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12 Ways to make your trade show booth stand out

Good news: The average attendee spends 8.3 hours viewing trade show booths at a single exhibition. That’s more than enough time for you to communicate with prospects, introduce them to your products, and gather the contact information you need to turn them into marketing-qualified leads.

But before you can start establishing relationships with your visitors, you have to first attract them to your booth. In the crowded sea of flashy displays, gimmicks, and one-upmanship, we know it can be hard to stand out from the competition.

That’s why we’ve assembled this list of 12 tactics you can take to create a unique trade show booth that sets you apart from your competitors.

1. Use 3 bright colors to draw attention to your booth.

Bright colors can set your exhibit’s mood. They can make your brand instantly recognizable to visitors, and you can apply high-contrasting colors to your design to accentuate certain display elements and highlight important messaging.

Too few colors can be boring, but too many colors can confuse and overwhelm attendees. When choosing colors to make your trade show display stand out, a good rule of thumb is to start with 3 and follow the 60% - 30% - 10% design rule.

What does the 60% - 30% - 10% rule mean in practice?

When choosing which three colors to start with, follow these tips:

2. Incorporate empty space into your trade show layout.

When designing your unique trade show display, you want to consider how to maximize your space to your advantage. However, this doesn’t mean cluttering every inch of your exhibit with graphics, furniture, and displays.

Like with the content on your website, whitespace is vital. It helps balance your exhibit, create a more visually appealing display, and draw your visitors’ attention to your most important messages.

That’s why it’s important to think hard about the proportions of your booth. A good rule of thumb is to ensure about 40% of your booth is empty space.

When we were tasked with designing a booth for Navien for a 2014 heating and cooling trade show, we knew we wanted to showcase multiple demonstration zones without overwhelming visitors.

So we created a unique two-story exhibit that brought the company’s residential and commercial product lines to life. We also incorporated plenty of whitespace into Navien’s displays as to avoid the appearance of clutter.

Navien two-story trade show exhibit designed by BTWN Exhibits.

3. Weave one clear theme throughout all your messaging.

One way to create a cohesive display is to weave a single consistent message throughout all your messaging. Many exhibitors will be tempted to highlight all of their product’s features, resulting in confusing and conflicting messages for prospects.

You can set yourself apart by highlighting your unique selling proposition, or USP. Your USP is the one thing that makes your brand unique. It’s the one thing you can do better than all of your competitors.

To establish your USP (if you haven’t already), ask yourself the following questions:

Then make sure all your most important graphics and visuals communicate this message.

4. Tell your brand’s unique story.

One way to stand out at a trade show is to successfully tell your brand’s story. Almost every booth you see will feature a large header, company logo, and branded graphics, but many will fail at explaining their story in a compelling manner that incites prospects to take action.

Customers will never buy from you unless they feel they can trust you. And they’ll never feel they can trust you until they get to know you.

So dig into your company story. Ask yourself:

Once you have your "why," brainstorm unique ways to conceptualize this idea within your booth. Consider how you can incorporate your story into your layouts, graphics, messaging, brochures, and design.

Need more branding help? Check out these 19 resources for trade show exhibitors.

5. Incorporate your own products into your display in an original way.

If you’re like 88% of trade show exhibitors, you participate in trade shows to raise awareness of your company and products. One of the best ways to do this is to incorporate your own products into your display. In doing so, you can also ensure that no one else will have a booth quite like yours!

This is the strategy we took for the 2017 AWFS Fair in Las Vegas, where we constructed a booth for wood product company Masisa made entirely out of their own products.

We created three sample rooms to strategically showcase their wood products in a real-to-life environment: a bedroom walk-in closet, kitchen counter, and even a partial living room.

We also created a side wall to show off Masisa’s full range of laminate finishes. This way, visitors didn’t just get to hear what the company had to offer. They got to see and experience their finishes up close and personal.

Masisa custom trade show display product wall designed by BTWN Exhibits.

6. Don’t be afraid to invest in your trade show booth design.

When it comes to your trade show booth design, don’t be afraid of going custom-made. There are numerous benefits to hiring a custom trade show exhibit company to design your display from scratch.

A trade show exhibit design firm will collaborate with you to take your initial idea to high-end concept, ensuring they maintain your brand messaging and aesthetic throughout. They’ll contribute their years of trade show experience and expertise to design a one-of-a-kind layout that attracts attention and delivers your message in a unique way.

But you don’t have to relinquish full control of your project. Your hired design team will keep you fully informed throughout each stage of the process, giving you plenty of room to make important decisions.

