20, 2018

One trade show may be the biggest single event in an entire year for a company. Trade shows are a time to promote your brand, network with others and grow your list of prospective clients. They're also often the culmination of months or even years of work.

One of the aspects of exhibiting at a trade show that requires substantial attention and effort is trade show booth layout. The design of your display has a tremendous effect on how many contacts you make and the impressions the people you meet get about your brand. Making sure you understand what makes a good booth design and working with a professional trade show signage company can go a long way toward making your trade show trip a success.

Here are the various types of trade show booths you may encounter at the typical trade show.

  • Linear inline booths are the smallest of the display types and typically measure either 10' x 10', 10' x 20' or 10' x 30'. They often also have eight-foot height restrictions. They are rather flat compared to other designs and open in the front.
  • Peninsula displays, also called end-cap booths, are medium-sized trade show booths, and are usually around 20' x 20' or more. They open on three sides and are often on the end of a row of linear inline stalls.
  • Island displays are the largest of these three primary types and are at least 20' x 20', but are sometimes much more extensive. They stand alone and allow access from any side. Rather than being against a wall, they are in the middle of an open space. They typically don't have the same height restrictions as other kinds of booths, enabling you to hang items from the ceiling or stand tall items within your space. 

Of course, you don't have to stick to these three templates, unless trade show rules say you must. Some shows will give you the freedom to get more creative.

The design elements within your booth are another essential consideration. Your stand might contain banners, wall backdrops, towers, hanging structures, tables, chairs, counters, meeting spaces, product displays, media kiosks, storage space and much more. What you include is up to your imagination, trade show rules and your budget.

So, how do you know which type of design is right for you, and how you should set up your display? The biggest driver of what makes the most sense for you will be your goals in attending the trade show. Do you want to generate leads? Land sales? Increase brand awareness? Network with potential partner companies?

When planning your booth, always keep your goals in mind. Make sure to clue in any companies you're working with on your display, too.

How can you make sure to accomplish those goals? Booth layout plays a big part. Keep reading for trade show layout design tips that will help you wow visitors and have you meeting — and exceeding — your goals for your next show. To start with, here are five general guidelines for success.

Go With the Flow 

An essential aspect of the design of your trade show booth is the way it encourages traffic to flow. You want to make sure you get the right people to your display and keep them around for the ideal amount of time  which depends on your goals. You want them to spend enough time with you that you can discuss the highlights of working with your company, but not so much that your booth gets overcrowded.Make sure people can easily approach your booth and talk to a representative if they want to. For example, you don't want to create an unnecessary barrier between your staff and your customers by putting a table and chairs in front of where your employees are standing.Think about the flow of your booth the same way you think about your marketing funnel. You want to use your signage to pre-qualify prospects before they come to your booth and have the most qualified prospects spend the most time at your display.

Promote Your Brand

Trade shows are a perfect opportunity to increase brand awareness, but even if that's not your main goal, you should always make sure your display is consistent with your brand. Every part of your layout should work well with your brand identity, colors, logo and other aspects. Don't include any features that contradict how your company is trying to represent itself.To help with branding your layout, you should prominently display your company name, logo and a brief description of who you are and what you do. Which piece is most prominent depends on how well-established your brand is.People immediately recognize big names like Google, Target, Facebook, Nike and others from their logos alone. Smaller companies, however, should make their description the most prominent part of their display, since most visitors won't know what your logo or name represents.

Craft a brief, catchy description of yourself that clearly describes who you are and what you do. Your copy should be succinct enough that people walking by can get a basic understanding of who you are. Qualified prospects will then want to know more.

Get People Interested

You may also want to include in your booth some elements that will draw a crowd. If you have a crowd around your booth, this will bring more attention to you and encourage others to visit you.Some of these fun, engaging elements include giveaways, games, exciting product demonstrations and unique designs. You can also integrate technology. You could offer free Wi-Fi and phone chargers, for example. You could also use QR codes or even create a virtual reality or augmented reality experience for visitors to try.It's important to remember these features are designed to attract crowds, not convert prospects. If brand awareness is your primary goal, you might put more focus on these fun elements. It getting leads or sales is your main objective, make sure these crowds don't take up all your space, as this can discourage more qualified prospects from spending time at your booth.

Keep It Simple

You have nearly endless options when it comes to trade booth layouts, but you don't want your design to be too busy. It's important to pick a few elements to focus on and stick with them.Picking what you want the takeaway for visitors to be can help with this. Choose one thing you want people to remember after they leave your booth and make that a prominent aspect of your trade show booth design. This takeaway could be a problem you solve for your customers, the fact that you're releasing a new product or the idea that your booth was the most fun one at the show.When creating your layout, choose a theme and stick with it. This theme can be something about your company or something captivating like the beach or outer space. Just make sure it's relevant to your brand.

Visually, you always want to keep things relatively simple. To make your display easier to process, don't use too many different pictures, colors or fonts. One helpful rule of thumb to remember is that your design should be 40 percent white space. It's tempting to pack all your space with content, but if you give it some room to breathe, the elements you do use will have a more significant impact.

