Making Your Exhibit Work for You: A Comprehensive Checklist for Trade Show Exhibitors


Marketing comes in numerous forms these days with more outlets available now than ever before. While the online world offers countless opportunities in this regard, the offline end of the spectrum continues to be an incredibly valuable source of new business. Ongoing studies show there’s still no substitute for old-fashioned person-to-person contact.

Though billboards, mailers, charitable donations, and promotional giveaways go a long way toward generating brand awareness and sparking new business relationships, few alternatives are quite as effective as trade shows and conventions.

More than 90 percent of attendees come to these events in search of new products and service providers, placing exhibits among the most fruitful means of networking and generating leads.


Making The Most Of A Convention Exhibit


Although the benefits of exhibiting at tradeshows aren’t in question, making the most of these investments does bring up its fair share of uncertainties.

Quite a bit of thought and planning must go into each stage of the process to truly capitalize on the experience. Keeping certain points in mind can help ensure success at each event.



Developing A Plan Of Attack

Before diving into any other element of your exhibit, it’s important to lay out your primary reasons for making an appearance. Obviously, drawing in new prospects to expand your clientele is part of the plan, but are other objectives at work here as well?

Some common goals for businesses include:

Expanding into new markets

Launching new products or services

Attracting fresh talent

Reinforcing relationships with existing customers

Sizing up the competition

Each goal comes with a distinct set of requirements. Be sure to address the applicable ones from the beginning and incorporate them into your overall approach. From there, the process branches out even further.


Narrow Down The Options

All too often, businesses forge ahead hoping to accomplish the full range of prospective goals. For most, this type of strategy ends in disappointment. Decide which objectives are most important to your company at present and which ones might offer the most benefits in a long-term sense before moving forward.

Narrow down those targets to the most crucial ones and make them your focal points. One effective way of doing so is by looking at your business’ interior goals. Concentrate on trade show objectives that support those of the company as a whole.


 Set A Budget

With all the possibilities unfolding before you and all the potential goals to address, it would be easy to spend a fortune on a single exhibit. Unfortunately, doing so might greatly hamper your ROI as well as the future growth of the company.

Create a definitive budget and stick to it to avoid overspending. You might be surprised at how far even a minimal outlay will go but be sure the budget covers all the necessities like booth rental, display design, construction, and logistics. It’s all about priority.


 Know Your Audience

No doubt, you already have a target audience and customer persona in mind. These should expand beyond your everyday marketing and advertising methods and venture well into your exhibit.

If you typically concentrate on the B2C realm, consider researching the expectations of vendors catering to your target audience to expand your horizons a bit.

You may even be able to obtain information about attendee demographics from event organizers to help out with this aspect.

Use this data to mold your exhibit around the expectations of those most likely to see it. Every relevant detail gleaned in advance gets you a step closer to reaching your goals and outshining the competition.


 Choose The Right Trade Shows

As is the case with social media marketing, making appearances where your target crowds are likely to see you is imperative. Consider your niche, any markets you may want to expand into and which shows fall in line with these elements.

These aspects will help you bring in more qualified leads and better fulfill your objectives on a number of different levels.


 Pick A Plot

For most companies, securing a space takes up the most sizable portion of the trade show budget. This means finding the most effective piece of real estate for money is crucial.

Having said that, several different types of booths are available, each one offering its own set of benefits and disadvantages.

Linear and perimeter booths are only exposed to aisles on a single side whereas peninsula models have three aisle-facing sides. Island booths offer aisle exposure on all sides, so attendees can see them from every possible angle. Various sizes in each are also typically offered. Prices vary according to square footage and layout.

Booth location also plays a role in the impact of an exhibit. Some companies want to be as close to the entrance as possible so they’ll be among the first displays attendees see when they walk through the doors.

This doesn’t always work out in their favor because this is also the area most prone to traffic jams. Prospects are more likely to bypass the chaos than to forge through it, so finding a space a little further away may be your best bet.

Research trade show venues before choosing a booth type, size or location. Certain back wall height and signage restrictions do apply in some cases, so take this into account as well. Again, all this information is available from the event’s coordinators.

Once you find the booth best suited to your needs and budget, reserve it well in advance. Other exhibitors are following this same protocol, so the best spaces tend to fill up quickly.


Entering The Next Phase

All those previous considerations will factor into your trade show booth design. Knowing who you’re marketing to and why as well as how much space you’ll have to work with and how much it’ll cost will come into play moving forward.

At this point, it’s time to begin thinking about the design, but first, you’ll need to decide how to go about acquiring the exhibit.


 Is Purchasing Or Renting A Display The Better Option?

You have the choice to either purchase or rent an exhibit. Both options have certain advantages, but which one will benefit you most depends on your specific needs.


