Trade Show Displays: What REALLY Works?

Picture this: you’re participating in trade shows, fairs, conventions, or expos pretty regularly, and nobody is paying attention to your trade show displays. Maybe you just threw it together at the last moment. Or, perhaps you’ve spent countless hours designing and setting up your display, only to end up with humiliation as seemingly everyone’s display is getting plenty of attention – except yours. 

You’ve tried every gimmick that you could think of, but it just isn’t working.

What’s making other displays so much more successful than yours? What did you do wrong? What are some opportunities that you missed? 

Today, we’ll look at the tips and tricks that really work when it comes to setting up and running one of the displays at your trade show.


What is a Trade Show, Anyways?

A trade show is an event held to bring together members of a particular industry to display, demonstrate, and discuss their latest products and services. Major trade shows usually take place in convention centers in larger cities and last several days. Local trade shows may be held at a local arena or hotel and allow businesses in the area to connect with prospects.

Trade shows often provide exhibit space for trade show displays, workshops or presentations, evening networking events, and private exhibitor events. They also may provide some handy ways to increase your presence, prestige, or notoriety with things like opportunities to interact with the media and awards presentations.

Exhibitors participate in the hopes of connecting with potential new customers, reinforcing relationships with dealers and distributors, and networking with influencers and the media.

Attendees come to trade shows to become familiar with the latest products being introduced, to take advantage of special “show prices” from exhibitors, and to become better educated about their industry.

In other words, the trade show is a convention or exhibition organized so that companies in a specific industry can showcase and demonstrate their latest products and services, meet with industry partners and customers, study activities of rivals, and examine recent market trends and opportunities.

In contrast to consumer fairs, only some trade fairs are open to the public, while others can only be attended by company representatives (members of the trade, e.g. professionals) and members of the press, therefore trade shows are classified as either "public" or "trade only". A few fairs are hybrids of the two; they may be open only to professionals and industry members for the first several days, and then they may be open to the public for a few days at the end.

Trade shows are held on a continuing basis in virtually all markets and normally attract companies from around the globe.


So How Do You Prepare For a Trade Fair?

Trade shows and similar events can be a useful tool for showcasing your products and services, as well as gaining information about both competition and the consumer, but it can also be a complete waste of time and money if your display is ineffective. With that in mind, how can you prepare for such a critical event?

Plan Ahead

We know it sounds so simple and obvious that it’s silly, but it’s extremely important that you plan ahead for a trade show. These are competitive events with massive crowds as well as a fair amount of competition, so you need to start with some clear-cut goals about what you want to accomplish and how you’ll accomplish it.

What do you want to get out of the exhibition? Do you expect to sell a certain amount of inventory at the trade show or do you expect to become known to a certain number of wholesale suppliers? Are you focusing on promotion or hoping to launch a new product? Or are you trying to position your company for a possible sale?

You can have more than one goal, of course, but the point is that you need to be clear about what your participation in the trade show is intended to achieve.

Do Some Research

Find out about some major trade shows that match your criteria, as well as some local shows that may be useful for you to enter. Consider the location, estimated attendance, target audience, cost of entry, and any other requirements that a given trade show will have for participants.

Also, attend trade shows, even if they don’t apply to your business.  Walk around and take note of the trade show displays and booths that really catch your attention.  Why do they work?

You need to choose the trade shows that will give your business the best return on investment in terms of your goals. If your goal is on-site sales, having a booth at that big splashy trade show where your display is one of a dozen selling similar products may not be the best choice.

You want to choose the trade show that best targets the audience that you want to reach and best suits your participation goals. Find out what the particular trade show's objectives are and investigate and evaluate the trade show's audience.


Advertise in Advance

Put the word out that you're participating in a particular trade show by inviting your clients, customers, suppliers, and other contacts to attend the show. Be sure you give them all the details, such as your booth number. If you have one, be sure to advertise your coming trade show attendance on your website as well. If you do, people will know what to expect and you’ll have visitors coming to your trade show displays already wanting to buy your products or services.

Also, many trade shows offer an attendee messaging feature.  You can use this to introduce your brand to specific prospects and even to book demonstrations during the actual show.


Budget and Book

Find out everything you can about your space, including where it is on the floor, what kind of other trade show displays will be around it, whether it's a high traffic or low traffic area, and the physical conditions of your trade show display space, such as lighting.

Book your space as early as possible; many trade shows offer substantial early booking discounts over those booked within a month or so of the event.

Based on your budget, decide how much booth space you will need for your display. It is nice to have a large display, but a smaller, simpler booth can be just as effective. After all, the goal is to make connections and gain new customers.

Remember, it’s important to pick the size that forms the best mix of what you want to do and what you are capable of doing. You may want to have a huge display booth that gives plenty of attention to all of your inventory, but if you don’t have the money, plan, or crew to make a large space work, then go with something smaller. Keep in mind that a bunch of extra empty space isn’t really helping anyone.


Designing Your Display

Okay, now you know most of what you should do in advance of the trade show, but there is still a major aspect that hasn’t been covered: setting up your exhibit booth! When the trade show comes around, you’ll want to have a design for your stands in mind, as well as all of the décor that you’ll need to make it pop. 

