Taking your show on the road

472526248_433f67e4a3 Trade shows are an incredibly effective way to introduce your business to a wide array of potential new customers.  When it comes to displays, I have some good news and some bad news.  Want the good news first?  Your competitors’ booths probably stink. 

Ready for the bad news?  Yours probably does too.

Let’s face it — most booths look and behave the same.  Think of the "standards" of a booth.  How many of those do you include with yours?  Is there a way to freshen it up a little?

Here are some rules to think about when you or your agency is working on your display.

~ What’s the point?  Identify the one fact/impression you want everyone to remember from your display.  Not three main points or five.  One.  Once you have communicated that, stop. 

~ Force them to stop.  Do something so visually arresting that people cannot help but stop.  This is not the time to be timid.  Be bold.  Grab them and (figuratively) drag them into your space.  I’m not talking (unless it fits with your brand) something silly.  I am talking relevant but WOW!

~ Think of it like a billboard.  Be brief.  This is not the place to reproduce your sales letter or brochure. 

~ Less is more.  Some companies’ trade show space is like a three-ring circus.  People do not want to walk into chaos.  Having one good, bold idea is much more effective than throwing the kitchen sink at the attendees. 

~ Do it right.  Yes, you are going to have to spend more money.  But, it is an investment that will last for years.  This is not the place to go cheap.  It will be glaringly obvious and speak volumes about your business.

If you’re going to invest the money and time resources to have a presence at a trade show, make sure you maximize that investment by having a display that they’ll remember long after the show doors close.

We’ve all been to plenty of shows.  Think back — what’s the most memorable booth you’ve ever seen and what about it sticks out in your mind?

Flickr photo courtesy of the Image Group.

9 comments on “Taking your show on the road

  1. Cale says:

    Drew, great stuff. Down with lame tradeshow booths. Here’s my all-time favorite (from an invoicing company, no less): http://tinyurl.com/6eh75j

  2. Pam O'Neal says:

    Thanks for tackling this subject. It amazes me when Marketers invest thousands of dollars for exhibit space and don’t clearly articulate what the company does and what it can do for me. A member of my team shared some ideas on how she enticed 3000+ trade show visitors to visit her booth here:

  3. John Rosen says:


    Absolutely spot on. I often feel as if companies (including a few of my clients) think that the only purpose of “going to the show” is to party. I find myself screaming at them: “The purpose is to SELL! The purpose is to MEET CUSTOMERS!” In fact, I had one cliet a few years ago whose sales force (I am not kidding or exaggerating here) had dinner every night with themselves…no customers! Given that behavior pattern, the importance of the booth and its design…and the attendant ability to BRING CUSTOMERS AND PRESS INTO THE BOOTH AND PUT THEM IN THE MOOD TO BUY is paramount.

    By the way, if you or any of your other readers are looking for a trade booth design and construction company, the best I’ve ever worked with is 3DL Design. They are Chicago / Milwaukee based, but design, build, and staff booths all over the world. Here’s a link to their site:


    I assure you…I get no kickback. I can simply say that they have bailed out more than one of my clients under deep deadline and budget pressure over the years.


  4. Karin H. says:

    Hi Drew

    The most rememberable ‘item’ I ever saw during an exhibition was an Oak tree 😉 (A “live” one with a human being in it: Oak design)

    ANd I like to point you to one of my articles of last year: How to have fun during an exhibition

    Karin H. (Keep It Simple Sweetheart, specially in business)

  5. Cale,

    Having met Saul Colt (from FreshBooks) I am not surprised. This is a company that does some brilliant viral marketing. So their booth strategy was right on brand.

    Smart brand…and I’ll bet, smart profits.


  6. Pam,

    I’m with you. The investment is huge. And yet, people seem to approach the whole event as though they had no idea they were going in the first place!


  7. John,

    I’m guessing that most people are not setting goals or measuring success after every trade show. They are the perfect place to spend time with clients and prospects. Everyone is away from the office and in a social mood.

    Thanks for the recommendation on the booth company. I’ll have to check them out! Vendors that can pull your client’s fanny out of the fire (and yours right next to them) are a very valuable find!


  8. Karin,

    How in the heck did they get a live tree (with a person inside) into the showroom?

    Thanks for the link. Now that you’ve done one or more…what would you do differently?


  9. Karin H. says:

    Hi Drew

    No, not in a showroom, in an b-2-b exhibition. And double Dutch English again I’m afraid. The Oak (2 meter high!) was made of cloth etc with a person in it. Branches, twigs and leaves and all, great sight. My friend – who exhibited there too with her computer training business – immediately asked if she could use the ‘suit’ for her scouting group 😉

    As for us doing another b-2-b exhibition? No, not really. The aim was to contact more architects, interior designers and project developers – met some but mostly it were business persons who ask for more information because they wanted a wooden floor in their own home 😉 Got our moneys’ worth from it, but not our goal.

    Karin H.

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