How to get the most out of your small booth, and make it pay off

Trade Show Perspectives

You are planning to exhibit at an upcoming trade show, using a 10' x 10' booth, and you want to maximize its effectiveness. It’s understood that not every company can, nor desires, to use a larger booth to promote or sell its products and services at trade shows. Yet, every company wants their trade show efforts to be successful.

When working with a 10' x 10' exhibit area, you don’t have a lot of room for any “extras,” so be certain that what you include meets the needs or wants of your audience. This includes your booth staff.

Booth Staff

You should only include two booth staff members in a 10' x 10' booth and your staff needs to be very knowledgeable about your products and services. Be sure to have the correct staff that can relate to the needs of your audience.

When you only have a small amount of booth space, the addition of something like a custom canopy can help attract a lot of attention. (Image courtesy of The NBM Show)

For instance, let’s say you are selling LED digital signage. Will your audience be the office personnel that will operate the system from their desk computer, or will the audience be the administrators, facility managers, etc.? The office personnel will most likely want to know about the ease of changing messages, and while this is important to the facility managers, they may be more concerned about the installation procedures and the mounting and wiring specifications.

Be sure to have booth staff members that can address the concerns of your audience at each specific show.

Booth Signs & Graphics

A 10' x 10' booth should be used primarily as a billboard. There isn’t much room for a demonstration or extensive product display area, but there is an area for a large message on the back wall. Take advantage of this space; however, be sure that your message addresses your prospects needs or wants. Does this sound repetitive? Yes, it does.

Never forget that your prospects at a trade show are spending their time and money to see what options they can use to solve some problem that they are facing. Therefore, it is extremely important for your signage or graphic message to clearly state how your product or service can help them.

Is your company name the most important message you can tell them? Probably not. However, the majority of companies exhibiting at trade shows make their company name their primary signage. Generally this is a mistake, unless your company name is very well recognized and your company is known for innovation and great ideas (Apple or McDonalds would be a good example of this).

Ruth P. Stevens, author of a book titled, Trade Show and Event Marketing states, “Think of the booth as a three-dimensional ad. Not an awareness ad, but a direct response ad. You want the people—the right people—to grasp your message and take action, namely, to come into your booth and engage in a discussion.”

For your signs and graphics to be most effective, they need to identify what you are offering in language that is clear to your existing and potential buyers. Few people will take the time to guess what it is that you are offering. Be specific!

Years ago when Comdex, the huge computer show, was taking place, there was a small company consisting of two men that always had a 10' x 10' exhibit. I discovered after talking with them, that they made enough quality contacts at that show each year to run their business. They averaged $400,000 in sales each year from that show and their booth was a simple backwall structure with one sign that read “Hard Drives.”

For those show attendees that were looking for a source for hard drives, this booth caught their attention. Apparently these two guys were good at what they did, and they made a comfortable living with a simple exhibit.

“NEW” is a very powerful and persuasive word, and it was for many years, the most important word used in exhibits. Due to the Internet, many show attendees are now aware of what’s new before arriving at a show, but they now attend shows to get more information about what’s new or see it in action. It still is a very effective word and should be used within your exhibit. Don’t forget that 81 percent of show attendees visit shows to see new technology or products.

Rocky Mountain Propellers used this Nomadic Display pop-up, with Lambda graphic panels, to market their products and services.

Exhibit Design

First of all, don’t clutter your space. A mistake seen all too often is a company that tries to include way too much into their 10' x 10' space. Ideally, you want an inviting space that people can enter to further their knowledge of your products or services. There are occasions where this conversation can take place across a table in front of your booth, but studies have shown that this is not the recommended booth layout.

Depending on your product and or service, the booth structure can be instrumental in the success of your show. However, it seems that all too often, the most common criteria for people buying a 10' x 10' booth structure is the ease of shipping, set-up and dismantle. For many years, the curved pop-up was the best answer to solve this issue. Then flat-wall pop-ups came to market and offered a little different look. Stackable folding panel systems were also popular.

Today, you have a much wider choice to serve your 10' x 10' needs. The pop-up is still popular, but with the advent of dye-sublimation printing on fabric, many additional systems are available.

Most 10' x 10' systems, that are not pop-ups, include aluminum extrusion with dye-sub printed fabric graphics. The fabric graphics are attached in a variety of ways, including hook and loop, beading, silicone edged graphics, and most recently, “pillow-case” covers. There are also pop-up frame systems that incorporate dye-sub printed fabric graphics.

Custom Exhibits

For those companies who want to make a visual statement, there are custom designed exhibits. These exhibits can be constructed from a wide range of substrates and materials, only limited by one’s imagination.

This modular panel system was used to promote Plus System’s financial services.

A current trend within the exhibit industry is that the traditional system manufacturers are creating exhibit kits that present a custom look. For those companies that are trade show veterans, and understand all the nuances of exhibiting, these exhibits can aid tremendously in the success of a show. Custom-designed exhibits will set you apart from most other 10' x 10' exhibitors.

Banner Stands

There are nearly as many banner stands as there are stars in the sky, or so it seems. Without doubt, the simplest, easiest exhibit to ship is the banner stand. There are many different kinds of hardware to hold the graphic panels, whether they be fabric, vinyl, ink-jet, Lambda, Gator-board, foam board, etc. The simplest of the simple is the retractable banner stand.

There are many manufacturers of this type of banner stand. When retractable banner stands first came to market, there were some real hardware issues of breaking and not retracting, but it seems like most of those issues have been resolved.

For a more dynamic style of design, there are also elaborate banner stands available. Over the past few years, the exhibit industry has seen a number of 10' x 10' booths that are made from simply setting 3 or 4 banner stands side by side. This is an option to make a relatively low cost exhibit that is very easy to ship, set-up, and dismantle. However, what is the un-spoken, un-written message sent to the booth visitor? And is that message important to you?