This may include banners, tablecloths, display products, and backdrops that you’ll be using to give life to your display. Here are some quick tips for how to design and set-up an eye-popping, tasteful, quality exhibit booth.

Make Your Display Table Pop

If the trade show display table you have does not include a tablecloth, be sure to get one that complements your display and represents your company’s image and color scheme (without being overpowering). 

Even if a tablecloth is supplied, bring your own or something to add some depth to your table (i.e., a table runner). People may comment on how much your table stands out in a crowd.


Create a Sign For Your Display

If there is wall space, but your budget is minimal, use your trusty desktop publishing software to create a template of your company name. Use the template, along with bristle board, cardboard, or foam core to make a sign that you can put up on the wall behind your custom trade show displays.

Another option is to have a professional make your sign, one of our specialties at Branditt.

Stand-alone signs are quality ideas, as well, because you don’t need wall space to use it. Make sure that it’s eye-popping and clearly represents your company. Don’t make the sign too complicated or cluttered, either! There are a wide variety of options for signs that would work, but it’s up to you to come up with the best one for what you’re trying to accomplish!


Display Your Best Products

Have a portfolio of your work available as part of your trade show displays. Print off some of your best projects put them into plastic sheet protectors and arrange them in a binder. Then lay out the binder where visitors can flip through the pages.

Arrange your trade show display table in levels. Put the larger items at the rear, shorter items in front of those, and even shorter items in front of those.

If your trade show display space will allow, erect a stand-alone presentation board. On the board, you can show how clients can benefit by using your services. Be creative and make it stand out. Include pictures, if possible, and be sure your company name and logo are more than obvious.

When you have your presentation board, make sure to introduce your products or services as the solutions to a problem that your visitors may have. Make it clear and concise, answering any common concerns with why your product is still the best option out there.


Have Plenty Of Free Swag

Have plenty of tradeshow giveaways, such as business cards, brochures, pens, magnets, and any other swag that has your company name and/or logo on it. Do you like free stuff? I know that I like free stuff, and most other people like free stuff, too. Use this to your advantage!

Most people who attend trade shows are expecting to take home some goodies. And be sure to use display racks for showing your flyers, specials, brochures, and such. If you have free swag like lanyards or magnets, people will swarm you.

But everybody’s giving away free pens, lanyards, and magnets. How am I supposed to stand out from the crowd? Great question, and there are a few solutions. If you want to do nicer free giveaways, but you’re on a tighter budget, do you know what a great way to keep the crowds is?

 A raffle.

You can set up a free raffle. Let’s say you use the following concept: everybody gets one free ticket, and you get another free ticket for every x things you buy, or maybe x dollars you spend. You can have things like coupons, logoed t-shirts, or even a free premium product or something. If you have, say, one or two free special products that normally would cost more money, chances are that you’ll actually make a profit if you use the raffle to incentivize buying more things. 

People are more likely to buy some of your goods or services if they can get something extra out of it. Give them something good, something that’ll make them want to win the raffle.

Not only that, but when you have a raffle, you’re ensuring that people will continue to come throughout the day to get tickets if they hear about it from anybody else. What are people likely to do to try to have a better chance to win? Get more tickets. How do they do that? By buying your product. Also, you should make sure to spread the word on social media prior to the event.

Have an organized time that you’ll announce the winner or winners of the giveaway. This way, you’re likely to draw a large crowd to your booth during the announcement. What happens when a large crowd of people are at a booth? More people go to the booth to see what all the fuss is about.


Be Friendly

During the show, it’s important that you charm customers. Most importantly, be friendly and inviting. Say "Hi" to those that turn and look toward you or your trade show booth. Strike up a conversation and be sure to have a short introductory speech ready.

It’s equally important not to fall into the trap of becoming too “sales-y”. How many people avert their eyes at the mall or in a large store when a salesman is in the middle of the lobby, trying to grab attention? And it’s not that most people go to the mall afraid to buy something. People are just afraid that they’re getting scammed or trapped if the person is too pushy, cheesy, or aggressive as a salesman. Don’t give people the impression that you’re trying to sell them a used car for the low low price of their soul.

Befriend your potential customers! Be open about your business practices and why your business is your passion. It’s equally important to have fun!

If you follow these tips, you’ll have one of the best displays at your next tradeshow. Remember; planning and execution are equally important. You can’t expect to have tons of customers if you don’t plan extensively beforehand and devise the best route to accomplish your goals at the tradeshow. 

Likewise, if you plan, but your delivery is terrible, your display is a mess, and you’re scaring off customers with your grim personality, then it’ll be a longshot to come within spitting distance of your goal. However, if you plan, design, and execute using the tips and tricks shared today, you’ll impress potential customers and draw lots of visitors to your display, setting yourself up for success as one of the best vendors at the trade fair.

Branditt can help you with overall trade show strategy, as well as with your trade show display needs.  Because of our relationships, we are able to deliver printed backwalls, pop-up displays, tabletop signage and table skirts at the best possible prices.  Plus, we’ll come to your location to work with you, eliminating the fear most people have about ordering such critically important business tools from an online stranger.


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