Designing a Better Booth
Build it (Right!) and They Will Come

A trade show is a bustling place where you have to stand out to get the attention of potential customers. Creative and unusual booth design will improve your chances of grabbing visitors' attention. Your booth has the potential to be the ultimate advertising channel because you get a chance to interact directly with your visitors. They get a firsthand look at what you have to offer, they can touch and try products, and get answers to their questions right away.

You only have a few seconds to engage trade show visitors before they walk right on by your booth. In these precious seconds, their eyes have to be drawn to your booth, they have to understand what your company stands for, and what it offers.

Before you start working on your booth design think about what you want to use it for. Do you need an area to demonstrate products, tables for customers to gather around, a private area for writing contracts, interactive games or a place to show information or music videos? Consider the space that you have at your disposal. One common mistake is to try to fit as much stuff in a booth as possible. More often than not, the booth is smaller than you think and you want your visitors to be able to walk through the booth without feeling like a bull in a china shop.

You also have to keep in mind the psychological impact of certain design features. For instance, a booth with a raised platform will be perceived as harder to enter than one with a floor that is level to the trade show floor. A booth with walls on three sides feels harder to escape – this can make visitors hesitate in entering your booth. That said, the people that do enter are more likely to be interested in what you have to offer.

When creating your booth layout, get creative. Use unusual shapes and forms on your display stands. Model stands on your logo, a plant or something in nature, a city skyline. Get inspiration from your product. A tire company designed its booth using a round shape from the tire and an s-shape to show speed. If you look around you will find underutilized shapes everywhere. Bring in some unexpected eye-catchers – a bunch of cool lights hanging in the center of your display, a patch of plants with relaxing bird songs playing from hidden speakers, yarn set up as a spider web to symbolize a network, a pyramid of books or a half-eaten apple to symbolize knowledge or anything else that you can connect in someway to your brand or product.

Lead the visitors to your booth by hanging graphics from the ceiling. Use height when you are designing the booth, check height restrictions with the exhibition organizers, to tower over your competition.

Keep messages short and to the point. Your booth is not a product sheet or catalogue. No one at an exhibition takes time to read a lot of small print. The whole point of being part of a trade show is to speak to your customers and let them know how your products or services can benefit them.

A handout after the visitor leaves your booth can be given as a reminder of your offer. Place text in the upper half of your display. Text placed on the lower part of the display graphics will be almost invisible as there often are tables or other objects in the way. Make sure you use a font that is legible at a distance.

Both illustrations and photos work wonders when creating graphics. A very complicated technical product or a medical condition can easily be described with a good illustration, and to create trust or credibility, a photo can have great impact on your visitors. It is really a matter of knowing who your target audience is and how they relate to your products and services. Designing graphics that have graffiti printed on them for a real estate convention may not give you the same result as if you were using the same illustration at a fair for tattoo artists.

Remember to use high quality images, low resolution or bad images can ruin an otherwise great looking booth.

Choosing colors can be a complex job. Color preference is part of your personality and culture. What is a wonderful color to you might be seen as an awful color to someone else (see also “The Color Effect – What different colors say about your brand”).

At exhibitions, many companies use their corporate colors so that their customers will recognize and find them at the show. Sometimes, however, a company may feel the need to create a different color scheme for a certain campaign.

Exactly what colors you should use in a specific situation is really hard to say. It will depend on you target audience, your campaign and where your exhibition takes place. However, here are some general color guidelines to consider:

• Pure colors with no black in them are happy colors. Use clear yellow, red, green and orange for a spontaneous, optimistic and lively feeling.

• For soothing, spontaneous and welcoming feel use warm colors. Warm colors are hues with red in them: red-orange,orange, and yellow-orange.

• A powerful attention-getter is a fully saturated red. Red is known to raise blood pressure and stimulating the nervous system. Be careful though, some people react very strongly to a clear and hot red color.

• Cold color that make your customers think of a cool winters day are light blue, white and blue-green. They remind us of snow and ice. Fully saturated blues can lower blood pressure and make you feel calm.

• To make visitors feel refreshed, calm, and comfortable, use cool colors such as turquoise and spring greens.

• Pale pastels give a sense of romance, femininity, loftiness and tranquility.

• Dark, muted colors are heavy, secure, masculine and serious. They also represent the end of autumn.

• Yellow and orange reminds us sunlight, blue and blue-green of the ocean, white is hygienic and simplicity, brown is wood and earth, green is trees, plants and harmony and purple is a majestic color.

Trade shows offer you an incredible ability to interact with potential customers, but for that to happen, they need to visit your booth. If you want to get their attention, you need to think carefully about the design elements of your display – and don’t be afraid to get creative!