Is Your Trade Show Signage Saying The Right Thing?

Q. How important is  your trade show signage?

A. You have less time than it takes you to read this sentence for a trade show attendee to decide whether he or she will spend any time in your exhibit.

It seems unfair, but it’s true. Numerous studies have shown that attendees decide whether your trade show booth has captured their attention in somewhere between three and seven seconds. If you don’t get to them in that remarkably brief period of time, you might as well not be exhibiting at the show.

Modified RE-9020 Double-Deck with Counters, Product Displays, Graphics, and an Overhead Hanging Sign

We’ve all seen booths that looked like a pathetic patchwork of graphics and signage. And we routinely walk right by these booths, don’t we? Why? Because poor trade show signage makes them look unprofessional, and therefore, don’t impress us.

My question for you is, are you doing the same thing to yourself?

Do your graphics look impressive, interesting and professional, or are they road-worn and wrinkled, with a “loving hands of home” look to them?

Pinching pennies on the things that represent your company’s image always wastes far more money than it saves. In fact, substandard graphics actually cost you money. Why? A poor corporate image doesn’t give prospects a sense of confidence in your professionalism, your product or your promise (the offer you make to those prospects).

When you skimp on showcasing your corporate image, you’re actually giving your prospects an invitation to seek out your competitors who present themselves more professionally. Your image also deserves a professional presentation at every outing.

You rely on professionals to do so much of the work in carrying out your exhibit marketing program. Think about it: the people who lay your carpet are professionals. The people who set up your trade show booth are professionals. So why not turn to professionals when it comes to your trade show signage?

Many exhibitors rely too long on worn-out graphics to “get us through one more show season” (which may be what what you said last season), or otherwise offer a less-than-professional appearance with their graphics.

example of great looking trade show signage

Eye Catching Imagery. No Wasted Text.

I’d like to offer some tips on how to get the most out of your booth’s graphics, without breaking the bank in the process.

First, let’s start with the goals every exhibit’s trade show signage should work to achieve:

1) Be Seen: Remember, you’ve only got seconds to convince a passerby to pay attention. A striking image or attention-grabbing headline is your best shot at stopping them in their tracks.

2) Be Recognized: Your brand name and/or logo should be featured prominently in your trade show graphics.

3) Be Understood: In the simplest, most straightforward way possible, tell those in the aisle what you do, and—here’s the important part—why it matters to them!

4) Be Clear: Your trade show signage needs to succinctly express your offer, or why you’re different from your competitors, or why an attendee should stop and learn more.

5) Be Simple: I can’t state this strongly enough. This isn’t a brochure. It’s a billboard. A few bullet points are all you need.

So, now that you know what you should hope to accomplish, how do you go about doing this?

First, all the cleverness in the world amounts to nothing if that clever signage can’t be read. When you work with a professional graphics provider, your supplier uses a chart, based on real-world studies, of how large your sign’s text should be for maximum legibility. The lettering on your sign should be legible from at least twenty feet away.

Remember, your goal is to get them off the aisle and into your booth. You can tell them more of your story once you’ve captured their attention.

A small amount of text, combined with professional photography or artwork, creates the most compelling graphics. Signs full of text quickly become “white noise” on the show floor.

All of your product’s features and benefits shouldn’t be listed on your trade show signage. (If doing that actually worked, you wouldn’t be necessary!)

People simply won’t invest time reading laundry lists of features, especially before they’ve determined they have a need for your product or service. Once you’ve got them in your booth, you can explain the specific features and benefits that will be of interest to them.

If you’re having trouble deciding what goes on your trade show signage, try coming up with three advantages (keep them brief) that distinguish you from your competitors.

Consider something like “Our Widget Costs Less, It’s Available In More Sizes, And It’s Guaranteed For Life!”

Your product may not easily reduce to such simple statements, but make them as short and sweet as possible. Notice how these points offer the reader a benefit, as well. This is the holy grail of graphics: short, benefit oriented and attendee directed.

What does it all boil down to? There are only two reasons people go to shows: as attendees, looking to solve a problem they have, or as exhibitors, offering solutions to problems. Figure out the problems you can solve, and those could be your graphics points.

Taking the time to think about how your graphics help tell your company’s story, and how well they will reflect your company’s image, will result in better looking and better performing graphics for your trade show exhibit.


Trade Show Signage FAQ

Let's cover a few more aspects of trade show signage you should know about to really make a great impression at your next event.

What stand signs are used during a trade show?

There are several different banner stands you can choose for your trade show signage. Retractable banner stands, 3D banner stands, non-retractable banner stands, hanging banners, outdoor banners, and trade show backdrop banners are all things you can customize and consider using at your next trade show event. 

When choosing the right banner stand, consider how much room you will have available, where the banner stand will be set up, and how much time you have to set up the banner. 

What is the right size trade show overhead sign?

When it is time to choose the right size for your trade show signage, you should also consider your trade show booth's size and shape. For example, if you have a 20 x 20 trade show booth space, you can use a circle. However, you want to consider using a rectangular overhead sign for a larger 20 x 30 trade show booth space.

Which is better for trade shows: fabric banners or vinyl banner?

Banners with fabric graphics are lightweight, flexible, and can be folded easily for travel and storage, making them the ideal choice when you want to keep your trade show signage in good condition. Many people choose to use tension fabric to give their trade show booth a higher-end appeal. 

Vinyl banners, on the other hand, are great if you find yourself at many outdoor trade show events. Instead of folding a vinyl banner, they should be rolled when transported and stored; otherwise, your event signage could have permanent creases. 

What makes good trade show signage displays for business?

Good trade show signage displays for business will be simple and use bold and clear images that are effective for attracting your target audience and creating a memorable display that tells the story of your business. Too many words on your trade show booth signs or over-complicated graphics, for example,  can make your booth space appear cluttered and distracting. This kind of event signage can result in being a much less effective backdrop for conveying your message.

What should I expect when using a trade show hanging sign?

If you are going to be using a trade show hanging sign, you typically need to expect that you will have to arrange for the show labor team to do the installation prior to the event. Almost every show site requires that their union labor - not you or your team - install any trade show hanging sign.

Which are the materials used to create stand signs?

Aluminum is a common material used for stand signs because it is lightweight and durable, and can be used either indoors or outdoors. You can also get it unpainted or painted. Most of the actual trade show signage are made from dye sub printed fabric. Some rigid trade show signs are made from sintra or plex. Both fabric and rigid signage give you a sophisticated look, and both are durable and both can be backlit. Fabric stand signs are easier to transport, as rigid signs typically cost more to ship, and are more susceptible to damage in shipping.

How much time should I budget for trade show graphics?

On average, printing trade show graphics takes 4 business days, starting from when you have approved the artwork for print. Getting the designing done and approved is the longer part of the process, especially if you have several people on your team that all have to agree on and approve the final design. 

If you don’t have your own graphics design team, we can do the design work for you - but you have to provide your logo, any desired photos, and your company or product features and benefits - we’re experts in graphic design, but not knowledgeable in your specific industry.

It is recommended that you budget for at least 2-3 weeks for the artwork design process. If you are also designing or reconfiguring your trade show booth itself, you should start preparing approximately two to three months ahead of the event, so that you have plenty of time to review and make decisions without feeling rushed.

Whether you need new custom backdrops for your trade show booth, the newest and lightest trade show interlocking carpet tile, or custom overhead hanging banners (or anything in between), let the pros at American Image Displays help you make the best impression. Call us at (800) 676-3976 or email [email protected].