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Getting the Double Take – 10 Tips for an Exhibit Display that Stands Out

How do you stand out at the conference, trade show or event? How do you have the exhibit or environment that represents your brand well yet rises above the rest?  Here is a hint… it is not all about having the tallest booth on the floor.   Having a great designer who can help translate your brand into a three-dimensional space is ideal.  They can take your marketing strategy and brand and create an experience.   However, you don’t always have the budget or the time to go all out.   Here are some tips gleaned from some of our Skyline designers you can use to elevate your look so your Company brand gets the attention it deserves.

  1. Use Color Wisely

One of the first elements of your brand that will be noticed and likely remembered by viewers is color.  In fact, a Marketing study done by the University of Loyola on color indicates that the right color can increase brand recognition by 80%.

Ensuring that the exhibit elements you select are brand appropriate yet don’t blend in along with everything else on the show floor is key.  Know your industry and your competition.   If all the other exhibits are green and white, then consider using one of your brand accent colors as the main background color if your logo is green with a white background.   This will help you stand out on the show floor.


  1. Higher is not always better

While you want to be visible on the show floor, hanging a sign as high as possible is not always the best choice.   Other factors to consider include how to tie in your ground supported elements to hanging structures, what other exhibitors are likely to do (if you all hang a sign at 24” that will not help anyone stand out) if you are not sure what they will do, look at photos of the show from prior years or talk to someone who attended the show to get some insights.

By integrating your ground elements to any hanging or tall signage you will help draw the eyes to your exhibit and define the space.  By doing this your exhibit is more likely to stand out among a sea of hanging signs even if it is lower than the others.


  1. Contrast trumps brightness

Backlit is a great way to get attention if you are the back booth in a dark show.    Yet, if everything in your booth is backlit then the eyes of the viewer don’t know what to focus on.   It is too much.  Instead, consider backlighting key elements of your message or logo and using regular down lights or no lighting for the rest.  You will create contrast and the eyes of your viewer will go to where you need them to go.

Spotlighting just key areas on your sign like logos or just a couple of sides of a hanging cube can be just as, or more, effective than lighting everything.   Also, you can save some money by being selective about what you light.


  1. Take your Logo out to play

Your logo does not have to stay flat at a show or event.  This is your chance to showcase your brand from a different perspective.  Whether it is creating a 3D sign and lighting it from different angles, mirroring the logo image in a hanging sign, or even using it to create a unique, yet subtle, background pattern you can create a surprising element for your audience.

Check out how the structure mirrors the logo a couple of different ways in the exhibit.   The structure captures additional interest by having a high signage element that ties into the ground structure.


  1. Don’t forget about context

Are you exhibiting in Las Vegas? Maybe there is something about your brand that can speak to that.   You can either play up the Vegas look by including some neon signs or go completely counter-culture and provide an oasis to escape from that.  What is the rest of the competition doing?   You want to be sure not to do that.  We saw a company do sparkly lanyards in Vegas.  Very simple but it was a huge hit with that crowd.

What message are you trying to send at the show?   What does your brand stand for?   Is there something newsworthy or transformational happening in your company or with the industry? Do you have a theme that follows that messaging or ties into benefits for a product you are launching?    This should all be communicated to your designer as they can use that information to create a space that communicates these messages in a unique and memorable way.


  1. Creating Curiosity

While you don’t want the name and brand of your Company to be a mystery, you can get attention by inciting curiosity about the experience you are providing, the new product you are launching or just the environment of your exhibit.

You can do so by sending a carefully worded invitation providing clues about what you are doing but leaving some details out for prospects to wonder about.    For example – “We will be demoing our new product and giving away gift certificates to top rated restaurants in downtown Chicago to the first 10 people to try out the demo.”

You can also create mystery by providing a peek into the experience you have created with partial walls, curtains, windows or sheer material.  Prospects can see there is something fun going on but they can’t quite tell what it is.   Layering fabric can create different views of the same space creating as our designer Andrew Forchas says, “another chance to make a first impression”.

One particularly intriguing exhibit I saw at EuroShop had three displays with windows in them.   They looked like little birdhouses.  To look in the window you had to climb the ladders and look in.   I saw multiple people climbing that ladder and later having conversations with the staffers.


  1. Make Motion Effective

A pet peeve of our designers is being asked for a round rotating hanging sign.  Why is that?   Do they have an unfounded aversion to round signs?  No, but they do have a natural aversion to doing the same thing for every client.   They want our client’s exhibits to look great and to stand out.   While there may be times a round, rotating sign can accomplish this, there are many other ways that are likely to work even better.   Assuming your objective is to draw passersby to your exhibit through movement here are some options:

  • Use Digital – A monitor with a great video or just a presentation showing your logo, top products and key messaging can create movement and tell a complete story especially when your staffer takes the time to explain the content to visitors
  • Fabric movement – An exhibit can have hanging fabric that moves with the natural breeze in a show or the air of a fan. Only do this if it makes sense for your brand.
  • Project your brand – Depending on the lighting at the show you may not be able to clearly project words or a complex message but you can certainly project shapes or a repeating pattern of your logo or a shape associated with your product or theme.
  • Demo your product – Do you have machinery that could move in a demo periodically. What a great way to create attention!   A great demo one of our designers created was showing a clients’ waterproof product functioning under a waterfall.   This not only created motion and attention with the water but showcased the benefits of the product very well.


