Making a Knock-Out Trade Show Display

You've only got 3 seconds to make an impression with your trade show display. Here's how to do it.

Your trade show exhibit serves as a direct, powerful reflection of the quality, image and service your company and its products offer. To be effective, the visual impact of your display must make a strong first impression and communicate your message in a matter of seconds to attract prospects to stop at your booth and learn more about your business.

Getting Started
As you begin considering the type, size, design and configuration of your trade show exhibit display, answer these questions:

  1. What do you want to accomplish through trade show participation?
  2. How do you plan to use your exhibit to meet your objectives?
  3. How large are the events in which you plan to participate? Do they attract local, regional or national audiences?
  4. What location type (in-line, corner, end, island) and size of display space will you reserve?
  5. How many events will you participate in annually?
  6. How will you transport your display to each show?
  7. How much money are you willing to invest in your exhibit? The cost of your booth, lighting and accessories can range from under $1,000 to more than $20,000 for a top-end customized display.

Types of Trade Show Exhibit Displays
Whether you decide to produce a custom display or adapt a used or rental unit, the type of booth you need will be based on the kind of shows you attend and what you want to accomplish at each one. Here are some standard types of displays:

  • Pop-up displaysconsist of lightweight folding frames covered with magnetic-backed fabric, vinyl or plastic panels that create curved or angled walls.
  • Panel displaysare a flexible option that consists of fabric-covered rectangular sections that are connected to make a wall. They can be readily adapted to different booth sizes and configurations.
  • Tabletop displaysare inexpensive, lightweight displays that sit on the top of a table and are typically used for smaller events. These displays usually have three panels with Velcro-attached graphics and headlines that can be easily changed and updated.
  • Pull-up displaysare a lightweight, easy method to accent your booth. These function like a window shade in reverse and can be placed together or in different booth locations based on your design needs.

Choosing a Trade Show Exhibit Display Company
Search the internet for trade show exhibit display companies, and it'll be readily apparent that there are many suppliers from which to choose. Let me warn you: It may be daunting to figure out which company has the expertise you want, can effectively communicate and service your needs, will deliver your booth on time, meet your budget requirements and guarantee the work.

Therefore, the best place to start sourcing a supplier is to visit a trade show and talk with exhibitors in noncompeting fields who have the type of booth you like. Or you may want to get referrals from professional organizations, your chamber of commerce or colleagues. Once you have a list of possible suppliers, check references, meet with them and understand how they work, and check how long they've been in business.

Graphics and Signage
You want your trade show graphics and signage to grab people's attention and draw them into your booth. Most suppliers provide graphic services either in-house or on a contracted basis. Check out the work they've done for others. If you don't like what you see, hire your own graphic designer to help produce artwork for your booth.

Be sure signage with your company or product name is highly visible, well-lit and features large easy-to-read type. You may want to have multiple signs in different areas of your booth. Keep your message succinct and direct. After all, you only have about three seconds to make an impression and turn a prospect into a viable lead.

Jules Sowder is an executive marketing advisor with 20 years of experience developing strategic marketing and sales solutions for businesses. For more information, visit her resource website

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