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?
Apply your primary color to 60% of your space. This color will unify the various elements of your design.
Apply your secondary color to 30% of your space. This color will create contrast and help you establish visual interest.
Apply your accent color to the last 10% of your design. This color will help you emphasize important elements, graphics, and text.
When choosing which three colors to start with, follow these tips:
Consider what the colors you choose signify. Different colors convey different feelings and emotions. While yellow exudes optimism and positivity, blue symbolizes dependability and strength.
Stay on brand. Don’t choose trade show colors that don’t follow your brand colors and aesthetic. This can be confusing for your visitors.
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.
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:
What problem does your product solve?
How do you solve that problem better than anyone else?
What makes your product unique?
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:
Why did our founder create our company in the first place? What problem did he or she aim to solve?
Why should customers trust us? What expertise or authority do we contribute to our industry?
Why do we do what we do? What drives our work?
Why should our customers choose our product or service over a competitor’s?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
Spotlights – You can use spotlights in various colors to create a dramatic effect while highlighting a particular product, like a bestseller. Spotlights can be incandescent, fluorescent, or halogen.
Strobe Lights and Gobo Lights – Strobe lights and gobo lights can help you create interesting visual effects. You can use them to project your company name, logo, or slogan onto your booth floor or wall.
Hanging Lights – Hanging lights will illuminate your booth while attracting the attention of passersby.
Accent Lighting – Use accent lighting to add texture to your graphics.
Ambient Lighting – Add dimension to your display with ambient lighting. Lamps, for example, can help you create your desired mood or set a specific ambiance.
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:
Portable counters, tables, and display cases
Illuminated LED furniture
Inflatable furniture (you can even have it printed with your company name and logo!)
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.
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.
Here are a few other ideas for interactive booth technology and activities:
Surveys and quizzes
Interactive video walls
Carnival-style games or trivia
Make sure you follow these best practices for successfully incorporating interactive games and technology into your exhibit:
Ensure all activities are consistent with your brand
Ensure all activities will help you achieve your trade show goals
Add a unique spin that could only come from you
Reward visitors for the time they spend at your booth
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.
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.
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 get started on your next trade show experience?