure the material you pick is conducive to a professional and great-looking finished product.  To ensure you end up with the perfect backdrop for your event, there are a few things to consider when selecting the substrate your backdrop is printed on.  While vinyl is a cheaper option than fabric, the surface of this material is slightly reflective, so flash photography or front-facing lighting can cause a glare that may obscure or distort your branding.  Fabric, on the other hand, is less reflective but is prone to wrinkling depending on how it’s stored and the type of frame it’s being displayed on.  A simple solution to remove the wrinkles is allotting some additional setup time to steam out any wrinkles that may be present.

3. Ease of Use

Few things are as frustrating as trying to assemble an uncooperative unit or approaching set up blind because the instructions have been lost and the hardware is unintuitive without some context.  Add to that the fact that these units may be set up by just one or two staff members or by team members who have had little experience in operating these kinds of units. You can see why ease of use and setup is so important when it comes to selecting your backdrop. The good news is that many of the options available are very user-friendly and the majority can be assembled by a single individual in just a few minutes.  If you’re planning on moving the unit around multiple times at an event or find yourself with limited setup time due to travel, you may want to opt for one of the units that can be set up quickly rather than one that requires some assembly beforehand. While an individual can typically manage to assemble these units by themselves, depending on the size, you and your team may find set up a little more manageable with at least two people.

4. Costs

The multitude of backdrop options available also means a wide variety of price points to work within. Like most signage, the rule of “you get what you pay for” applies pretty heavily to backdrops. Still, some inexpensive options are available if you’re willing to make some concessions on features like size and material.  The simplest way to find a backdrop solution within your budget is to prioritize what is important to you. What exactly do you need your backdrop to do?

5. Production Time

With the return of in-person events and the recovery of the meeting and events industry, there is an increased demand for step-n-repeats and backdrops. Pair this with the worldwide supply chain disruptions and staffing shortages, and it comes as little surprise that lead times are longer than in years past. Lead times can vary widely from 5-10 working days to up to 20 or more days, depending on the unit and quantity you land on.  While quicker options are available (namely the vinyl backdrop option), it may not always be the ideal structure for your particular needs, so planning your backdrop well in advance of your event is highly encouraged.

Now that you have considered what factors are most important to you or your company, you are ready to explore some common options you will find when shopping for a backdrop.

Flex Banner

The Flex Banner is a great option when you don’t need a particularly large backdrop but are looking more for something one to two people can take a photo in front of or simply need to brand a “bigger than usual” banner space.  This is a free-standing unit that can be printed on vinyl or fabric and is available in sizes up to 4 feet wide and 8feet high.

Cost - Low

Setup Difficulty - Low

Footprint - Low

Considerations -  The Flex banner has the same shortcomings as other vinyl units in that glare is a big concern when it comes to front-facing light on this unit.  This issue, however, can be mitigated by producing the unit in fabric (though this will also increase the price).  Another big area some planners may find this unit lacking is its size.  Unlike other backdrops available in sizes up to 20’, the Flex’s maximum print width is only about 4’.  While it is serviceable for a 1-2 person photo op background, wider options may be a better pick if this is how you’re planning to use the unit.  Finally, this unit does not come with a carrying case and is shipped loose with the rolled-up graphic.  To prevent damage in transit, you may want to add the optional padded carrying bag.

Click here to check out our Flex banners!

Vinyl Step and Repeat Frame Display

This type of display is an inexpensive unit that boasts both ease of use and a quick turnaround time.  These units are a great pick for last-minute step and repeat options or for branding needs on a budget.  The hardware associated with these is generally reusable and allows you to swap graphics out on the unit, even onsite!

Cost - Low

Setup Difficulty -Low

Footprint - Low- Medium

Considerations -  While this unit is a great pick for a quick and easy backdrop, the adage “you get what you pay for” is particularly true for these units.  The low price point often means lightweight, plastic hardware. As we mentioned above the vinyl graphic here is prone to glare when hit with front-facing light, so these units are not always the best option if you’re planning on using it explicitly as a photo backdrop.  Finally, while the graphic is interchangeable and easy to install, most units use a grommet - zip tie system, which means you’ll want to have extra zip ties on hand when you show up to your event.


Wall Decal

Wall decals are made from a low-tack adhesive that can be custom sized and even dye cut to your specifications.  As a result, this unit is extremely flexible for both your space and price point!  This unit is a perfect way to get creative with a large space, and the possibilities are really endless with this type of unit.

