There are “3 jobs” of a trade show booth that lead to exhibiting success – do you know what they are?
If you understand these roles of a booth – and work with a designer with the exhibit design experience needed – you will have a great foundation for trade show success. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter how great you think your booth looks – the results of your trade show might be disappointing.
The danger of not understanding the role of proper design
All too often, we see new exhibitors (and sometimes even not-so-new) rely on someone who has designed their website or brochure. Beautiful, perhaps, but not matched to the requirements of a trade show booth.
A trade show booth needs to: stand out at a distance, bring the right people in to look more closely (and keep out the wrong people), and offer up just enough information (visually and otherwise) to start the conversation you want.
Handling those requirements are the three jobs of a booth.
#1: Grab Attention From A Distance
The first job of your booth is to grab attention from a distance, and make you stand out among a sea of other exhibitors. Your designer will work with the whole look and feel of your booth, especially bringing focus on the part of your booth which is seen the furthest – usually the highest points of your booth.
As people walk down a long aisle, with so much distraction, you can get as little as two to five seconds for an initial look by your prospects.
In that glance, they need to see something that makes sense and appeals to them. If your company is an unknown, you will almost certainly get a lot fewer eyeballs than you are counting on. if your logo reaches 30 feet but the headline that clarifies what you do is only visible for the final 10 feet. This demands work from strangers who do not know why they should care, yet.
You cannot rely on your audience taking a second glance. Your booth must make them look.
#2: Filter In and Filter Out
The second job of your booth is to act as a filter.
Your booth needs to make it clear who should stop, and who should keep walking. And it only has a few seconds to do this.
It maybe counter-intuitive, but you don’t want everyone at a show to stop and talk to you – unless you have a consumer brand that is literally “for everyone”, which is rare.
Instead – someone walking towards your booth must be able to see if you, your products or services, match one of their needs, desires or interests. They have to see something that matters to them.
You also need to remember that your time is limited at a show. You want to connect with just the people you are targeting, and keep others walking past.
You don’t want to waste time explaining what you do to just anyone who is curious, or have to fish for whether they match your basic qualifications, both of which a well-designed booth should normally handle for you.
Most importantly of all, you don’t want good prospects walking past you because it was not obvious why they should stop.
This second job turns your booth into a pre-qualification engine, which moves smoothly into Job #3.
#3: Start the Conversation
Your booth’s third job is to set the tone for the conversation that will follow when your intended audience has stopped. Note, this does not mean your booth replaces conversation.
It means, up close, your intended audience will see images and words that demonstrate you understand them, and their pain points, or the benefits they’re interested in. What keys their interest in Job 2, when looked at more closely as they’ve paused for a closer look, becomes the grounds of the discussion in Job 3.
Sometimes folks like scientists, software designers, or engineers – and actually anyone with a highly specific technical training – try to turn their booth into a sales brochure. There are paragraphs of information and detailed pictures or designs, better suited for a brochure or presentation. They are trying to convey as much information as they can. You’d have to be IN the booth and next to the booth to read it.
The truth is, if someone is that close to your booth, it’s your turn to engage them in conversation. You or your staff now get to take the connection and conversation your booth has succeeded at starting to the next level.
Other factors important to your tradeshow success
How successful you are at this third stage of conversation is dependent on much more than your booth design, of course. It all starts with strategy, and includes pre-show and at-show promotional marketing; presentations, demonstrations or other interactions; and how well your booth staff has been trained in the do’s and don’ts of trade show exhibiting. (I’ve created links to selected related article topics – or go to the Tradeshow Tips page)
What If Your Graphic Designer Doesn’t Know About the 3 Jobs?
My advice is to seek out graphic designers with the understanding and experience to get you the results you are looking for. In the case of a tradeshow booth, ask if they have “large format graphic design” experience and if they know how to design for distance, filtering and conversation.
Or give us a call. Imprinted Originals can provide creative design for your booth based on these principles; it’s what we do!
Note: I’ve talked about these “3 jobs” for years with prospects and clients. I hope that this article on what they are, and how they can impact trade show exhibitor success, has been helpful. Feel free to leave questions or comments (comments are moderated).
Deborah Elms is passionate about helping businesses and organizations create and retain customers through the effective use of trade shows & other face-to-face events. She heads up the Trade Show and Event Division of Imprinted Originals. You can follow her on twitter at @D_Elms or visit the Imprinted Originals Facebook page.