By Kathryn Kosmides
We’ve all seen it: the massive booth (usually owned by those tech giants we love to hate) shining at the front of the expo hall. Their booth may as well have a magnetic field, considering the waves of people it attracts. It’s easy for these big brands to draw crowds on the conference or trade show floor—they patch up brand inconsistencies with cash.
If you’re not a tech giant, money is likely not something you can throw away on a whim. It becomes essential that you have creative design solutions to help your brand stand out on the trade show floor. Good booth design is instrumental in attracting prospects and holding their attention. So whether you work for an agency that designs booths or have been tasked with revamping your team’s conference or trade show experience, keep reading for the best booth design tips that will attract the right kind of people to your booth.
Flash Burns Cash
If you’ve been on a media, marketing, or technology trade show floor you’ve probably enjoyed some cotton candy at the Google Cloud booth. While it’s universally known that their cotton candy is good (like really, really good) we highly doubt cotton candy was responsible for converting prospects into users of Google Cloud.
The cotton candy is simply flash—it attracts crowds, not prospects. If you have expendable budget for flash (i.e. booth games) by all means go for it, as long as it is on brand. However, no company should rely on this tactic to actually convert prospects. It has no substance, just like that cotton candy.
Respect Your Brand Story
A few months ago I put together an awesome terrarium at ExhibitorLive, and all I remember from that experience is how I always murder these things so it’s best left in someone else’s care and not a thing about how I was interested in the service they were hustling.
For the company who provided the terrarium workshop, that’s not good. I can’t remember what company it was or how I even got roped into doing so and I’m confident dozens of new terrarium owners feel the same.
Many, many times we see brands showing up with cool ideas for the trade show floor that have nothing to do with their company. Sales and marketing teams should review how their conference or trade show booth experience connects to their overall brand. Maybe your marketing team has an original booth design idea for the next trade show. That’s great, as long as it connects to your brand in a clear way.
Make Sure You Have Team Buy-In
A few weeks ago I attended Marketo Summit in San Francisco. I ran into a friend of mine at his company’s booth. Disgruntled and frustrated, he went on to tell me how disappointed he was with the marketing team’s efforts. While at first I disregarded his complaints, I noticed their marketing team had paper airplanes to give out to people who stopped by the booth. My friend thought this was cheesy and lame, and I couldn’t help but agree.
The giveaway had nothing to do with their brand, and it didn’t seem like much time went into the idea. On top of it all, no one seemed amped on handing out paper airplanes, and who would blame them?
Having team buy-in on your brand’s overall presence and booth experience means that the marketing and sales teams are genuinely excited to be at the booth interacting with prospects. Consider this a morale design tip: if your team isn’t bought into the overall show design, you’re going to be hosed.
Don’t Showcase Your Prospects, Invite Them In
When you walk around a trade show, you will notice most booth designs feature a table, chairs or design furniture at the immediate entrance of the booth area. This is a major mistake. Your prospects begin their brand experience with a physical barrier.
While it might seem like a good idea to put a table near the front to showcase your meetings, this tactic will not attract prospects. People tend to go where they feel welcome, and they certainly won’t go where they feel put on the spot. Design your booth to suit these needs.
Be careful not to exploit hospitality to increase pitch opportunities. People aren’t stupid. Lately we’ve seen brands place “charging stations”, seating, or a variety of other amenities within their booth space. After surveying dozens of attendees about this, most people readily admit they hate it.
People know if they enter a brand’s zone, they’re going to be pitched. And they don’t want to be pitched, they want to charge their phone.
If you plan to feature a zone like this in your booth, take the time to design a comfortable space. Leave some branded material on the tables but let people know that the space truly is free to use.
Go Ahead, Be Obvious
A quick glance around the trade show floor often tells prospects zilch about the companies behind the booths—but it should. That quick glance is about all the attention you can garner from prospects and pique their interest. Designing clear, branded visuals will help grab their attention and remember where you’re located if the staff is too busy to chat with them at that exact moment.
On top of making your booth obvious, you also want to make your offerings clear. We recommend using the “WIIFM” (what’s in it for me) approach when it comes to attracting prospects and making it obvious what you do. A good rule of thumb here is that someone should be able to see the value your company provides to them in under five seconds over twenty feet away.
Booth Design is Just the Beginning
These booth design tips will help you stand out on the trade show floor, but they won’t make up for poor pre-trade show marketing efforts. If you’re not letting people know you’ll be at the event then your potential ROI will reflect that. Successful booths are full booths.
Here at SummitSync, we know that pre-trade show reach out will drive the most traffic to your booth. Together with pre-trade show efforts, a well-designed booth will increase prospect engagement and trade show ROI.
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