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The Anatomy of a Trade Show Booth

The trade show you're attending is coming up fast, and your psyched. You already have your wardrobe picked out and have mapped out all the restaurants you want to visit while you're out of the office. (Thank you, Yelp.)

But do you have a game plan for your trade show display yet?

Setting up your trade show booth may seem like an elementary task, but there are lots of aspects to consider in order for your expo experience to be a success. Whether you're a veteran or newbie, dissecting the anatomy of a trade show booth will keep your display fresh and your presentation relevant for your audience. There are more things to think about than just making your booth easy to navigate and informative. You want to stand out in a sea of booths and leave an impression on those that drift your way!

Check out our related videos to learn more!

Before we explore the in's and out's of trade show displays, let's first consider your goal. Beyond gaining leads, what do you hope to achieve by attending this trade show or expo? By establishing the function of your trade show booth, you will more aptly create your trade show booth design.

Trade Show Booth Functions

  • Informative: With an informative booth, your objective is simply to deliver a message. This could be details about your company's services, as would be the case for a doctor's office or beauty salon, or even for a cause, such as raising awareness about cancer prevention or a green community initiative. Because your message has depth, it will be important to feature the high-level points in your trade show design, while also considering creative ways that your text and media can be presented.
  • Product Inventory: Displays for independent consultants for cosmetics or jewelry lines are perhaps the most common examples of presenting product inventory. In this case, on-site revenue is an objective along with lead generation. Achieving a balance of organization and accessibility is the goal. With the wide variety of trade show booth displays available, retailers have the ability to get creative; however, ensuring the space is inviting and highly visible is critical.
  • Product Demonstration: You have the latest cutlery or the best squeegee available on the market, and your booth will absolutely require a product demonstration to gain audience trust. When developing your trade show booth, consider the room for your demonstration as well as space for attendees to listen to your pitch. A hybrid of the Product Demonstration and the Product Inventory booths is optimal so as to display your handful (or less) of wares in a way that is both appealing and highly visible.

Parts of a Trade Show Booth

Now that you've identified the function of your trade show booth, you can drill down into its anatomy. This outline can also serve as a checklist for future events.

1. Branding: The brand is the organization's identity and personality. Therefore everything about your trade show booth should reflect that, including banners, signs, tablecloth colors and what you plan to wear. Professionalism is important, but the design needs to emulate your brand's personality. A doctor's office may have a clean, upscale look to promote a capable, experienced persona. In contrast, a local hipster pub may feature funky decorations and have their hosts wear jeans to create a fun, inviting experience. Regardless of the theme or tone, uniqueness will always be acknowledged by attendees. Choosing a stand-out display may be the ticket or turning a basic structure into an imaginative environment may win over your attendees. The deciding factor for all of your trade show booth ideas should be your audience.

2. Layout & Design: When choosing your actual trade show display, it's critical to consider a number of elements first. The physical location--whether you're indoors or outdoors--greatly affects your purchasing decision. Furthermore, the actual space that you've reserved (or the size you most commonly reserve) will limit your display options. Showing up with a clunky, cumbersome display will not only be a struggle for you but will also be a deterrent for trade show attendees. In some cases, your trade show space is selected for you, which can pose added challenges. You may find yourself alone at the end of a row or in a high-traffic area where it's difficult to get people to stop by. Shifting your display, making small layout adjustments and reducing clutter may encourage more visitors to stop and chat. One simple addition (if permitted) is incorporating lighting into your trade show display. Dim ballrooms can put a damper on the ambiance. With simple lighting fixtures, you can draw extra attention to your space that's now more welcoming and easier to see! Photographers, wedding venues and anyone offering consultative services may also want to consider comfortable seating to engage visitors in a quick, friendly dialogue.

3. Technology: Because you're already working hard to interact with the public, it's important that you work smarter, which is why we recommend incorporating technology into your trade show booth design. Your message may reach more people with a short video or slideshow presentation on a monitor, for example. You may even ask your attendees to interact with a tablet or laptop in order to capture their contact information. A popular new way to engage people on the spot and after they move past your display, is through social media. Increase online engagement by enticing prospects to like or follow your profile page. You might even create a hashtag to collect messages, photos and videos of people interacting with your brand. It's also fair to say that intelligence, competency and progressiveness are traits that can be inferred from the use of technology. Additionally, there's an element of intrigue when technology is incorporated into the experience; having an added draw doesn't hurt.

4. Giveaways: If we could ask you to promise something, it would be to not wait until the last minute to purchase your giveaways. Giveaways or promotional products have great marketing potential when carefully selected in advance. Your audience must again be considered as the ultimate gauge for your selection. Are you looking to gain as many impressions as possible, or do you want to make a huge impression on key, strategic contacts? (To learn more about using promotional products at trade shows, check out our Marketing Smart with Giveaways post.) Another giveaways you'll want to consider are handouts: business cards, postcards, coupons, rack cards, and so on. Although traditional, they are still highly effective and widely used. Don't overlook this simple tool that could capture leads long after the trade show is over.

Attending a trade show is much more than a couple nights out of the office; it's a chance to jump-start your sales and marketing in a live, personable arena. The cost of attending trade shows is usually considered an investment and so should the development of the booth--and perception--you hope to create.


Pre-Event Tip: Many trade shows and expos offer opportunities to advertise with banners, signs, a program listing and website ads. Inquire about these offerings well in advance so as not to miss a chance to really stand out. If this is a bust, find out if you can get a list of the registrants. In some instances, you can gain this valuable information to schedule strategic meetings in advance or to pre-plan your follow-up strategy.

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