 Pros And Cons Of Purchasing A Display

Purchasing a display means it’s yours for the long haul, so it’ll always be on hand. This is helpful for those who make spur-of-the-moment appearances at trade shows and other affairs and is usually the less expensive route for businesses exhibiting at multiple events each year.

On the other hand, owning a display means finding space to store it when not in use and scheduling its transport to and from each event. Keep in mind, marketing campaigns change and exhibit goals may not be the same from one event to the next.

Continual redesigns and ongoing maintenance come with display ownership. Purchasing a display may also lead to limitations in the types and sizes of booths that’ll work for you.


 Benefits And  Pitfalls Of Display Rental

Renting tends to be a more cost-effective alternative for companies only attending one or two events each year. It also helps circumvent the common storage, logistics and maintenance issues.

At the same time, display rental provides a great deal of flexibility in terms of booth choices and design updates. For those who attend numerous events each year, though, renting can prove to be a costly venture.

It’s also not a great solution for companies that make a habit of booking last-minute appearances because design, construction, and testing can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

With either option, you’ll have a full team of experts at your disposal, and the benefit of knowledge and experience is invaluable.

If you’re new to the trade show circuit, renting displays initially until you learn the ins and outs of exhibiting could be helpful. Transitioning to ownership, later on, is always an option.


Designing Your Display


After choosing whether to purchase or rent a display, the real fun begins. Virtually endless design opportunities are out there for the taking. Still, a wide range of details goes into this leg of the process.



Bold, eye-catching graphics are a must for any company. These will attract attention and draw people in for a closer look. Color schemes, sizing, fonts and flow of the visuals being displayed matter greatly from onlookers’ perspectives, and they all work together to help create an eye-catching space.


From smooth surfaces and acrylic accents to an extensive lineup of different fabrics, plenty of textures can be incorporated into your design.

Mix and match them to create an interesting display. When possible, go with options that align with your brand and products as well as public mindset. Organic and responsibly sourced materials make an effective statement these days.



Lighting isn’t just for making products and materials more visible. In fact, it has the power to affect people’s moods and heighten their interest in what your company has to offer.

Exhibit lighting can be coordinated with other graphics and accentuate various aspects of a display while also serving its basic functional purpose.



Though using a wide range of colors to stand out in the crowd and make an impression on attendees is important, maintaining brand consistency is vital as well.

Don’t be afraid to step outside your brand’s standard color scheme, but be sure it isn’t overshadowed or left out of the mix altogether. Consistency improves brand recognition and perception among other benefits.


 Interactive Elements

Attendees expect to be fully immersed in the experience when they visit a trade show display. With all the technology now available, there’s no excuse for not rising to the challenge.

Touchscreen displays virtual reality presentations, and push notifications all fall into this category.

Something as simple as mobile device recharging stations could even bring visitors your way and keep them there long enough to make a connection.

Games, giveaways, and contests offer plenty of value as well. Engagement is essential, and ample options are out there.


 Negative Space

If you’re like most exhibitors, you’ll want to pack as much into a display as possible. While properly showcasing your products, services, strong suits and information are crucial, giving visitors too much to look at could send them into sensory overload. Leave enough negative space to make the positive aspects stand out.


 Deeper Details

Prospects are no longer interested in just the products or services a business has to offer. They want to know about the company itself.

How did it begin? Why did you choose your respective field? Perhaps more importantly in today’s consumer mindset is whether or not sustainability is important to your company. Highlight points like these in your display to further pique visitors’ interest.


 Salesforce Strength

Those who man your exhibit are as much a part of the picture as graphics, displays, lighting and any other component to be incorporated. Pay special attention to the human element as it’s the one truly making the connections.

Be sure to choose staff members who are well-versed in the company and its history, products, services, processes, and protocols. If they’re not adequately prepared, they’ll be counterproductive to the entire effort.

Even with all those aspects in play, the layout of your exhibit could make or break the experience for attendees. Everything should be set up in a manner that flows well and gives visitors space to move without bumping into counters and kiosks.

Space is in short supply at these events, but prospects are more likely to respond positively if they have room to breathe and take it all in.


Follow-Up Procedures

According to a number of marketing reports, 98 percent of prospects won’t make a purchase during the first contact. They require a little more persuasion even if they’re leaning toward your company over its competitors.

Don’t leave leads in the lurch after the trade show or convention is over.

Make phone calls. Send personalized texts and emails. Follow-up communication makes those conversions happen.

All Things Considered

From the pre-planning phase to keeping in touch with leads after the fact, a long list of considerations goes into creating a successful trade show exhibit.

Be sure to give each of these points due attention. Also, remember to keep track of the leads generated by the event; after all, those all-powerful metrics give you insight into just how effective your efforts were and which elements could be improved upon next time around.