You want your design to be easy to take in, so you should also use easy-to-read fonts. Sans serifs are typically the most easily legible. Lighting is also critical to this. You can use it to make your design more readily visible and highlight the most crucial parts of it. Don't make attendees work to understand your booth. Make it as easy on them as possible.

Be Practical

In all the hype about making an engaging design, it's easy to forget about the less exciting, practical elements. Don't forget about things such as storage or meeting space in your layout.If you're giving away product samples or giving product demonstrations, you need to make sure you have enough room to store everything you'll need out of sight, as boxes of these items can be unsightly and take away from the feel of your design. You'll also need a hidden storage area for personal items like coats and umbrellas.If you want to spend longer periods talking to prospects in your booth, set aside space for a semi-private meeting area. That might not be feasible for smaller designs, but if you have enough room, it can have a considerable impact on the number of leads you acquire. You can allow people to see you having these meetings, but make sure there is at least some privacy and that they don't obstruct the flow of traffic.

Trade Show Tips by Booth Size

The amount of space you have will limit what you can do with your layout in some ways, but a large trade show booth is not necessarily better than a small one. A small, well-laid-out booth can have much more impact than a poorly designed large one.

Part of getting ready for your trade show will be choosing the ideal size for your setup. Your budget, your goals and what function you want your space to serve will help determine the right size for you. Before choosing a size, map out everything you want to include in your booth. Don't forget to consider storage space, space for displayed products, meeting space and room for people.

For each staff member, set aside around 40 to 50 square feet. Leaving less than that will make your space feel crowded. A more open layout will be more inviting. You'll also need to consider the crowds you're aiming to attract and whether they'll be inside or outside your booth space. For a gathering in which people stand about an arm's length apart, you need 10 square feet for each person. For a tightly packed crowd, you need about five square feet for each person.

Don't forget about height when designing your layout. Building vertically as well as horizontally can help you take full advantage of your space. Include graphics people will be able to see from long-range, medium-range and up close. Put your long-range graphics as high as you can, medium-range ones at around six to eight feet off the ground and short-range ones at about five to six feet high.

Tips for Small Trade Show Booths

If your space is too small to fit everything you want comfortably, think outside the booth. Put more of your focus on pre-show promotion to draw more people to your setup, as well as post-show interactions to make those connections count. Also, make sure you train your staff on how to be efficient at moving people through the booth.

You can also use technology, such as QR codes and social media, to expand your presence beyond the physical limits of your space. Additionally, take advantage of the other things the trade show has to offer. Spend time at meet-and-greets and presentations, and maybe even see if a representative from your company can give a presentation. You can set up private meetings and events as well.

Tips for Outdoor Trade Show Booths

A lot of trade shows take place indoors, but if you're participating in an outdoor trade show, you'll need to take that into account. First of all, you'll need to prepare for the elements. Make sure you use supplies that will be OK if they get wet, or have something on hand to cover them with in case it starts raining. Also, make sure to secure all your items in case the wind picks up. You don't want to spend valuable trade show time chasing down parts of your display.

If it's likely to be hot and sunny out, take advantage of that fact by having a shaded booth and giving away things like branded water bottles, sunglasses, and hats. People will appreciate your giveaways and may come into your booth for a break from the heat.

Tips for Marketing at the Trade Show

While a well-designed trade show booth can play a huge part in your trade show success, you also need to make sure you're ready to market yourself before attending a show.

Perhaps one of the most important trade show tips for exhibitors is that the focus should be on networking, rather than selling. These kinds of events are generally better for getting leads and building relationships with potential customers and partners than closing sales.

Before the show, start reaching out to attendees so you can promote the fact that you'll be there. Doing so might encourage your contacts to attend and will put you on the radars of those who do come out. You can also set up meetings for the event in advance. If you have a big current or potential customer, you could even buy them a ticket.

Social networking is another great promotional tool for trade show attendees. Tweet pictures from the show, tag other attendees and use the show hashtags to give yourself more online visibility.

The interactions you have after the show with the contacts you made there are just as crucial as the ones you had with them at the event. Give them enough time to travel and get settled after the show, then reach out so you can keep that connection alive.

Of course, you should also measure the return on investment, or ROI, of your trade show appearance. Keep track of what went well and what didn't, so you can improve for your next event.

Advice for Your First Trade Show

If this is the first time you'll be exhibiting at a trade show, you probably have a lot of questions. All the above tips apply to you, but it's especially important to remember you won't get everything right the first time. That's why it's vital to keep track of your ROI and use that information to improve at each trade show appearance.

Learning about what others in your industry are doing is one of the most valuable parts of going to trade shows for any attendee. For first-time exhibitors, though, this will be especially important. Take time to walk around and explore the booths of the other exhibitors. Take notes about what they're doing well and what isn't working for them. Then, you can incorporate these insights into your next trade show booth layout.

Another helpful tip is to feel free to ask the show's organizers any questions you have. Different events have different rules and processes, so it's best to ask for clarification if you're not sure about something.

Whether you're planning for your first or next trade show appearance, working with an experienced trade show display company can help. We provide large-format trade show graphics, as well as other materials — such as business cards, brochures and catalogs — you can hand out at events. Contact us today to talk to a trade show signage expert or request a free quote here.