Convention Expo Booth Display Case Lighting Ideas and Info

Convention LED Display Lighting booth

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Lighting for art and jewelry display at the convention expo trade shows is an essential and critical consideration. Take a look around most art shows or jewelry expo venues and you will find a vast array of different lighting selections. Industry experts will tell you that jewelry specifically is very difficult to exhibit properly under any kind of artificial lighting. The goal for the art and jewelry convention vendor is to have vibrant colors and in the case of jewelry, to have brilliant white diamonds as well as vibrant colors. The object of this article is to give you an introduction to the various solutions available for lighting art booths and jewelry display cases. No matter what type of items you sell, proper booth lighting will attract buyers from across the venue, like a bear to honey. Too many vendors spend a lot of money making mistakes with expo lighting because there is not one specific cure for this difficult lighting problem. The problems to overcome are numerous when dealing with lighting for your convention booth. Cost, reliability, storage space and ease of setup are foremost considerations for your trade show lighting solution. Other things to consider in your convention booth is wattage, weight, brightness, aesthetics, quality of the light and its effect on your merchandise. In this article we will explore the pros and cons of LED vs halogen, pop up lighting vs track lighting and specialty booth lighting solutions. All of these solutions are frequently seen at various fine art and jewelry exhibits. Which one is the best for your needs is what this article will attempt to answer for you.

Trade Show Light Bulbs

Light Bulbs- It is amazing all of the different types of bulbs that are available on the market today. Fortunately, only a few of them are really useful for trade show expo booth lighting. In general, to create a quality display, you will probably end up using some form of LED or halogen bulbs. To understand the correct one for your use it will be helpful to understand the pros and cons for each. First, you need to understand some basic terms which I will elaborate on.

What is a Lumen? A lumen is a measurement of brightness. One lumen is the equivalent of one candle power. A 50 watt halogen bulb will typically emit 500 lumens of warm colored light or the equivalent of 500 candles worth of light.

What is a Kelvin? A kelvin is the measurement of temperature. Light bulbs vary in the temperature the light spectrum will emit, varying from cool to warm. LEDs are typically cool and have a blue cast to them. Halogens are very warm and will have a red cast to them. Kelvin is a scale that ranges from 2000 parentheses red to 7000 parentheses blue.The color of light ranges from cool to warm. This is represented in kelvins (K). Halogens are on the warm side of the kelvin scale at 2600K. Sunlight is 4800K which is considered “natural balanced” light.

What is a Watt? A watt is a measure of electrical power consumption. The voltage of your bulb, multiplied by the current (in amps) equals watts so V x A = Watt. Understanding wattage is very important because most trade show expo booths have a very limited electrical supply available. Some trade show expo venues in Vegas, Chicago, and New York to name a few places, will charge you per 1000 watts. If you needed 3000 watts for your lights, you will have to pay triple the 1000 watt electrical hook up fee. We all want it brighter, so efficiency is so important for trade show convention booth lighting.

What is a Halogen Bulb? Halogens draw significant power but emit good light (aka lumens) with a wide spectrum. A 50 watt halogen bulb will typically emit 450 lumens of warm colored light. Halogens are a mainstay for convention lighting since they put out a broad spectrum of light, and halogen spotlights are focused to put more light on a smaller area. Halogens do have their share of drawbacks though. First they tend to get very hot and I have personally recorded temperatures of over 350 degrees on various halogen bulbs. Numerous venues in Las Vegas now have serious restrictions on halogen bulbs they were the cause of a fire at a convention center in Las Vegas years ago. Halogens when installed correctly are very safe and have been used for many years. Halogen bulbs also tend to produce a warm spectrum and this is good in some situations but for displaying diamonds and artwork it is not. They will cast a yellowish tint to the display exhibition which in the case of a diamond display is not good at all. Halogen bulbs will tend to be warm in the 3000k range but specialty halogens are made by many manufactures that will be almost neutral at 4800 kelvin. General Electric and Solux make some of the best halogen bulbs for art and jewelry convention expo displays. Halogen bulbs will typically last for about 3000 hours of burn time. In my experience 3000 hours equates to 2-3 years of doing 20 shows a year. Halogen lights do not produce a high quality light like LED lights do. The reason for this is halogen and metal halide lights spend 70% of their energy making heat and only 30% of their energy is left to produce light.

