Designing the Best Trade Show Booths
Updated Nov 2020
Creating a Design for the best trade show booths is a combination of art and science. Exhibit designers sometimes try to create unique, elaborate, colorful, and (often) expensive displays that show off their design skills.
While showing off mad design skills might be okay too, it’s important that your exhibition booth design function on some basic levels (the science part) before you add all the artistic bells and whistles.
One of the challenges is that even the very best trade show booths have a very short window of time to attract the attention of potential customers. Several seconds can be the difference between a person merely glancing at a trade show booth while walking by it or actually approaching it to learn more about a product or service.
Getting noticed in a crowded exhibition hall is only easy if you have an innovative and bold trade show booth design. You will want to be sure that your exhibition displays and exhibition banners stand out from the crowd and capture the fleeting attention of the visitors in the process.
Careful planning is key. Getting what you want is much like traveling to where you want to go - you need to define exactly what you need first. This first stage analysis is essential for getting the most value out of your trade shows, and your trade show booth designs.
Our design team has attended hundreds of shows. Over and over, we’ve seen exhibitors spend fortunes on exhibits that didn’t meet the basic criteria offered below. As a result, they repelled—rather than attracted—prospects.
If you want your booth to be a traffic magnet, please consider some of the key criteria that are vital to understand before you design the best trade show booth for your specific needs.
Who Are Your Ideal Prospects?
It may seem unrelated or too basic, but before choosing a design company or beginning the design of exhibition displays, it is important to understand exactly who your ideal customers are. After all, your booth design needs to be attractive and appealing to them - not you. So who are they?
The most beautiful, attention-grabbing exhibition displays will achieve little to nothing if the design attracts prospects who are unlikely to become your customers. Much like having great giveaways in your booth, if those fancy toys only attract gaming enthusiasts, but your target audience is accountants and CPAs, you may give away free games but never make a sale.
Research is never fun, but neither is spending time contacting trade show leads who have no need or intent to ever purchase anything from you. The best trade show booths will be designed to help you attract the right prospects.
Are You Attending the Same Show As Your Clients?
After identifying who your clients are, exhibitors should examine the specific details of the trade show they plan to exhibit. Does this show attract your clients?
Gathering specific event information helps create an exhibition stand with the visitors’ needs in mind and provides a better foundation to deliver an effective exhibit booth design. Some of the details to gather include, but aren’t limited to:
- The kind of visitors expected to attend the show (industries, job function, and purchase authority, etc.)
- The needs of the visitors that are expected to attend
- The estimated number of visitors expected to attend
- Show map - where is your booth?
- Market research and previous experience with the customer base
Here are some more thoughts on pre-show booth design.
Create the Booth Design for Your Customer, Not You
Although the temptation to get the flashiest and expensive-looking stand design can be overwhelming, that type of design may not appeal to your customers. Exhibition displays must catch the eye of your potential customers, and the most effective trade show design in that regard might not be the flashiest.
More important than the actual design is the message: How will the potential customer benefit by stopping your display booth?
Finding out what your ideal visitor wants and needs, then incorporating that information into your exhibit booth design will attract attention—as long as they can see it “loud and clear.” Looks aren’t everything, yet they can be restricting.
The hardware and graphics used in your booth design will affect your customers’ perception of the type of product or service being marketed. Generally speaking, expensive and lavish exhibition displays may give the impression that the product or service is expensive, while “budget” exhibition displays might achieve the opposite.
The best trade show booths take this into account and make sure the booth design fully compliments your company and aligns with its message, reputation, and values.
Consider modular designs when creating your new booth design, too - many new trade show booths are designed to make them easy to reconfigure, changing the size, graphics, and even the shape, as needed for different events.
Keeping this as one of your goals can be a huge help in driving down the cost of your tradeshow booth assets because you'll be able to use one booth, reconfigured as needed, for all of your events.
What Size Booth Do You Need?
The next design factor to consider is the size of the trade show booth. The display dimensions should allow full utilization of the rented space, yet ample room should be allowed for visitors to move around without difficulty. The booth design should allow enough room for a knowledgeable, friendly employee to interact with the visitors as they peruse the trade show booth.
Most exhibitors start with a 10x10 booth design; larger companies and more complex products may lead to a need for more space. Again, if you use modular components, you'll be able to add or subtract booth components as needed.
The Best Trade Show Booths are in the Right Place!
While this may seem obvious, the placement of products – and the booth itself – are critical to trade show success. You remember the maxim of real estate success? Well, it applies to trade shows too – “Location, Location, Location”!
