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Design: The powerful communication tool in trade show success

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Posted by , 24th April 2018

Design communication: Design is the powerful communication tool in trade show success

The London 2012 Olympic Games display at ExCeL London which was designed by Equinox Partners

Design is, to the fullest extent, the end-to-end thought processes that go into providing an entertaining, memorable and informative experience to benefit your company and its business.

You have decided to invest in a stand space at a trade show. But don’t go cheap. It is your shop window and will deter visitors if you are not expansive and welcoming.

Your aim is to collect data and contacts for your database for the Sales Teams to follow up, but also to make it an interesting and attractive place to do business and to support your representatives who will be informing passing visitors of your products and services.

Consider your audience
  • Those who wish to meet you directly and whom you may have invited.
  • Vistors who are directly attending the show and wish to fact-find out of general   professional interest
  • Attendees who will be at the show to look for Networking opportunities.
Keep it clear, branded and simple

In keeping with my philosophy of keeping things simple and straightforward, I present a short list of do’s and don’ts in relation to your design considerations.

My key design-related “Do’s”

DO.      Involve the designer of your sales materials and website early on. They understand your Brand, Imagery and your Message. They will add flair and imagination, two qualities that will reflect well on your company.

DO.     Keep information display panels plain with large high-resolution images.

DO.     Keep the logos large and with brand coloured themed panels with simple, clear messaging that relates to the customers’ point of view and what they are looking for. Use ‘YOU’ more than ‘WE’.

DO.     Lights – Lighting is essential to attractively illuminate the stand, staff, and displays. Don’t rely on the overall ambient lighting within the exhibition hall. If you do, you are quite likely to have a dark stand and that’s not attractive to visitors. Also, it can make it hard to see what you do or offer.

DO.     Provide a secure store cupboard for coats, technology, drinks, and supplies and to keep the stand tidy.

DO.     Build an atmosphere to stimulate visitors. Low or shelf edge lighting, even scenters or a vase of flowers can contribute to the final positive touch.

DO.     Sales staff clothingshould be on-brand and consistently coloured. And smart for both male and female members.

My “Do’s” for enquiry handling

DO.     Ensure ALL visitors are scanned by staff if you have taken advantage of the data capture technology. You have paid for access to visitor profiles and contact details. Golden information for post-event following-up. Also, business cards cost money and some people are reluctant to hand them out.

DO.     Make written notes of visitors’ specific requests. Personal attention to detail shows you care.

DO.     Use tablet technology to show short videos or website details and interact personally with visitors.

DO.     Provide tactile hands-on samples to create intimate relationships with visitors (or use illustrations for high-value items). Hand out cards and brochures once a connection is made.  Offer to interact later by dropping samples off on a sales call.

DO.     Train staff to move off the stand and interact positively with passing visitors. Keep them thinking about customers needs. The aisles are essentially free space that you are allowed to use.

DO.    Make sure that senior members of the company attend the stand. Happy staff are appreciated for what they are doing.

DO.     Keep video presentations concise and on a loop of no more than 1or 2 minutes. Your stand team must use the opportunity to interact with those visitors stopping to view.

“Do’s” for being sociable

DO.     Provide a couple of high stools for staff and visitors to rest weary legs. Or, if space allows, a seating area to allow longer discussions.

DO.     Hand out water, not alcohol, in branded (or swing tagged) bottles during the day.

DO.     Hand out ‘wine-o’clock’ invitations throughout the day to timed evening events on your stand or elsewhere. This will encourage visitors to return to network and learn more about your company in a favourable light.

And now, my design “Don’ts”

DON’T.    Create a physical barrier at the front of your stand. Placing a counter or a line of staff at the front of a stand is going to stop visitors walking on. So don’t do it even if it looks good on a design sketch.

And, keep brochure displays and bowls to collect business cards at the side and move staff into the FREE aisle space especially if your stand is in a small space.

DON’T.      Overcrowd the stand with products. This can stop visitors coming onto your stand too. Give your exhibits and your stand team the room to do their job.

DON’T.      Clutter-up your stand with piles of brochures. It’s not a good look. Avoid obscuring the clarity of your message at all costs.

DON’T.      Drink alcohol during show hours. Alcohol on the breath is very unattractive to visitors and may make them question the professionalism of your business.

Follow these tips and you will have a great show!

Case study – H2Ozone™ exhibition stand at Aquatech Amsterdam 2017

H2Ozone is an Irish water purification machine manufacturer with potential for global, scalable production. By ramping up their sales and marketing efforts over the last year they have yielded massive returns, with sales going from 50 machines a year to 50 units a month!

The client’s exhibition brief for their stand at Aquatech 2017 was essentially one that we wrote for ourselves at Equinox Partners.

The client had sourced the stand and had also approached the stand contractor to print and layout the display.

At the earliest stages, it is vital to involve the communications team behind the marketing materials. With their experience, they provide the end-to-end linkage in colouring and branding – and continuity to the message to be projected.

In anticipation of this, Equinox Partners had previously ensured that the original images in the literature were of the very highest resolution provided by the photographer and colour libraries. All logos and text were ‘Scalable Vector Graphic’ (SVG) files which can be enlarged to any size without loss of resolution.

Design communication: Design is the powerful communication tool in trade show success

Equinox Partners had previously ensured that the original images in the literature were of the very highest resolution. This meant that the graphics for the stand which were produced much, later on, also reproduced at high quality

Artworks for the display were, therefore, based on the previous materials provided for the literature. It was a matter of liaison between the stand contractor and Equinox Partners to obtain panel dimensions and create suitably professionally produced artwork.

Design communication: Design is the powerful communication tool in trade show success

Concept layout for H2Ozone Stand at Aquatech Amsterdam 2017

The H2Ozone stand at Aquatech Amsterdam 2017 stand featured:
  • Simple, clear on-brand messaging that reflected the brochure collateral
  • Clear, open sides to the stand to encourage visitors to walk-on
  • High-level name boards to be seen from a distance
  • Large attractive graphic images and messages featuring our ‘Pure Water Technology’ tagline
  • Floor graphics to provide a different experience
  • Small counter surfaces, so not too much clutter
  • No literature displays. Staff to hand-out and interact with visitors
  • Discreet area tucked away behind the display to store clutter, coats and extra brochureware supplies

Done deal. H2Ozone closed a significant distribution arrangement at Aquatech 2017.


About the Author 

Michael Taylor is founding partner, with photo-artist and inventor Clare Newton, of Equinox Partners.

Previously a designer of fizzy-drinks makers and BT Satellite Station Control Rooms, Michael established their East London design partnership nearly 30 years ago. Today,  clients include many UK and Irish companies, both small and large, across a wide variety of design disciplines and markets.

One of many outstanding achievements by Equinox Partners has been the concept, design, and installation of the permanent London 2012 Olympic Games display to celebrate ExCeL London becoming the largest and most efficient venue in modern Olympic history. As part of the ‘marketing walk’ for ExCeL, it is also a fully interactive display to engage, educate and raise public awareness. Go see!

Michael can be contacted via LinkedIn 

Posted in Design & Build  /  Stand Management  /  Trade show marketing  /  Visibility & Impact

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