Showing Your Company's Best — Impactful Trade Show Displays
Image is everything. When participating alongside hundreds or thousands of other companies in today's trade shows, first impressions and a flashy presentation simply are not enough. What is needed, is an approach which goes beyond the mere visual impact, an approach which effectively grabs…and holds…the visitor's attention.
Pressure of time and cost often tempt a company into using the latest in software and display technology to produce their own trade show graphics. Ready accessibility and user-friendliness can draw the company into a labyrinth of visual effects, animations and interactivity, all of which can be truly dazzling. But therein lies the danger that in leveraging these technologies, the purpose and message to be communicated through your participation in the trade show can be sidelined by all the glitz.
Key to a successful and effective trade show display is never losing sight of the basic elements, and to relate each of these to your key message:
Motif and Theme
The graphic motif should be clear and uncluttered, and carry across all materials related to the trade show. The backdrop, the standalone banners or panels, the self-running slide presentation and the handouts have to be distinctive and coherent. Experience shows that simple, single images make for a more effective display, especially when repeated across various media, and are also more memorable to the visitor already inundated with a kaleidoscope of colorful images and fancy graphics in the typically limited time he spends at the trade show.
Avoid any attempts at presenting highly ornate graphics or cryptic messaging within the graphics—you have to ask yourself if the message has been clouded by the art and the technology of the presentation. If it is, get rid of it and go with something simpler which gets the message across! All photographs and graphics should also be licensed and free from copyright issues.
Tip: Always maintain a recognizable color scheme as well as density and placement of the key motif, so that a visitor gets comfortable and can quickly identify related material. The theme has also to carry through to staff attire—jackets, T-shirts, neckties and souvenir handouts should all conform to the theme for greatest impact.
Title / Headline / Key Slogan
This is what the visitor first reads, so make it simple, clear and, above all, short. It has to be readable in a flash by the visitor who might not have intended visiting your booth but who has just happened to glance in its direction.
Pick the key words very carefully, preferably after analyzing and understanding what people in your industry are looking for. The use of freely available tools such as Google Keyword Tool would go a long way to ensure that you have picked the right keyword or phrase to include in your Title or Headline.
Tip: Keep your Headline short, and use bold, easy-to-read typeface in as large a size as is practical. Avoid the use of multi-colored renderings of your headline, as these make a much weaker visual impact on the visitor. Simply put, do what the largest and most successful companies do, irrespective of display area of booth size—their headlines always are in simple, bold typeface.
Describe Your Product Or Service
Does your description communicate your message in only one or two short sentences? If it does not, shorten it! The typical trade show attendee simply does not have time to read whole paragraphs of information—focus on your key message and tell about your service or product that delivers on that key message.
Remember, less is more! • Use bullets for your points
• Keep the messages short
• Avoid being too technical
• Avoid using a typeface that is too small or unreadable
• In slideshows or posters, a few clearly stated points is more effective than many illegible lines of information
Tip: Use the service of a professional copywriter to review your finished description. Ask them, “What is the message you have received?” and refine or simplify your description until your message is clearly and effectively communicated.
Placement of Company Name and Logo
If your company has stated Corporate Identity (C.I.) guidelines, make sure your positioning of the company name and logo on the booth and on key materials and presentations complies with these guidelines. Your company name should be prominently displayed in the header area of your booth, as this is where most trade show visitors will expect to find it. If this is your first trade show and your company does not yet have a logo, it is best that one be created.
Tip: Place your company logo next to your company name on the booth header area, as this facilitates recognition of your company from a distance. Avoid presenting your company logo in a variety of different colors in different locations, as it weakens the C.I. of your company as compared with a single color wherever the logo appears. If you have to change a color due to poor visibility against a particular background, then change the background theme color, and never alter the company logo's color.
Online Presence and Website It is expected that your company's website be prominently displayed. Many trade show visitors, who are short of time, will only have a chance to note down your website address or take a picture of your booth so that they can follow up with a visit to the website later if they have an interest in your products or services.
If you do not already have a website, it would be a good idea to get one immediately, and at least populate it with basic content describing your products or services and a “Contact us” form. Make sure your website name is relevant to your company name, product or service, and is preferably a .com domain.
In preparing your trade show booth display and presentation, if you have covered the basic elements as described above, you will find that whether it is a large booth or a small table-top display, the effectiveness of your presence at the trade show will be greatly enhanced.
Keeping to the same basics, as the year progresses, you will be able to adapt the same theme, motif and concepts to new technologies as they become available, so that with each successive trade show, your preparation, set up and delivery will bring you the returns you expect on your investment in participating in these shows.
Also note that by paying close attention to theme and motif in your slide presentations, you will be able to rapidly “fit” your concept into almost any “quick-set-up” trade show booth kit by the simple use of a plain white or silvered-screen backdrop showing your self-running slideshow. All that will be needed will be the appropriate floot-standing banners and booth header!