If possible, don’t choose a booth in a back corner. In general, more successful booths are nearer the entrance to the show. And within the booths, featured products or offers should be placed in the more prominent areas. The most important item in the booth should be center stage in any of your booth design ideas. Booths and products in corners are neglected and passed by.
When considering tradeshow booth design ideas, many different aspects should be calculated. It is not simply enough to “be there”; the booth should be there to grab attention away from the dozens of other booths.
Does Your Trade Show Booth Have an Open Floor Plan?
Time and time again, exhibitors block themselves off behind tables or registration desks. Prospective customers don’t feel welcomed. They feel intimidated.
Make your booth open to the aisle, so that prospects can enter freely, and you will see a dramatic increase in your exhibit’s effectiveness.
Take traffic flow into consideration as well, when designing a trade show booth. Much like in interior design for offices and homes, you need to be sure visitors can move from the product demo area to the place where you’ll be getting their information or writing their order. Don’t make your display into an obstacle course.
Be Sure to Use Three Dimensions in Your Booth Design
This suggestion goes hand-in-hand with the discussion of the open floor plan. When considering a number of booth design ideas, create some depth to the booth. Don’t just place flat advertisements and signs on the booth.
Make sure your exhibit design ideas invite the customer into the booth. Have an obvious entrance so that the client feels they are entering a room or a new space separate from the trade show floor.
The interior of the trade show booth should feel more spacious than it actually is. It is a little like planning a walk-in closet; it should feel like a comfortable space with options rather than a cramped closet. The idea of space is one of the very best – and most overlooked – of booth design ideas.
Alongside the interior of the booth space, the exterior walls should feel like they reach out to the potential client. Signs might slightly protrude a little into the general trade floor. This ensures that they subtly grab the attention of the customer as they walk around. This also differentiates the booth from neighbors: the best trade show booths sometimes extend into the floor space to help you attract attention.
Is Your Booth Visually Appealing?
Every trade show is a riot of color and action. To get leads, you need to compete successfully with all the distractions going on around you. If your booth looks boring, prospects will walk right by.
However, just like an artist, you have a pallet of colors, design, show lighting, product displays and other elements to use to create an appealing display. Make the most of it. You only have about three seconds to capture the attention of passersby.
Does Your Exhibit Identify Your Company Effectively?
Many exhibits don’t even feature the company’s logo or name prominently in the booth. This is an epic fail when designing a tradeshow booth. Consider this a minimum element of effective display design.
Make your company name and logo part of the exhibit’s architecture, and then plan to easily change your graphics to promote different products from one show to another. But your company name will still stand out and help people find you.
Does Your Trade Show Design Coordinate With Your Branding?
Your exhibit’s design and color scheme should match all of your branding, from the literature to the logo. No matter how creative it may be, mixing messages or images creates confusion and dilutes your brand identity.
Color is everything. It is well accepted that brighter colors such as red, orange, and yellow are more attractive to the human eye than darker colors. Although that gray and black color scheme may look nice on paper, it isn’t that unique on a trade show floor.
It's important not to go overboard with colors, but If possible, use one or more of these colors (or a brighter shade of others) as part of any future booth design ideas.
Are Your Booth Graphics Well Placed?
When designing a trade show booth, consider where and how you’ll display your graphics. As mentioned above, proper planning ensures that the best trade show booths allow you to be able to swap out graphics between shows, or even on successive show days as a way to highlight different products or services.
Many times we’ve seen exhibitors spend considerable sums on graphics that didn’t attract attention because they weren’t easily visible. They were too close to the ground. They were on the back wall, but hidden behind a table, desk or partition. Or they were behind cluttered product displays. In all these scenarios, the booth graphics weren’t allowed to do their job.
Are Your Graphic Designs Appropriately Illuminated?
Remember that the eye is attracted to what’s “hot” (meaning what’s well lit). It’s human nature. So if your graphics don’t have enough light on them, visitors may miss them altogether. This is true whether you’re using backlit graphics or traditional poster-like images.
Lighting helps focus attention. When designing your trade show booth, keep this in mind.
Booth Design Matters - Is Yours Memorable?
Here at American Image Displays, we sell a lot of trade show displays. We could make them all cookie cutter copies of each other. But our goal is to make each exhibit a unique expression of a client’s identity. That’s what makes each client’s exhibit memorable. It’s not just another tabletop, ten by ten or modular display.
As we start designing a trade show booth for one of our customers, we want it to be a one-of-a-kind representation of the client’s brand. As a result, the exhibit gets noticed and tells attendees who the client is and what they do. Beyond that, it presents a unique benefit the client can offer booth visitors. Those three things help make a booth memorable.
