From a purely business perspective, trade shows are great for awareness, brand-building and connecting with potential customers. They’re opportunities for people to learn all about you and your organization and hopefully create a fine first impression, especially if you and your team are all fueled up and ready to wow them with your knowledge and expertise. However, at a trade show, you’re also in the middle of a sea of potential competitors and you need to stand out.
Of course, as any good visual designer will tell you, what you say is important, but the visual appeal of your tradeshow booth really plays a larger role in getting people excited.
Your booth is a visual extension of your company, so everything about it must let people quickly identify who you are and what you have to offer. Unless someone is there specifically to meet you or see your booth, they’ll likely be “walking the floor” checking out all the companies whose booths catch their eye. If they’re not instantly wowed by yours, they may just continue to the next one.
If you’re starting from scratch, there are a few important elements to consider.
Size and Configuration
Whether you are booking a 6’ table, an 8×10, 10×20, or 20×40, you want to give some thought to what you want people to do at your booth and how they’ll interact with both the space and the people manning it. Do you want people to enter the booth space? Will they move through it? Or will you be talking to people who will mostly be on the aisle? The space should strike a balance between being sparse and being over-crowded. When done well, the graphics provide direction and visual cues to visitors, showing them how to engage with or move through the booth.
Also, will you need seating or a consultation area in the booth? Will your staff be sitting with people or having long discussions? If so, do you want that environment to be formal or casual? Your choice of booth “furniture” should complement the overall design and tone.
You will not be able to control ambient lighting in the hall or room that your booth will be set up in so make sure that the materials you use aren’t overly reflective. And, consider using supplementary lighting to highlight portions of your booth, make it visible or make it stand out.
Visibility and Readability
Use imagery and graphics that will be eye-catching from – at best – across the room or, at minimum, from several feet away. Remember that text should be readable from a distance; and be judicious with text. The display doesn’t have to do all the communication for you. It simply provides an opening for your staff to start a conversation with passersby.
Also, consider that the exhibit hall will be crowded and height may be your friend. If a show allows, consider hanging signs or hanging banners, either hung from the ceiling or truss to draw attention to your space.
Tradeshow booths can be made from a variety of materials, from the simple to the elaborate and can be customized to meet your exact needs. When it comes to materials, you want to consider two things. First, the most economical display or materials may not pay off in the long run, if it’s got to do heavy lifting over a long haul. Second, consider the ease or complexity of setup and teardown. Will the display be assembled by a small crew of non-technical people? Or will a construction crew be used to build and disassemble the booth? The answers to those questions will provide a great deal of direction on the right materials for your booth.
Be sure you use your company colors everywhere. If you can choose the colors of the drapery or table skirts or supply your own, use materials that closely match your logo or brand colors. If the venue makes everyone use the same color, find other ways to get the color and logo in, such as a banner or backdrop to cover the draperies.
Make any printed materials or give-aways match the brand as well. People love tradeshow giveaways, so make sure any promotional items also match your brand, colors, and logo. This is likely to be the way someone will remember your company after the show.