Some companies, like BTWN Exhibits, will even stay with you throughout the show, ready to troubleshoot any issues that may arise.

See more pros of custom trade show displays or learn why you need one for your next event.

7. Use various types of trade show exhibit lighting to illuminate your display.

There are endless ways to use lighting to make your exhibit more exciting and unique. The right lighting can be subtle or show-stopping. It can make your booth more appealing by showcasing the intricate detail you poured into your display. It can also enhance the visibility of your products and graphics and underscore important messaging.

Here are a few different types of lights to consider:

8. Design your meeting area to reflect your brand’s image and stimulate lively conversation.

When it comes to designing your booth’s meeting area, you have plenty of unique options for furniture. A few fun choices include:

However, it’s important to use furniture sparingly and design a space that is unique to your product, service, and aesthetic.

Exhibitor Online conference faculty member Candy Adams urges trade show exhibitors to think about the environment they want to establish with their booth furniture.

“An exhibit geared toward conducting business meetings might feature furnishings similar to those swanky options found in a corporate boardroom,” writes Adams.

“Conversely, if the goal is to stimulate casual conversation among attendees and staffers, laid-back furnishings such as overstuffed loveseats and plush armchairs paired with low tables will do the trick.”

9. Host an interactive product demonstration.

Lots of trade show exhibitors incorporate demos into their exhibits, but many fail to include an “it” factor that will draw–and keep–their visitors’ attention. Your job as an exhibitor is to create a trade show display that sets your booth apart from your competitors’. The more people who stop to view your demonstration, the more chances you have to convert interested prospects into leads.

Remember that exhibits lose their impact when they’re all tell and no show. Visitors want to be engaged. They want to interact with you and your product.

When we created a booth for Coway, a maker of home wellness products and appliances, we knew we wanted to show off their Juicepresso blender. So we created a fresh fruit bar to host live product demonstrations. Not only did Coway get to show off their fantastic product, but they were able to provide a healthy and delicious treat to unsuspecting visitors.

Coway Juicespresso live product demonstration at a trade show.

10. Draw attention to your booth with unique interactive activities.

Interactive touchscreens, games, and activities are a great way to add a unique dimension to your trade show exhibit. They can help you draw attendees to your booth and kickstart the interaction between you and your prospects. Once you open the door for that initial conversation, you can start learning about your audience (and maybe collect their contact information, too!).

When we created a custom trade show display for aviation company Airbus in 2017, we knew we needed to attract business executives to view its latest fleet of private corporate jets. So we made it easy for executives to learn about Airbus’ onboard experience by incorporating interactive kiosks alongside scaled models of their jets.

Airbus interactive kiosk beside a display model at a trade show.

Here are a few other ideas for interactive booth technology and activities:

Make sure you follow these best practices for successfully incorporating interactive games and technology into your exhibit:

Explore 15 ideas for attracting a crowd to your trade show exhibit.

11. Think outside the box when it comes to promotional items and giveaway prizes.

It’s easy to mass produce items like lanyards and pens that showcase your company name and logo, but you can set yourself apart by handing out promotional items and offering giveaway prizes that your prospects actually want.

If your promo items and prizes are useful, your leads will use them frequently. They’ll see your brand name and logo often, and they may even tell others about you. So don’t simply choose the cheapest item you can produce in large quantities.

Make sure your promo items and prizes are high quality. They shouldn’t look or feel cheap or break easily. Make sure there’s a clear connection from the items to your product or service.

Lastly, make sure they maintain your brand’s image and beliefs. For example, if your company is all about reducing waste, don’t hand out water bottles that are unnecessarily wrapped in plastic.

12. Grab attendees’ attention with one-of-a-kind displays and creative stunts.

When you create a custom exhibit, you can design a truly unique display that entices attendees to stop and visit and leaves a lasting impression.

YUDO, a leader in the plastic injection molding industry, came to us ahead of a 2015 plastics trade show with a request to design a show-stopping exhibit. We decided to build them a one-of-a-kind, 3,200 square foot exhibit anchored by a huge branded honeycomb header.

Once inside the booth, a unique multimedia presentation tunnel compelled visitors to walk through and learn about the value of YUDO products.

Yudo trade show exhibit honeycomb header designed by BTWN Exhibits.

We also came up with a unique creative stunt; a live demonstration of YUDO’s automated machinery. We hid the base under 20,000 plastic balls as a playful reference to the company’s business line.

Example of a creative stunt at a trade show by the company Yudo.

So don’t limit yourself to what you’ve seen before. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and try something new. You’ll be glad you did.

Ready to create your next global brand experience?

Reach out, we’d love to help get your first exhibit underway.