Alexis Exhibits

Avoid Being Part of the “Boring Sea of Tradeshow Sameness”

I attend a lot of trade shows – hardware, books, electronics, men’s wear, food service, medical equipment, etc. – if there is a trade show, odds are I’ve probably been to it. It’s part of my job. Sometimes it is a delightful part of what I do – but all too often I can walk an entire trade show floor and not see one new, inspiring idea.

So far this year at the shows I have attended, I have found that most booths are professional looking and nicely designed but I often don’t remember anything the minute I move on to the next aisle. The words that come to mind: boring, formulaic, and devoid of any discernable brand personality.

Everything is perfectly planned, so why aren’t you more successful?

You have a great location for the show – right up front, with lots of traffic. You have a beautifully designed booth that is uncluttered and well-merchandised. You have great people who know that a positive attitude is essential. Yet people just keep passing by, and don’t even slow down.

Ask yourself, why should someone stop at your booth?

Think about what it is like to attend this show or conference. After three hours of seminars and speeches, the conference attendees finally get a break. They enter the exhibit hall and are greeted with hundreds of booths and the din of people chattering, music and sales presentations. They quickly walk down the aisles and select a few booths to visit. What can you do to make your booth one of those stops?

Avoid being part of this “boring sea of sameness”?

Do something different and unexpected. Break out of the “just another trade show exhibit” pack. And do it in a way that sells your product and builds your brand. I know it is much easier said than done, but here are a few breakout ideas:

  • Entertainment: If it is appropriate to your overall message and product, hire a professional performer to be part of your booth but give it a twist. One small book publisher was promoting a new series of activity books include a book on juggling. They secured two booths located directly across from each other. Then they hired a two-person comedy juggler team who did a juggling show across the aisle. It was hard for anyone who saw this simple spectacle to pass them by without stopping. More importantly, it was hard to forget that the publisher had a juggling book coming out.
  • Create a place to “escape” from the show. Provide a place to really relax that gives you a sales opportunity. Many exhibitors provide comfortable seating or have conference tables with chairs for meeting with prospects or set up beverage bars with stools. This just creates a place to relax and avoid a sales message. Often it creates a place for your staff to sit where no one can see them. The breakout idea is to incorporate the escape into the overall sales message. A travel incentive company who promotes South Pacific Getaways created a tropical beach getaway with a couple real palm trees, some fresh exotic flowers, beach chairs and tropical beverages. They added ambient sound with tropical birds and waves and simple lighting effects. The staff was dressed in tropical business attire and was actively engaged in greeting people and answering questions – they were not relaxing at the beach, they were smiling, attentive and working all the time. It was the most popular place at the entire show. Everyone who entered received a “Tourist Guide and Passport” that provided information about the company’s travel incentives.
  • Incorporate an interactive demonstration. Make your booth interactive and experiential by turning the sales process into an active, dynamic experience. It doesn’t need to be a technological wonder and it should always involve 1-to-1 interaction between the sales staff and the prospect. Have something unusual for people to do, touch, smell or even taste. Bring your products to life with interactive demonstrations that focus on the key sales proposition. And if you do incorporate technology, make sure that it is not complete “self-service”. A medical technology company used an Interactive 3D display to allow prospects to explore their product, zoom, see internal mechanics, and even go a simulated “test drive”. The 3D simulation provided the company the opportunity to introduce key prospects to a very costly medical device but required some assistance from the booth staff so that there was a natural opportunity to start a dialog.
  • Everybody wins. If you are going to have a prize drawing, come up with something more enticing than a fishbowl for the entries and a random drawing sometime in the future when most of the entrants are already left the show. Attendees remember events, games, and competitions. One clever exhibitor created an “everybody wins” contest with thousands of prizes. Instead of being just another booth with a free logoed giveaway, they enticed people into entering their booth and spinning a gigantic wheel of fortune. Even most of the people who won the smallest prize – a promotional item with the company’s name, website, and phone number – remembered the company because they won their prize.
  • Open and inviting. The simplest way to increase the effectiveness of your trade show marketing is to open up your booth. Get rid of the table across the front and get rid of any barriers. Eliminate all the clutter. Design your trade show exhibit for graphic impact with large, attractive images and clean, simple and bold elements that will draw one’s attention. Add dramatic lighting and motion that welcomes people into your booth.

Have you seen any unique and enticing booth ideas that created buzz on the exhibition floor and attracted visitors?

