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A Buyer’s Guide to Digital Trade Show Walls & Displays: Part 1 of 2


Digital images displayed on digital displays open up a new world of changeable and moving images. When it comes to selecting digital displays, exhibitors are faced with a staggering choice of options – from small tablets to mid-sized TV screens and multi-panel digital walls. If there is video input, virtually any display screen can be adapted for use at an exhibit. But to help you pick the optimum hardware for your budget, venue, and expected audience, we’ve broken down the features, benefits, and strategies to mitigate risks of each type of display. In this article I will cover, Tablets, Kiosks, and TVs. In part 2 of this article, computer monitors, projectors and video walls will be discussed.

Tablets such as the Apple iPads, Amazon Fires and the Samsung Galaxy Tabs have become increasingly popular at trade show booths. They’re economical, interactive, and are already familiar to many of your booth staffers and attendees. With a variety of proven apps, they are often a versatile and practical choice. Although they represent the smallest available screen option, their screens can be easily mirrored on a larger, nearby monitor. This can help prevent bottlenecks when you are trying to demo content to a small group, and when you only have a couple of tablets available. At a trade show, it is recommended to either tether the tablet to furniture, branded display stand, or a person. Staff people holding tablets should practice introductions, exchanging of contact information, etc. The tablet should not hinder the connection, and the best implementation of tablets enhance the face to face connection. If attendees are expected to interact with the tablet, take the extra time to lock-out settings, and hide other icons, so that your tablet is not hi-jacked to display irrelevant information. Because of the low cost, consider having extra backup tablets to mitigate failures and low batteries, and be sure to plan a strategy to recharge the tablets overnight so they are ready for the next day.

Kiosks can be display-only or touch-screen. Touch screens add interactivity, as well as cost, thickness, and weight. Interactive kiosks are typically expensive to ship, because the best way to mitigate risk is to have everything assembled and tested prior to shipping. For the best interactive experience consider custom apps or software. Kiosks running a looped video or other simple content such as way-finding maps can usually be accomplished with a USB enabled display.

The optimum location and orientation of a kiosk depends on the interaction that is desired. To communicate information that is not interactive to multiple people, choose tall kiosk above people’s heads, choose clear fonts, and simple graphics that communicate the message in less than 10-15 seconds. If the content is interactive with many options, the best option in an exhibit is a “guided interactive tour.” A staffer engages the attendee, and guides them through the interactions, asking questions, digging deeper, and guiding the attendee to the information that best answers their questions. In this case, the display of the kiosk should be mounted vertically, so that multiple people can view it, but a limited number of people can interact and disrupt the tour. If the content is engaging, and the expectation is that the attendee will self-inquire, and self-guide, consider mounting the display of the kiosk horizontally. The limited visibility of the display, except by people standing very near the display, gives the attendee more confidence to explore. Do not expect to do a “guided interactive tour” with a table display kiosk, in the center of a crowd. The interaction is too tempting, and your presentation will be co-opted by attendees. Many times, the optimum interactive kiosk has a slanted display. The slanted shape limits the size of the audience, generating some privacy for the attendee and creates an obvious interaction zone. This same slanted form can be used for “guided interactive tours” as well.

TV Screens
TV screens are the most common display choice for exhibits because they are typically the most cost effective. They’re widely available in many different brands, sizes and resolutions, and are easy to set up. All come with built-in speakers, but for the trade show environment, the speakers integrated in the flat screens are insufficient in both quality and volume. If sound is included with the visual, plan to add inexpensive bookshelf speakers with a built-in amplifier. Most tradeshow booth requirements are easily covered with a consumer grade TV, but if the expectation is re-purpose the exhibit into a more permanent installation like a corporate lobby, consider upgrading to a commercial model. Commercial models are typically brighter, longer lasting, designed for continuous professional use, and come with better warranties. These extra features come at a price, as commercial monitors are often up to 3 times more expensive than their consumer-grade counterparts.

LCD screens are today’s most common type of TV display
LCD TVs can display content at several resolutions. An HDTV can display content at HD resolution (1280×720 pixels). Full HD (the most common) is another step above HD, with a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels. Ultra HD – also known as 4K – is a resolution of 3840×2160 pixels. Unless the expectation is that the attendee will be within 24” of the screen and reading 12 PT font, avoid the cost of 4K screens. 4K digital displays cost more, weigh more, and 4K content is much more expensive to create.

As the size of the display increases, it becomes a significant, integral part of exhibiting success. Do not be “that exhibitor” who has a black screen, or a display that simply showing a progress bar. Have a copy of local content. Have someone who is knowledgeable make on-site adjustments to brightness, contrast, and color settings for the local environment once the booth is setup. Disable auto-brightness functions so that your picture is stable regardless of the surroundings.

There are three choices for mounting a TV

  1. Mounting a TV on a stand is a good option if portability and reconfiguration of the exhibit space is desired for demos and presentations. Be sure to test for stability both when the stand is stationary and moving. Avoid TV stands if re-configurability of the booth space is not necessary; they are trip hazards.
  2. Mounting a TV on the face of a wall is a good, inexpensive option, and great for conference rooms, alcoves, and inline spaces. With this option, the TV sits in front of the wall. Consider putting a shelf below the TV if the TV is in a high traffic area to help visually communicate that the TV is protruding out from the wall.
  3. Integrating a TV into a wall is the best solution for an island exhibit. Ideally, the digital image and surrounding static image are integrated. Because the monitor face is flush with the face of the wall, this both looks better, and can be installed in high traffic areas. Consider a wall system like SkyRise™ from Skyline that is able to flush mount the monitor even if you do not know details regarding mounting hole patterns, bezel width, or TV thicknesses in advance.

Mitigate shipping damage, or installation damage to the display by renting from a reputable exhibitor supplier like PRG, SmartSource, or show services. Ownership can be easily justified for multiple shows; be sure to include a case designed for protecting and shipping the display as part of the investment and justification.

A digital image will always come at a higher cost with higher risks than a static image, but the digital world opens opportunities for presenting dynamic information, engaging a passerby, and interacting with an exhibit attendee. Exhibit design intent drives content and the optimum display. What have been your success stories? Do you have disaster you are willing to share, with the wisdom that you gained from that experience?