Cost - Low-Medium

Setup Difficulty -Medium - High

Footprint - Low

Considerations -  While this type of unit is a fantastic option in terms of accommodating your space constraints and allowing you to get totally custom with the design, there are some factors to consider when choosing this particular unit.  First, some venues are apprehensive about using adhesives on their surfaces, so getting location approval before ordering should be one of the first things you do.  Additionally, larger graphics can require more than one person or a professional installer to hang/mount the graphic. 

Click here to check out our wall decals!


Wall Banner

Wall Banners are a tried and true backdrop that are favored for their typically quick turnaround time, sizing, material capabilities, and the corresponding price points.  Typically hung with S-hooks or a pole pocket on existing infrastructure, this type of banner is best used at a venue already equipped to handle this type of display.

Cost - Low-Medium

Setup Difficulty -Low-Medium

Footprint - Low

Considerations -  As mentioned above, wall banners require existing infrastructure 

 to be hung.  Whether it’s a rafter system or stage hardware designed to accommodate the unit, ensuring that your venue is equipped to handle this type of unit is paramount before deciding to use it.  There are some freestanding structures available that can accommodate these banners, but they often require extensive assembly beforehand, and when coupled with the price point of the hardware and the banner, you may find it more cost-effective to go with a collapsible display instead.  Where this unit shines is its flexibility in size and materials.  If the displaying capabilities permit, this is a unit sure to fit into your budget and size constraints.

Click here to check out our hanging wall banners!


Pop-up Display

Collapsible pop-up displays are the industry standard when it comes to large-scale backdrops, and you’ve no doubt seen these at events you’ve attended.  Available in various sizes and a variety of frame options, these styles are a great solution for easily branding a large space. Their collapsible nature means they’re easy to set up, ship, and the fabric graphic can be stored right on the unit!  

Cost - Medium - High

Setup Difficulty - Medium - High

Footprint - Medium

Considerations -   Like other fabric displays, this unit is prone to a bit of shine-through when backlit. As a result, these units are commonly produced with a light blocker backing, and while this will solve the backlighting problem, it does increase the cost of the graphic slightly.  As we discussed earlier, fabric graphics can wrinkle, and this unit is no exception. Depending on the way this is stored and for how long you can expect some minor wrinkling. These can be steamed out using a hand steamer or if you can set the unit up a day or two before the event should work itself out with the tension placed on the graphic when fully assembled.

Click here to check out our HOPup Displays!


Pillowcase Fabric Display

Using a high-tension slip-on graphic system, pillowcase fabric displays sidestep the common fabric issue of wrinkles that you see in other large-scale displays. This unit is available in a wide range of sizes, from small tabletop pieces all the way to large 10’ displays.  .  The aluminum frame the graphic is mounted on is a straightforward assembly that one person can easily perform on-site before the event!

Cost - Medium - High

Setup Difficulty - Medium - High

Footprint - Medium

Considerations -  Like other fabric graphics, this unit is prone to a bit of transparency when hit with a backlight, though the hardware style does not have any framework that would show through (like it would in a collapsible display), and opaque light blocker backings are available.  Because this unit is available in a variety of sizes, the footprint of this unit does change with the size.  As such, if you’re opting for a larger unit, you’ll want to ensure you have adequate depth available at your venue as well.  While the setup for this unit is pretty intuitive, there is some assembly required with this frame, so while one person can easily set this up, you will need to allocate some time before and after the event to assemble and disassemble the hardware.

Click here to check out our Formulate pillowcase displays!

Silicone Edge Graphic Display

Silicone Edge Graphics, or SEG, are a high-quality dye-sublimated fabric graphic with silicone beading sewn into the, you guessed it, edges.  These edges are then fitted into channels along the perimeter of an aluminum frame.  The result is a frameless tension graphic display that is easy to install, interchangeable, and cost-effective to ship.

Cost - Medium - High

Setup Difficulty - Medium - High

Footprint - Medium

Considerations - While the SEG graphic is simple enough to install, the aluminum frame of these units, like the pillowcase graphics, requires some assembly before it’s ready to use.  While assembly is generally straightforward (usually just some Allen wrenching around the frame’s corners), it can be time-intensive regarding setting up and tearing down.  Because this unit uses a lightweight aluminum frame and a foldable graphic, it is among the most cost-effective units to ship.  The lead time of SEG graphics is generally longer than the other backdrop/display options we discussed and is often more expensive than their velcro counterparts.

Click here to check out our SEG displays!


Let’s Get Specific!

Each model discussed above is offered in a variety of custom sizes and materials. With so many options available on the market, finding the step-and-repeat, backdrop, or display that not only meets your branding needs but also aligns with your budget can quickly become overwhelming.  We're always happy to help. If you have questions or want to talk through the various options with one of our experts, just contact us, and we can help you find the best product for your unique event needs!

Zack Malpass
Written by Zack Malpass

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