Before you buy a new trade show exhibit, take stock of what you already own and determine if renovation is a better course.
- Rearrange exhibit elements you own to create something new. It is easiest to do this if you own a modular exhibit. But it is possible to switch around parts and pieces of most custom exhibits as well. And don’t forget about unused components that are left over from other old exhibits. Sometimes a combination of parts from two or three booths that have been in storage can be used to create an entirely new booth.
- Refinish or cover worn booth elements. There are countless exhibit refurbishment options. You can have worn aluminum or metal parts re-anodized or powder coated to make them look brand new or transform them into a new color. Exhibit panels can be re-laminated or re-covered to conceal worn surfaces with other materials. You can even have old display panels covered with magnetic graphics.
- Update hardware and lighting. One of the least expensive ways to update your exhibit is to simply update cabinet hardware and replace outdated light fixtures.
- Update the flooring system. You can purchase a whole new flooring system or remodel your existing flooring to create the impression of newness. A new floor can be anything from new, colorful carpet to adding a raised floor.
- Add a few new elements. The most effective way to refresh an outdated exhibit space is to add a few new components —hanging signs and banner, displays, a conference area, desks, You can even incorporate more elaborate tension-fabric structures to revive your exhibit and give it an up-to-date look.
A few smart, simple changes or additions can quickly and affordably give a tired, outdated exhibit a brand new look.
There are times when the best way to make a visual statement is to break all the rules.
The “normal” best practice for trade show exhibit design is to make the color scheme consistent with the company's brand ID color palette. Since so many companies’ color palettes are blue or red, many trade show floors are dominated by the primary colors – blue, red and yellow. If there are “green” products at the show, then add in some green-brown natural-colored booths to the mix. Breaking out of this pattern can make your booth stand out.
Creating a monochrome exhibit is one rule-breaking strategy that can be brilliant if it is well conceived and carefully designed – or a dismal failure if it is not executed flawlessly.
A monochrome color scheme is created in different shades of a single color. If a monochrome display incorporates dramatic shapes, lighting and/or carefully planned contrasting elements, it can be the most memorable exhibit of the show. But if there are no other design elements to create visual interest, it can be boring and attendees will just pass you by.
Does “monochrome” suit your company’s brand personality and product?
A monochrome color scheme is great to use when innovation is a core part of your brand personality. It can be effective for positioning fashion-forward design and high-tech products, but is inappropriate for most financial services, insurance and health care products. It is also usually a poor choice if your company is known for products with a wide range of colors – whether it is fashion or candy or stock photography. But if a monochrome color scheme does fit your brand personality and your product, it can be a big win. For example, if you are promoting a new kind of pure water filtration system, than a completely clean, blue exhibit can make a bold statement about both your company and its products.
Will a one-color display stand out?
You want your trade show exhibit to stand out from a distance. Think about what other exhibitors are likely to do. To create visual impact with a monochrome exhibit, it is essential that it is a singular experience on the trade show floor. So if your designer proposes a monochrome exhibit, make sure that the approach is original. One entirely white exhibit could be exciting – two white exhibits are almost guaranteed to be boring.
Consider the scale of your exhibit
A monochrome color palette is most effective for mid-sized and large exhibits. In a small exhibit space this is not often an effective design approach.
Incorporate other distinctive visual elements
When you limit the color palette to one dominant color, it is essential to compensate with other design elements that add visual interest. You can incorporate one bold graphic element that is the focal point. You can use dramatic lighting to add dimension to the visual presentation. You can incorporate distinctive display components into the display.
Monochrome trade show exhibits are rare, but when executed brilliantly, can be the most memorable exhibit on the trade show floor.
I read a new research study today and was struck by two findings:
- Trade show attendees are attending fewer shows but staying on the exhibit floor at the ones they attend longer.
- There has been an increase in the number of buying teams attending events.
Both of these behavioral changes have the same purpose – trade show attendees want to get as much accomplished at the shows they attend as possible. As a result, they are doing more targeted, planned vendor evaluation and less browsing. Attendees are scheduling more meetings in advance. They are using their time to more efficiently compare competitors and their products at the show.
There is also a related increase in buying teams attending trade shows. A buying team is comprised of a number of decision makers from a single company who are working together to fully evaluate product and service offerings. They work as a group to make buying decision for their company.
The changes present both a challenge and an opportunity for trade show exhibitors. It is now more important than ever to prepare for a trade show in advance and to make contact with top prospects before the show. If you do not do this, your key prospects may not have time to meet with you during the show.
The challenge is more than offset by the increased opportunity to close more sales at the trade show. Since attendees are now focused on maximizing their time at the show and working more efficiently, they are also making more purchase decisions at the show.
Don’ t get blocked out by your competition. Plan ahead. Make sure to start your trade show marketing effort before the show. And take advantage of this new, emerging opportunity.
There are a lot of similarities between a trade show exhibit and outdoor advertising. You are located on a pathway and people are racing by. They glance to the left and to the right. They have a lot of other things to look at. You only have a few moments to attract their attention. The challenge is very similar to designing a billboard to be placed on a busy Interstate highway.
The best billboards evoke an emotional connection.
They are usually entertaining and often use humor. To be effective billboards must be short, sweet, simple and to the point. Not surprisingly, many of the “rules” for great outdoor advertising design translate to the trade show floor.
- Be relevant or your exhibit will be invisible. Make sure your ads appeal to your target market. Use colors, images and words that will attract them and draw prospects into your exhibit.