What is a Led? The LED bulb draws very little power and puts out a good amount of light. The greatest asset for LED lighting is the excellent lumen per watt ratio. An 8 watt led will produce as many lumens as a 50 watt halogen, and even better, they produce almost no heat at all. The average 8 watt LED bulb will run warm at 110 degrees vs 540 degrees for a halogen. A 8 watt LED will average 90 lumens per watt. LEDs can be ordered in a wide range of colors. Jewelry display booths would look their best with 2800K (warm) to 5000K (neutral) to 6000K (cool). LED bulbs will also last a VERY LONG time. The average lifespan is 30000 hours or 20 shows a year for 20 years or more. Some require the use of a transformer but most standard bulbs have the transformer built into the bulb. Some specialty LED bulbs and high power LED solutions may require an external transformer. LED lighting produces such a high quality light because 90% of its energy is spent producing light and only 10% of its energy is spent making heat.


Trade Show Lighting Fixtures


Clip on lights are a simple and inexpensive solution when a small amount of light needs to be cast on an individual piece of art or a small area of space. Clip on lights are usually a clip with a shaft and a shield that can hold various type of bulbs. The downside is all of the unsightly cords and the time it takes to set up. While this is a good solution for a very small scale exhibit display, it is not a viable solution for the professional jewelry vendor or larger trade show expo display booth.


Architects lamp for trade show booth

Architect lamps are frequently seen at trade shows and convention expos due to their low cost, high lumens and relatively low power consumption. The typical architects light has a spring-loaded arm and a clamp to attach to the table. It will accept 150 watt halogen bulbs and put out a lot of light but it is warm color. They run at 2700 kelvin and are very hot to the touch because it is halogen. The new LED variance of this old classic draw much less power and puts out a much better quality of light with almost no heat at all. The LEDs are substantially better than the halogen bulb.


LED free-standing lights are ideally suited for a lot of trade show booths and for trade show tents. They are compact, lightweight, and easy to set up while putting out a lot of light. A 10 foot trade show booth would only require one or two freestanding LEDs to light up the entire booth. When lighting a display booth with freestanding halogens on the other hand you will draw a lot of power and it gets very hot in the convention booth. Recently released LED versions of free standing halogens do not get hot and typically draw about 50 watts of power. They put out the same amount of light as a 500 watt halogen bulb. This new breed of LEDs sometimes requires an external transformer but that is not always the case because most are self cooling. Many trade show venues have banned the use of bulbs that produce excessive heat and have high power consumption requirements. LED bulbs are LAS Vegas approved but most halogens are not.


trade show track lighting

Track lighting is another solution that is often employed for the trade show expo booth. It is relatively low cost, is very flexible with the bulbs it can handle and if using LEDs can be very bright using minimal power. Track lighting for your trade show booth will require some type of support system such as aluminum poles. The aluminum frame works are readily available online or to be rented at larger art shows and jewelry convention expo venues. Booth track lighting drawbacks are the amount of time it takes to set up properly and they tend to sag if not properly supported. Keep in mind your storage space requirements when selecting length of track.



Convention Truss Lighting System

Truss systems would be considered for larger booths, typically 50 foot and larger would employ a truss system. Aluminum truss systems are a beautiful and heavy duty framework that can hang a wide variety of lights from track lighting to stage spot lighting and everything in between. These are big, relatively heavy and expensive but are one of the very few solutions available for a convention booths 50 foot or larger. If you travel in a large van or something as large as a semi-truck you would consider trust lighting as your solution.


LED lighting strips designed for the inside of a display case are becoming very popular. These long narrow strips with embedded LED’s which are bright, very clean looking, and they will make your items explode with brilliance. Typically these display case lights should put out about 200 lumens per foot and cost about $30 ft. Don’t forget that this is only part of a total lighting solution as you will need light above your display cases too.


Convention LED lighting portable aluminum light bar




This one is easy since is the latest addition to this category. Designed for Convention and Trade show vendors to be portable, powerful and professional. Consider this as a great upgrade to your booth lighting. The mixture of LED and Halogen bulbs creates an amazing light that looks and feels like sunlight. This system allows you to change bulbs on the fly, to create lighting conditions on a case by case basis. Warmer light for colored stones, and whiter light for diamonds. Your booth will never have looked so good.


Do not forget your extension cords for your expo booth and do not buy the two prong extension cords. Most show venues will not allow older two prong power cords so buy quality 3 prong cables from your local home improvement store.

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