The most innovative brands, such as Samsung and Adobe, have a few things in common when it comes to producing and executing their corporate marketing events and trade shows. Mainly, they’ve learned to leverage the increasingly popular share economy market to their advantage. These familiar brands have reaped the benefits of the Access Model at face-to-face marketing events, leaving the cumbersome ownership of exhibit assets in the dust.

What is The Access Model?

Steelhead’s Access Model is a modern economic concept disrupting the trade show industry. Born from the booming sharing economy, the Access Model makes exhibiting easier by untethering exhibiting companies from the burden of owning assets that depreciate in value as soon as they’re constructed.  

Busting the myths of boring trade show exhibit rentals, our Access Model allows event marketers to create environments for the moment, by simply renting versus owning assets. A trade show in 2023 will not be the same trade show in 2024, and we believe your exhibit should reflect that.  

Based on three principles, our Access Model delivers:  

  1. Flexibility
  1. Creativity
  1. Sustainability  

Our favorite analogy for access is Spotify. This app essentially replaces your CD collection. Not only that, but its premium membership eliminates ads and allows users to play a song on demand. Spotify has changed the way we access music; how we listen to it, how we store it, and how we share it with our favorite people.  

By developing proven design and operational processes for the Access Model, Steelhead has become the Spotify for trade show booths.


Why should event marketers choose the Access Model?

Sean Combs, President & CEO of Steelhead Productions, is considered one of the pioneers of the access model for trade shows and exhibits.

According to Sean, “We have literally looked at this from every angle: cost, creativity, sustainability and the flexibility to move at or ahead of the speed of the market. And I can honestly say there is no circumstance in which owning an exhibit any longer makes sense given the smart options available.”

A bold claim, we know! Here’s how our trade show clients have found repeated success in utilizing the Access Model.



Buying a booth comes with a substantial up-front investment. In most cases, companies that buy a booth must use it for three to five years to justify the start-up costs. During this time, companies are responsible for managing and paying for the booth’s shipping, handling, storage, setup, teardown, maintenance, and repair logistics. Those costs typically add up to 10-20% of the total booth cost incurred annually.

Booth ownership lacks a crucial element for modern event marketers: flexibility.  

Custom booth rentals allow you to create the perfect booth for the perfect price at every trade show you attend. It allows you to maximize your exhibit’s marketing potential, eliminates the stress associated with operations and logistics, and guarantees that you don’t go over budget on expected fees.


No two trade shows are the same. So why should your booth design and experience be? Your trade show exhibit should reflect the dynamic nature of your brand.  

Renting a booth through the Access Model unlocks the ability for dynamic design. Because your budget isn’t tied up in the investment of a booth, you have the freedom to work with your design agency in creating environments for each and every moment.  

The most effective marketing campaigns capitalize on a specific moment. Each trade show you attend represents one of those moments. If you’re approaching that opportunity by dusting off a booth you’ve owned for three years, you’re missing out.


Did you know the trade show industry generates 600,000 tons of waste each year?

A significant portion comes from owned booths used once or twice and then tossed in a dumpster.

The Access Model for exhibiting is sustainable because:  

  • You’re generating less waste at each trade show
  • The exhibits are made from sustainable materials
  • The exhibit components are used by another brand when you’re not using them
  • Partnering with the trade show industry’s only North American Certified B-Corp means working with a business that has proven to balance purpose and profit and has initiatives to repurpose one-time-use items.
The Steelhead Difference  

What we hear most often is that brand event marketers assume that an access exhibit model decreases the flexibility in the exhibit design and audience experience. And frankly, some exhibit providers are operating under this limitation.  

The Steelhead difference is that our clients are not limited to our rental inventory.

“When we engage in design input calls with our customers, if there’s something needed for the exhibit that we don’t have in our inventory, we look at these requests as an opportunity for a joint venture. This means Steelhead invests in designing and building the custom asset while our customers pay the market rental price,” explains Sean.  

For event marketers looking to adopt the Access Model for their trade show program, rest assured that you’re not just choosing from a catalog. We stand by the creativity principle of our model and invest in the items that will make an impact in the exhibit experience.  

Closing Thoughts

We’ve harnessed the top benefits of access exhibiting — flexibility, creativity, and sustainability — to provide award-winning designs, impactful messaging for each unique event, and WOW-factor experiences for brands such as Samsung, Adobe, Cox Communications, and CARFAX.  

By sharing our resources with these innovative companies, they’ve accomplished a strong brand presence at their events, engaged with their prospects and customers in a unique and functional space, and significant cost savings by not owning any cumbersome exhibit assets.  

It’s time to re-evaluate your trade show and corporate event program as we move into the future. Interested in learning how an access exhibit model can benefit your event marketing strategy? Schedule a brief intro call here.  

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