- Bright and bold colors are more effective. Bright colors work well, but limit your pallet to two or three at most. Exhibits with multiple bright colors are visually confusing and that reduces the overall effectiveness. Even if you are marketing natural and “green” products, consider using clean blue or bright white rather than the more expected green-brown palette. Green and brown are very likely to recede into the background and have little visual impact unless you compensate for the color palette with other design elements.
- Visibility matters. Make your major exhibit graphics large enough to be seen quickly and from a far distance.
- Use words sparingly and make them easy to read. Use large, legible type. The best bet is solid backgrounds with sharply contrasting type. And unless there is a compelling reason for vertical type, orient your type horizontally – it is easier to read.
- Choose graphics that connect with your target. Select images that will generate the strongest emotion related to your product or service.
Learn more about the Top 10 Trends in booth design and marketing for 2011! Download our Free Tradeshow Trends Report.
I have a friend who always seems to come up with a new, successful angle for every trade show. Recently, I asked her, “How do you do it?” The simple reply, “I always force myself and my team to think outside the box. I challenge everyone involved to do the unexpected and come up with new ways to attract attention and create excitement.”
I thought about this advice for a moment. It rattled around in my head. At first I thought, “I always think outside the box.” Then I started to really evaluate what this common expression means. It is an appealing concept, but is it the right approach for every company, for every brand? And did I really always “think outside the box”? Yes, or at least my goal is always to come up with new ideas and “out of the box” solutions. I just never used that expression to describe my efforts.
What is the “box”?
The trade shows “box” can be big or small. It can have lighting and dramatic banners. It is the expected trade show exhibit, staffed by smiling people representing a company trying to get leads, offering a free gift or a few sample or some sales material. The box is ordinary, stamped out, one after another just the same in different colors. The box is forgettable.
“Outside the box” exhibits
These are the exhibits that give an attendee a new perspective. These are the exhibits that make lasting impressions on the people who see them. To be effective they require more than just being novel, creative ideas; they need to be thoughtful and suitable to the target audience and the brand. Very few trade show exhibits truly rise to this challenge.
Should every company strive to do the unexpected?
As long as the exhibit is consistent with the brand position and brand values, and successfully promotes your products or services, the answer is, “Yes!” It is a real trick to balance inspiring creative with the hard-hitting sales message that this tough economy demands, but when you achieve it, the results can be stunning.
How to get “outside the box” ideas
The first step in creating a breakthrough exhibit is to build a team that shares that commitment. Once you have assembled that team, make sure that they consistently focus on really solving the marketing challenge that faces you in new and interesting ways.
When you are putting together a tradeshow exhibit, think about it as theater. You need to attract an audience, capture their imagination, and leave a memorable impression. To do that you need to set the stage and build an atmosphere that will draw people into your booth – bring them into your show.
You need a great script and the best actors you can find
If you want great reviews, then you need to start with a great script. Then you need “actors” who can bring that script to life and who can improvise. Give them the perfect costumes and a stage setting that builds on your brand story, and your exhibit will draw prospects right into your show.
Don’t be afraid to be dramatic!
Some of the most imaginative, most successful trade show exhibits are done by companies who offer intrinsically boring products and services. They do not have the luxury of relying on people being interested in what they are selling, so they often work much harder to add entertainment value to their exhibit. These are some of the booths with the most creative themes and visual drama.
Go a bit outside the box, push the boundaries. Trade show attendees want to see something new and exciting. Just remember to stay consistent with your brand position and brand values.
Lights, camera, action
Well, OK – lights and action! One way to create visual interest is with your lighting design. Work with your designer to build a lighting concept that presents your ideas in a clear way to focus on your company’s competitive advantages. Take it to the next level by using lighting to do more than spotlight your product, use it to create a spotlighted stage for your booth team.
Make your show a tough act to follow
If you create a real show, your exhibit will be the one that people remember when they walk into your competitors’ booth and when they return to their day-to-day business after the show. It will be the one that they talk to their co-workers and associates about. And, perhaps best of all, it will be one of the exhibits that gets press extending your trade show marketing reach.
Check out these Top 10 Trends to break through the clutter! Get your Free Tradeshow Trends report now!
I attend a lot of trade shows. The exhibits are cluttered and sometimes overwhelmed by banners. There is so much stuff that nothing stands out. Most exhibits have no drama. The few that stand out often have brilliantly designed back walls.
When I design an exhibit, the first thing I think about is how to make a big, powerful graphic statement. For small- to mid-sized booths it often comes down to creating a brilliant back wall and making it the focal point of the entire exhibit.
Here are a few tips for a brilliant back wall
Nothing about your exhibit should be ordinary but an ordinary back wall is a big missed opportunity.
- Make a color statement: Use bright colors and a limited palette. Generally feature two or three colors. If you are using color photography, select or modify photos to create a focal color.
- Keep it simple: Make the design visually arresting but simple.
- Eliminate clutter: Do not put anything on or in front of the back wall that isn’t essential.
- Integrate everything with the back wall: Make sure that the other components of your exhibit are compatible with your back wall. If you have a small exhibit, look for ways to incorporate displays, storage, literature racks and even video monitors into your back wall.
- A back wall does not need to be flat. Incorporate curved panels and other 3-D elements into your back wall to create the illusion that your booth is bigger than it really is.
- Fill it with products: Incorporate displays, clothing racks and product showcases to make your back wall more that a graphic backdrop.
- Add unusual materials: Some of the most eye catching back walls incorporate live plants.
- Lighting really matters: Use backlit signs and displays, pinpoint spots and other light effects to create visual interest and highlight the most important graphic elements of your exhibit.