Park or Castle? – Tradeshow Booth Basics

, Park or Castle? – Tradeshow Booth Basics

Denise Stoppleworth

In my 15 years in the equipment industry, I’ve been to a lot of tradeshows – more than I can count or remember in fact. I’ve seen all kinds of wonderful booths and some…well, let’s say less than ideal booths as well. I thought I had a good understanding of what qualifies as a good booth, but at the AEM meeting last week, Marlys Arnold of ethnoMETRICS offered some tips on booth design that made me reexamine some of my beliefs. As a result, I just can’t get the tips out of my head. In fact, I came back to the office and shared the information with my colleagues and it ignited a spark if ideas on how to redesign one of our client’s booths. Now I just need to sell the idea to the client. If it ignited a spark for us, it may do the same for you. So, I thought I’d share some of the tips and my reaction. First of all, the idea of borders or barriers was thought provoking. Oftentimes, exhibitors and agencies – myself included – tend to think of the successful booth as one in which equipment, graphic displays and counters
form a somewhat solid border around the booth. Makes sense right? Put all the interesting stuff near the aisle so the attendees can see it and interact with it. Now shift your perspective and view that “border” for what it becomes subconsciously to an attendee: A barrier. Suddenly, you’ve made an invisible line at the edge of your booth and dared someone to cross it. Watching actual tradeshow footage proved it’s unlikely the attendee will cross the barrier. So, the tip Marlys offered was to design parks not castles. Translation: Keep your booth open and inviting to draw people inside, giving them permission to talk to your sales team. Marlys said that a good booth should do four things:

  1. Be Inviting – Again, open spaces making attendees feel comfortable entering the booth.
  2. Be Entertaining – We certainly are in a culture that expects to be entertained constantly. At shows like CONEXPO, exhibitors often accomplish this with magic or music shows or activities in their booths. This isn’t to say you have to hire David Blaine or the latest winner from American Idol to perform at your booth, just get creative and think of a simple way to keep attendees interested.
  3. Be Educational – Yes, every exhibit is educational, but the ones that best achieve this objective are those that allow someone to interact with the display in a hands-on educational environment.
  4. Be Memorable – this is the one I found most intriguing. Of course, as marketers, we’re all striving for memorable, but I had never thought of it in terms of a booth display before. Certainly we consider it in the promotion leading up to the show, activities at the show and post-show messages, but how do you make your physical booth truly memorable? No doubt there are ways to do it, but it’s something each exhibitor will need to think about.

Fall and winter are filled with industry trade shows, and maximizing your show return on investment takes a lot of planning and preparation. There’s no better time than now to start forming your objectives, plans and exhibit ideas. For some quick tips on tradeshow strategies, check out our earlier blog post. How have you met the four criteria for a booth? What has been your most successful tradeshow exhibit? We’d love to hear your experiences.