5 Steps to Designing Compelling Trade Show Exhibits

Interactive exhibit design

Each year, over $24 billion is spent by U.S. trade show exhibitors on their custom exhibits and booth designs. According to B2B Magazine’s “2014 Marketing Outlook” study, events are the second largest are of growth in media spending, falling just behind digital marketing. Considering on average, U.S. trade show visitors will spend over 9 hours viewing exhibits, it’s in your best interest to make sure your custom exhibits catch and capture their attention. To do this, look first and foremost at your graphics.

Here’s how to design custom exhibits for your next trade shows that will keep viewers coming closer to learn more:

  1. Answer the three w’s and how.

    Before beginning to design your booth, it’s a good idea to take a minute to make sure you have a strategy for how you’ll answer your viewers’ three essential questions: Who are you? What do you do? How can you help them? And, Why should they choose you?

    The first is perhaps the easiest to provide an answer to. Hopefully your branding and logo will speak for you. To make sure trade show visitors can easily locate you, try to place your logo as high as possible on your exhibit, then again at various other locations and heights.

    The question of what you do is also straightforward for the most part. Make sure you can answer it in as few words as possible without causing ambiguity. If you can come up with a tagline to place near your logo on your exhibit booth, even better.

    How and why are next. These may take a bit more forethought to decide how you’ll address each question on your custom exhibits. The trick is to be concise but also impactful. What sets you apart from your competition? How can your service or product help your viewers be more successful? Once you have the answers to these four questions, it’s time to start designing your custom exhibits display.

  2. Determine your viewing ranges.

    In general, an exhibit booth design will require three types of graphics: long-range, medium-range, and short-range. The range is determined by how far away viewers will be standing from your booth when they see the graphics. Long-range graphics should be placed as high as trade show regulations allow to catch the eye of distance viewers and draw them closer. As they approach, their eyes will shift to more comfortable viewing levels and focus on your mid-range graphics. Target your mid-range graphics to be between six and eight feet off the floor. For close up viewing, you’ll have your short-range graphics. Place short-range graphics around five or six feet above the floor to be comfortable for the widest range of viewers.
  3. It’s as much about what isn’t there as what is.

    You don’t want to overwhelm your viewers or overcrowd your exhibit design with too many graphics. A general rule of thumb when it comes to trade show exhibit design is to leave 40% of empty space. You read that right: almost half of your graphics should be white space. The same goes for text. Think more along the lines of billboards than pamphlets for custom exhibits: less is often more.
  4. Choose your fonts with care, but don’t choose too many.

    Your brand’s style guide will play a part in which fonts you use on your custom exhibits. Try to use no more than two or three different fonts, however, and pay attention to the font’s readability. Sans-serif fonts – – the ones that don’t have the little tails on the ends of the letters – – such as Helvetica are typically easier to read than serif fonts. The font you choose should be both reader-friendly and representative of your brand.
  5. Set your font size based on viewing range.
  6. Another trade show exhibit rule of thumb is add one inch of height to your fonts for each foot of space between viewers and your exhibit. For instance, if the goal is to have visitors reading your sign from 10 feet away, add 10 inches to the size of your font.

When it comes to effective trade show booth designs, the art is in catching viewer’s attention and compelling them to learn more. With these five tips you’ll be well on your way to a stellar design.

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Sarah Todd

Sarah Todd

Sarah Todd, an investment banker, is a reporter and researcher for one of London’s leading media outlets. Formerly a trader and market maker at FTSE, she turned to media during the global recession. This website features some of her best and favourite articles, from all parts of the business world. Please let her guide you and your enterprise along the path to prosperity.