There are ins and outs and pros and cons to all the various types of trade show booth layouts, and determining which layout will deliver the best results for your company can be a difficult task. Evaluating your company’s needs and objectives will be your first step in determining which exhibit floor plans will work best for you.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the more popular tradeshow exhibit layouts and the pros and cons of each to make that decision easier. Keep in mind, however, that variables exist between each layout type. Exhibitors can change each layout’s components, size, and positioning and mix and match layouts and elements to suit different situations.
Consists of a large, central structure with a series of independent elements (kiosks, demo stations, graphics, product displays) surrounding it.
Pros: This layout offers a strong visual presence, and its simplicity and lack of walls helps draw in visitors. Also works well for displaying multiple small products.
Cons: The layout’s central structure blocks view across the booth and offers only one spot for a single, high-impact statement or slogan. As far as traffic, this layout requires careful staffing to encourage visitors to explore the whole booth.
Typically used when one message or product needs to be featured; all other elements are directed toward one main focal point.
Pros: This layout offers easy access to focal point of booth and offers great impact for main marketing message or slogan. Allows easy access to main focus of booth.
Cons: This layout type offers little flexibility over time and single focus makes it hard to hold attendees’ interest for very long. Central focus of exhibit can attract so much traffic to cause congestion.
The underlying purpose of this layout is to show some form of a presentation. Rather than walls, it uses dividers along the sides and demo stations or kiosks along the back.
Pros: Layout drives all attention toward presentation and openness encourages visitors who shun enclosed presentations. Allows strong medium for message delivery and partitions can display smaller, tangent messages.
Cons: Singular focus prevents highlighting multiple products. Offers no capture effect and quick exits after presentations difficult to prevent.
Also referred to as a closed exhibit, this layout type uses some type of material to create a fully or semi-enclosed environment within the booth space.
Pros: Interior offers quiet off-floor environment and exterior walls can attract attention and deliver messaging. Allows complete control over entry and exit of visitors. Exhibit walls offer lots of space for graphics.
Cons: Attendees can’t see main focus until they step inside and limited entrances discourage walk-up traffic. Main entrance clogs easily and confusion can result from too many messages.
This layout deconstructs formal floor plans in an effort to look unique and consists of an arbitrary arrangement of shapes, activities and elements.
Pros: Allows use of multiple products and presentation media. Permits many levels of messaging.
Cons: Prevents highlighting one central focus and multiple messages can cause chaos that work against proper message delivery. Confusing layout can be difficult to navigate and traffic can clog at focal point.
All large structures are pushed to the aisles to create an open, inviting environment in the center for casual conversation and product displays.
Pros: Offers open and inviting interior space that allows all elements to be seen at once. Openness encourages attendees to wander and explore; visitors are free to leave as easily as they enter. Allows placement of large graphic displays.
Cons: Doesn’t offer one main focal point. Central elements can draw too much traffic, causing congestion.
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With the U.S. economy still climbing its way out of the doldrums of recession, many organizations are increasingly thinking global, looking to expand their businesses into emerging foreign markets. Exhibiting overseas is one of the fastest and most cost effective ways to identify the best foreign markets for your company’s products and services.
Exhibiting internationally introduces many new challenges for organizations and requires thorough research to determine which ones will attract your target market. A good starting point is the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service (FSC), part of the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
If you’re the person put in charge of exhibit management at your company, you need to do your research to make sure your company’s significant investment into international trade shows isn’t a waste of time and money. Tactics that have proven successful in trade show exhibiting in the U.S. might fall flat in another country.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when exhibiting internationally:
Hire a translator. Probably the most important step is to hire an expert (preferably native-born) translator who not only understands the language but the culture of the country and its people. This person will prove instrumental in helping fine-tune your company’s marketing message, slogans and marketing collateral to assure that your message is effectively delivered to this new audience.
Hire a designer. It might also be a good idea to hire a local designer who understands how this foreign market will interpret the colors, design, symbols, logo, and look of your exhibit. For example, one color might be considered lucky or prosperous in one country, yet might symbolize something completely different or have a negative connotation in another.
Check on technical and safely standards. Before you commit to a foreign show, make sure your products comply with international technical and safety standards, which may vary slightly from those in the U.S. Another important consideration is power requirements. When exhibiting overseas, your electrical equipment might need to be adapted to different power voltage outlets.
When in Rome… Things are done differently in other countries. Be sensitive to how business is conducted and how decisions are made in the host country. Read up on proper business etiquette, how the sales process typically works, and the nuances of relationship building there. In Japan, for example, a handshake at the end of a business meeting is as good as a signed contract.
Exhibiting at an international trade show can bring big benefits and open up an entirely new market for your company’s products or services. A savvy planner, however, must do their homework well in advance.
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Many organizations don’t realize they can test the waters when it comes to tradeshow exhibits, renting before they commit to buy. For some companies, however, especially those that know they will be exhibiting multiple times throughout the year, buying might be the best and most cost-efficient option.
Let’s take a look at some of the rationale behind why companies chose to rent over buying and vice versa. There are pros and cons to both approaches.
If your company has never before exhibited at a trade show or are fairly inexperienced with trade shows, you might want to consider renting the first time around. After your first experience, you’ll have a much better idea of what your company’s needs will be for future shows in terms of space, size, design, functionality, etc. You’ll also have a better sense of if participating in trade shows will help your company meet its marketing objectives.
Renting the first time will also give you the opportunity to check out what your competitors are doing as far as exhibits. You don’t want to have the exact same booth as your competitor. Your company needs to stand out amidst the sea of competing exhibits to drive traffic and draw in prospective customers.