  1. Impress with Less

It is so tempting to want to show all your wonderful products!    And, I know many of you are pushed by conflicting interests and often must answer to multiple teams who want you to show what they are working on.   However, think about your last experience at a store you were walking by at the mall and entered.   What made you go in?   Would you have gone in if they had 20 products showcased on the window instead of 3?   Would you have noticed the one thing that drew you in?

Also, think of the nicest stores you go to at the mall, such as Apple, Ann Taylor, or Nordstrom.  How many times do you see the logo out in front?   The logo is certainly very visible at every entrance but once you are inside they rely on the ambiance, their sales associates, and merchandise to tell the branding story.  Keep this in mind when you consider how often and how large a logo needs to be.   A good rule of thumb is to “use the company logo as a focal point in your normal field of view” shares Andrew Forchas.  Instead of repeating a logo you can expand your visuals and create space to use your other visuals – advises designer Amy Kubas.

Another trick is to be picky about what you merchandise.   Designer Stephanie Pheneger says “You can always bring extra product that you think you may want to show clients, but store it in a closet or cabinet until you need it”.  This way you don’t have to clutter up your exhibit yet have the product you need just in case.  By keeping the space cleaner, you reduce the stress of the viewer and you can better define the focus of what you want them to look at.


  1. Tell a Story

People remember stories.   A fun way to hook your audience is to give them an unexpected element and get them curious to find out more.  Telling a story works better if you have a more involved client but, done right, it can create that double take and, bonus, talk value after that.   At the ExhibitorLIVE show, we set out to do just that.   We started with an insight.   Our clients were stressed out and needed someone to take care of all their exhibiting needs so they could relax.  Our internal agency Skyline 360 came up with the theme Experience Trade Show Zen.   Our designer was then asked to create an environment that would showcase a show-stopping Zen Garden Experience and would also showcase the full capabilities of Skyline demonstrating that we could take care of the broad range of Exhibiting tasks so they could sit down and relax – Experience Trade Show Zen.  We wanted clients to stop in their tracks and ask themselves if this was the Skyline they thought they knew.    We sent out digital and paper invitations, we created a website, we blogged about the experience we were creating.  The draw was an environment with a digital Koi pond surrounded by real plants, larger than life tree graphics, hot tea, and sweets.   The entire structure was inspired by nature and created the calm feeling of being in a garden. The clients we welcomed felt understood, they loved the exhibit and we were able to start some great conversations and win Best of Show!


  1. Be Different & Relevant

Can you create an element of surprise that is not expected in your industry show, yet ties into your company or messaging?  Stephanie Pheneger shares that some industrial companies assume they need to use truss hardware for their exhibit because that is what is expected of an industrial company.   However, if the objective is to stand out and get a double take, you may want to stay away from what everyone else is doing and convey your message of strength, reliability or innovation without the truss.

Another way to stand out is to use crowd gatherers, mascots or unique giveaways.  Crowd Gatherers get a bad rap but can be invaluable to communicate your basic messaging to someone walking by your booth.   They can be especially helpful if you can have them wear something that ties into your theme.  One year our dealer in Spain had staffers wear and give away black rimmed glasses with tape in the middle to highlight how they were trade show nerds who could see things differently.   It made people stop and ask and then they would share how these were special glasses that could help you see things differently and encouraged visitors to use them.

Well thought out giveaways can help you stand out and tie into your company or theme.   One of our clients sent out golf balls to high-value prospects and then invited them to participate on a hole in one contest for the chance to win a high-value driver.  Not only were they able to attract top prospects to their booth, the activity itself attracted attention from people walking by.   Also, the messaging tied into their brand message about quality and accuracy in their field.

In summary, people are attracted to beauty and notice what is different from their surroundings.  When someone walks into a space, they stop and look if the space is attractive to them.  They are more likely to come in, if they have an open pathway, and if there is something of interest and a reason for them to enter the space.   Is there interesting content?   Maybe a video, a presentation a demonstration?   Also, there must be a reason for each product or message featured on your display.  It is best to have less product, as a cluttered space is not inviting. Ensure your Company brand is recognizable and stands out.  Designer Amy Kubas puts it this way “Imagine how you would display a valuable piece of art in your living room.   You would ensure it has a place of honor that is noticeable, uncluttered and well lit.  Treat your logo in that same way.”


About the Author

Sofia Troutman was the Manager of Digital Marketing & Product Innovation for Skyline Exhibits in St. Paul, MInnesota.

4 responses to “Getting the Double Take – 10 Tips for an Exhibit Display that Stands Out

  1. The 11th Tip For A Display Exhibit That Stands Out is to have it populated with attendees. Nothing draws a crowd better than when people see a crowd at a booth. If you are exhibiting the next iPhone or Tesla Model 3 then it will be easy to draw a crowd, otherwise you can draw the same traffic by providing a well throughout giveaway. Dare to be “Different and Relevant” as in #10 above. A basic giveaway that is probably being given away at a dozen other booths will not generate any traffic. Be different. Provide a giveaway that has value and is relevant to your brand but if you want to really pack your booth with attendees, personalize the giveaway on-site in your booth . Its a known fact that personalized giveaways generate more traffic to a booth than any other giveaway. Dale Carnegie said it best, “Remember that a person’s name, is to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language”. In other words, personalize the giveaway and you will be providing a giveaway that is cherished and retained for years. Digital Events Inc. provides on-site laser engraving, embroidery stitching and direct to garment printing on-site at your event.

    1. Thank you for your comment Craig. I agree that differentiated giveaways can make a positive difference and help your exhibit stand out. You must also make sure that the giveaways are relevant to your Company’s brand or trade show theme so they will help visitors remember your company and experience at the show or event.

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