Give your booth a boost

This is a trade show environment designed by Pentagram for Mercury’s booth at the 2012 Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) RetailNOW convention in Las Vegas.

Some trade shows have a nasty habit of resembling a dreary art museum. Exhibitors echo subjects in their picture frame booths, seated behind a drab, ho-hum display and flashing a meek smile to passersby that simultaneously says, “I don’t want to be here,” and, “Please help me fill my product’s impressions quota.”

There are two parts to creating an engaging trade show experience, both for you and your intended audience: aesthetics and adaptability. Jake Goodman over at has a great post on booth design that looks at fabrics, multimedia and furniture as trending display options. That’s only half the battle – your ability to adapt and leverage your booth’s resources will round out the trade show experience for everyone attending and ensure people leave your booth eager to follow up on that amazing experience you delivered to them.

Tools of the trade

Think about your booth as multiple pieces that comprise a total experience. Those pieces are your tools.

Maybe your initial hook is an interactive touch screen that lets users explore the various industries your product is used in and how those companies have increased their bottom line with your tech – a patented, innovative assembly line mechanism, for example.

From there, exhibitors can enter your booth and work with one of your product engineers to assemble the mechanism as a team, explaining each part’s purpose and why your mechanism trumps existing ones.

Your guests leave feeling a personal connection with your company and your product. They leave feeling like they’ve accomplished something. You brought them into your world and showed them something interesting, far beyond what a brochure or tchotchke could tell them.

None of that happens, though, when you’re hidden behind signs and banners. You need to be the very first thing guests interact with, and you need to leverage your infectious passion for your product to drive guests to that touch screen. Get them talking about you and watch the buzz spread throughout the convention.

Honesty is the best policy

Today’s consumer craves transparency. They hate being sold on tag lines and bombastic claims of effectiveness. Within reason and as best you can, have your product at the actual trade show in one form or another. If your product is too large or unwieldy to bring with you, a series of tablets allowing users to zoom in and pan around digital renderings of your product goes a long way.

Your first thought when visiting a trade show booth that advertises a product it doesn’t have samples of probably isn’t, “Gee, I can’t wait to buy half a million units of that thing I never got my hands on.”

Exhibitors think giveaways and free stuff makes their brand stand out more than others, but if everyone’s doing it, is it really unique? An innovative and engaging booth design stands out more than a table covered in water bottles, key chains and bumper stickers, and your ability to draw people in to your world – make them feel as much a part of the company as you are – will be what sets you apart from other exhibitors.

The most important thing to remember at trade shows is that half your job is done for you. There’s a convention center brimming with people in a similar industry as you with similar interests as you looking to purchase similar products as the ones you’re offering. There’s no need to be shy – just don’t squander the opportunity.

by Matt DeFaveri

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