Consider offering services in your booth that no one else is offering. For example, ever had your cell phone die on a trip? Maybe a charging station for trade shows like this one pictured will pull in some extra clients over the 2-3 days of the show? What is just a few extra clients worth?
Does Your Booth Communicate Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?
Scores of books have been written about how to create an effective USP. It’s a brief statement that tells how you can benefit your prospect, and what makes you better than your competitors.
A booth that expresses your USP gives passersby a reason to stop and find out what your company can do for them. When designing your booth, find a prominent way to showcase this information.
Is There Enough Storage?
A lot of companies put aesthetics ahead of practicality. When designing a trade show booth, you need to consider how much “stuff” you’ll have to store during a show.
You’ve probably already considered space for literature and giveaways. But there is also the personal property of people who will be working the booth. That means coats and other clothing, briefcases, suitcases, computer bags…the list goes on and on. Plan for this, so it doesn’t spill out into the part of the booth everyone sees.
Will your trade show booth design achieve your goals?
A trade show exhibit can win awards for design and still fail miserably at meeting its objectives. So don’t let style be the sole dictator of what will your booth “effective.”
Identify your trade show marketing goals. Yes, math can be boring. But choose a goal and then check to see if you achieved it - otherwise, the whole exercise is a waste of money.
Does Your Trade Show Booth Evoke Emotion?
Avoid having a bland design for your trade show booth. Instead, find creative ways to use fun imagery and bright colors so they can work to elicit a more emotional response from booth visitors. It is okay to incorporate feeling into your design alongside your branded message.
It allows you to set the tone and connect with attendees on a deeper level than you can with just the branding alone.
Think about the emotion you want to evoke with your display and then use lighting, materials, and other imagery where you can to accomplish this.
Are You Surprising Your Visitors?
With some creative lighting and design, you can create a surprising and memorable brand experience for all event attendees. For example, if you want to mimic water, you will want to use lighting and other elements to create wavy reflections.
Creative and effective design elements will surprise and delight attendees and make your booth much more memorable. Virtual reality and augmented reality are great technologies you can work with for these effects as well.
What If You Have a Limited Design Budget?
Even those with small budgets can create a memorable and successful exhibit display for their company. A small budget doesn't limit one's creativity or visitor experience. If you have limited funds, there are a few design ideas you can choose to incorporate to achieve that eye-catching display you want to have at your next trade show:
Create a Focal Point
To stand out and create a focal point for your booth, you can hang flowers from their stems, which can act as the ceiling of your booth. This kind of effect can attract booth visitors, and it also makes for the perfect photo op.
Focus on Giveaways
If your booth isn't as impressive as you would have liked because of your lack of budget, then give something away to make a good first impression. Attendees love engaging and interactive booths. So, host a giveaway or some kind of prize contest.
You can also hand out samples of your products to get attendees to crave more. It also gives them first-hand experience with your product and can set you apart from the competition.
Traditional Booth Games
If you don't have the money in your budget for virtual or augmented reality or extensive lighting and signage, then draw in the visitors with traditional booth games. People are looking for experiences that are entertaining and memorable. To increase branding, you can offer prizes with your company logo and colors.
How Do You Choose the Right Display and Display Elements for Your Brand?
When it comes to selecting the right display or digital signage for your brand, there is much more to it than just what meets the eye. Displays are not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. Each one is different and unique to the needs of the company. Each business is different, and each has its own set of goals and objectives.
Along with the location, as we mentioned previously, you also want to consider the size and viewing angle of the booth you are considering. Choose signage that fits in with the display and doesn't clutter or take over the booth space you have.
If you are using tv screens, remember, bigger is not always better. Consider the viewing distance of your target audience. Bigger screens can be used when you have more available exhibit space, and you are looking to capture the attention of everyone in the room.
You also want to choose elements that fit in nicely with the nature of your business. If you have a fun and eclectic business message, you wouldn't want a more subdued and formal display.
Are you looking for more great trade show booth design ideas?
In the end, the amount of booth traffic you get is important, but is not the critical factor. What matters most is if you got the right visitors to stop. The best trade show booths help you attract the right visitors. And then the booth design needs to help your staff engage those visitors and sell your products. If you keep these considerations in mind before creating the booth design, your exhibition displays will attract more visitors and drive more revenue.
Designing a trade show booth that attracts show visitors is what we do at American Image Displays. We’d love to help you design your next booth - and frequently, we can help you design a booth that costs less. For a free, no strings exhibit consultation, and some free trade show booth design tips, speak with one of our exhibiting professionals. We’ll help make sure you are using the best trade show booths for your specific needs.