Another reason to rent is your company simply cannot afford to buy its own exhibit. Tradeshow booths can cost thousands of dollars, so unless your company has a proven track record of success at trade shows, you might want to rent. Hopefully after a few successful forays into trade shows, your organization will be able to financially justify the purchase of its own trade show booth.
If your company regularly exhibits at trade shows, even if it’s twice a year, then it simply doesn’t make sense not to own your own booth. Rental fees quickly add up, so if your company is committed to participate in multiple trade shows or events throughout the year, purchasing your own booth makes good financial sense.
Experience at past trade shows also means you have a solid understanding of what type of booth your company would require; overall footprint and layout, size of actual booth space your company is reserving for each show, and overall type of design. Chances are you also have checked out your competition’s trade show exhibits and know what your company will need in terms of its own booth to stand out.
Keep in mind that many exhibit companies will allow you to put the money you spend on a booth rental towards the ultimate purchase of a booth. In this way, renting before buying is a great way to experiment with different booth designs and see what works for your company before diving in and making the investment in your own tradeshow booth.
Every industry has its norms. At a medical industry show, the show floor will resemble a tranquil sea of blues and whites, colors that convey cleanliness and reliability. At technology industry shows you’ll see lots of bright colors, bold graphics and eye-popping presentations on flat-screen monitors. While every industry has its norm, the reality is that in order to make your booth get noticed by attendees, the last thing you want to do is to blend in with competing booths.
So how do you differentiate your exhibit so attendees will be captivated long enough for your booth staff to engage them and deliver your company’s marketing message? In order to successfully achieve your company’s trade show objectives, whether that is generating sales leads or educating a new market about your products or services, the first step is to garnering the attention of prospective customers.
Many companies exhibiting at trade shows make the classic mistake of trying to fit in with other exhibitors. Perhaps it’s your company’s first foray into a particular market or event. You want your company to look like it can play in the same sandbox with other big players in the market. The problem is fitting in isn’t going to help your company stand out amidst its competitors.
Here are a few ways in which you can differentiate your company’s exhibit.
Color: Avoid the standard color palette of the industry. Choosing a unique color scheme for your booth is a simple way to visually set your booth apart from the other booths. Be careful, however, and do your research before picking a color scheme. Different colors convey certain messages that might not align with your trade show objectives or your marketing message.
Structure: Be creative here and don’t settle for a standard exhibit configuration. If your competition typically uses a booth layout with formal meeting areas/rooms, go for a casual lounge feel instead. If competing booths are very geometric and angular, go for a free-flowing, airy feel with a fabric structure featuring organic shapes and soft, curvy lines.
Lighting: One way to breathe new life into an older exhibit is to enhance or change up the lighting scheme. Be creative here as well. Colored lights can add pizzazz and be a real attention-getter. Soft lighting can create a calm, intimate setting.
Product Displays: Don’t overcrowd surfaces with product displays. Again, take note of what your competitors are doing. Use creativity to highlight your products in a way your competitors aren’t. Again, the purpose is to get your booth to stand out so attendees will pause long enough to notice your products and marketing message.
Booth staff: It’s important to put together a “front line” offense when it comes to your booth staff. Don’t staff your booth with temp workers or new employees. Bring out your “big guns,” which typically means your product development folks who can speak at great length—not just about your products, but those of your competitor’s and industry pain points as well.
A reality of the past several years of recession is that companies across all industries have had to tighten their belts when it comes to marketing initiatives. One of the biggest and most costly pieces of the marketing pie is trade show exhibition. Marketers and exhibit managers are then faced with a challenge. How do they increase sales and bottom-line revenue without the resources to amp up their marketing efforts?
Borne out of necessity and a lack of monetary influx into their existing budgets, many marketers and exhibit managers have found creative ways to do just that. And, it’s no magic trick. Simple cost cutting measures that help shift resources and re- allocate money into areas of your company’s marketing efforts that can deliver the most benefits and payoff during economic downturns, such as trade shows.
Here are a few ways you can cut money out of your exhibit budget:
Buy, don’t rent. Renting accessories, equipment and individual components (display racks, folding chairs and tables, etc.) from an exhibit hall or show- appointed vendors adds significant expense to your overall exhibition budget. Save big bucks by shipping these items from your home office or storage warehouse. Even with shipping and drayage costs, you’ll still come out ahead for most items. This logic applies to your actual booth itself; if you exhibit at multiple shows per year, but don’t rent.
Cut travel expenses. Hotel costs for traveling staff members can very quickly add up and bloat your trade show budget. Learn to negotiate with hotels to get the best deals; also, bigger shows typically negotiate with local hotels to offer special “show” rates for exhibitors and attendees. Join hotel chains’ customer loyalty programs to get other free bonuses, such as free stays after a certain number of stays. Double up employees of the same sex in one room and look for hotels that offer free breakfast.
Lighten your load. Reduce your shipping and drayage costs by taking a close look at what you’ll really need on-site and in your booth. Focus on one product to highlight; don’t bring every product in your line. An overcrowded booth is a turnoff for attendees and makes it more difficult for visitors to focus on the one product you’re announcing or launching at the show. You might also be able to trim some off your drayage costs by shipping some things, such as brochures and other collateral material, directly to your hotel.
Order show services carefully. This is kind of like the hotel mini-bar. Seems so convenient, but when you check out and see that you shelled out $7.50 for that can of pretzels, you might think otherwise. Order the necessities (electricity, lighting, booth cleaning, etc.) by the earliest deadline and you might be eligible for a discount. Determine the actual wattage needs of your equipment and make sure that you don’t order more than you need and bring your own electrical power strips.