Watch Out For End Cap Booth Spaces At Your Next Trade Show

In a grocery store or other retail shops, it is very desirable to have your product placed on an “end cap” (the very end of an aisle). This position provides a great deal more traffic, keeps you from being right next to your competition, and has been proven to increase sales.

Many marketing managers take this experience in retail and put it to use in selecting exhibit space at a trade show, choosing “end cap” spaces, or “peninsula booths” in trade show jargon. This is not always a wise decision. If you look closely at the floor plan of a trade show, you’ll see that the vast majority of these spaces face cross aisles. Most cross aisles are not a great choice for traffic. Attendees typically use cross aisles to get from one main aisle to another, which means they are looking towards their destination and may completely miss your display.

Another consideration is the display restrictions that apply to peninsula booths. Most of these spaces are 20′ x 20′. Standard tradeshow booth space rules provide for a 5′ line of sight area along main aisles. This means that you cannot install displays over waist high within 5 feet of an aisle that is adjacent to another exhibit. In the case of a peninsula booth, you will lose about a quarter of your exhibit space because of this restriction. This needs to be considered as you design your booth and may mean that you will be unable to use some or all of your existing display.

The best thing to do is to carefully review the tradeshow rules before selecting an exhibit space. In my experience, you should select a space based on where you think you’ll get the most traffic, and while it might, the end cap doesn’t always come out on top.

Tradeshow Exhibit Packaging 101

Tradeshow exhibits can be packaged in a variety of ways including:

  • Crates
  • Skids or pallets
  • Molded plastic cases
  • Or no packaging at all, (pad wrapped)


The vast majority of custom or modular trade show exhibits are packed in crates. Properly constructed crates reduce the likelihood of damage and can greatly enhance the useful life of the display. The downside of crates is the cost (usually around $1,500 each for average sizes) and the weight of the crates (around 300 pounds each). While properly designed crates will take full advantage of the space in a truck, their weight will add cost to shipping (if based on weight) and material handling. Crated displays can usually avoid the “special handling” fees charged for material handling.


Skids or Pallets

Skids are essentially crates without sides or a top. They are easily moved with a forklift and are commonly used when the items are too big or bulky to fit in a crate, e.g., structural beams, truss, furniture and rolls of carpet and padding. The disadvantages to skids are that they are difficult or impossible to stack, increasing storage and shipping costs, and they do not afford the protection that crates do. Skids do reduce shipping weight when compared to crates.

Molded Cases

Manufactured exhibit systems and portable displays often pack in molded plastic cases. In some instances, the cases are compartmentalized to secure the individual parts of the display. Manufactured displays break down into smaller pieces that lend themselves to being packed into these pre-engineered containers. They are much lighter than crates and are very durable. Some displays that are packed in multiple molded cases are then stacked on skids for ease of handling on the show floor.

Pad Wrapped

Some exhibits are shipped as individual pieces without crates or skids. The items are wrapped with packing pads and loaded into moving vans just like household goods are handled. This process adds considerable time to the packing, loading and unloading process and increases the likelihood of damage, but might be worth considering in some cases.

Trade show display packaging is not as simple as it might seem, as there are many variables involved in deciding which method will be most cost-effective. Your exhibit supplier should be able to describe how your exhibit is going to be packaged and why. A detailed cost comparison of each option, accounting for all potential areas of impact on cost, might be of value before you make a decision.

How to Make Exhibits Eco-Friendly

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), trade shows are the #2 producer of waste in the U.S., following the construction industry, a dubious honor indeed. So what can you do as an exhibitor to be more environmentally responsible? Though it would be difficult, if not impossible, to have a tradeshow exhibit that’s is 100% sustainable, the goal of many companies is to move more in the “green” direction. Doing so might not be as difficult as it once was as many exhibit companies are now offering more and more sustainable exhibits.

What makes it eco-friendly? Good question. Let’s take a look at some of the options for companies wanting to create eco-friendly exhibits.

One way to reduce waste is to choose exhibits made from materials that are eco-friendly, meaning they are made of renewable, recycled and sustainable materials. The frames of exhibit systems can be made out of aluminum, which is 100% recyclable. Substrates, panels, banner stands can be constructed out of other recyclable materials, such as Sorghum, bamboo, PET plastic, cardboard, and biodegradable foam board.

Another huge energy waster is lighting. Choose LED lighting instead, which reduces energy usage by 90%. Exhibitors can even go green on the printing on displays by using low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) inks and eco materials.

Lest we forget shipping, many exhibit companies are offering shipping cases that are made entirely of recycled plastic so the entire case can be recycled. These are also often very lightweight, again reducing the amount of energy, or carbon footprint, associating with shipping it.