Signs and graphics can provide four basic functions: Attract, Inform, Direct and Entertain. Motion has been identified within the exhibition industry as the primary means to attract attention, with backlighting being a close runner-up. Let’s explore how you can use this information to increase either yours or your customer’s level of success at trade shows.
In the past, live theatric presentations, light boxes with backlit Duratrans graphics, and fiber-optic signs were often the leading methods used to attract notice at trade shows. Then to create motion, scrolling graphics were added to light boxes, and became quite popular. Clever software programs were being introduced to use with personal computers, and high-quality projectors were also introduced.
Do you recall the first time you ever watched a Power Point presentation, with all the software features being utilized? People were mesmerized with all the interesting ways a message could be presented, flashing, scrolling, crawling and exploding onto and across the screen.
Enter Electronic Digital Signage
Approximately 10-12 years ago, plasma and LCD monitors and electronic digital signage (EDS) systems came to the market. When these communication devices hit the trade show floor, they more than “wowed” the attendees. These large monitors combined motion, backlighting, and audio into one powerful delivery system. A communication revolution had begun.
This booth shows iPads being used for communicating the exhibitors’ message.
Next, video walls were introduced in many of the larger exhibits. Electronic digital communication was appearing at a wide range of trade shows—not just the computer and electronic shows. Everyone noticed that EDS systems had added to the overall success of their booth.
Ironically, along with the popularity of EDS systems—which were quite expensive—came the problem of theft at several popular convention centers. The word spread quickly among exhibit builders who were recommending EDS systems to their customers. Additional steps were taken to help prevent the easy abduction of the monitors and related computer equipment, such as locking monitor mounts, or integrating built-in systems rather than simple (easy to steal) wall mounts and free-standing displays.
Attract: The Wow Factor
Do EDS systems have the same impact, the same Wow factor that they did 10 years ago? No, and here’s why. Many people now have these same sorts of video/theater systems in either their home or office.
Nomadic Design featured a “theater” in their exhibit to inform the show attendees of their newest display offerings.
So, the question becomes, are electronic device systems the most successful means of attracting and communicating a message at a trade show? I would honestly have to say probably not—at least not in and of themselves.
Live interactive demonstrations are still proven to be very successful; and the industry is seeing increased use of interactive EDS systems, which are proving to be very successful. The key word is interactive.
Does Size Matter? Not necessarily. With all the various sizes of electronic communication devices available today, a person can tailor their presentation to the size of the equipment. In fact, iPad kiosks or stands at trade shows have become one of the hottest new display fixtures being seen in the exhibit industry today. What matters most are content and the potential for interactivity.
Inform: Electronic Brochures
It is not uncommon to see a booth staff member talking with a booth visitor and together they are discussing information being presented on an iPad or other mobile tablet. This is a very efficient way to be able to provide a wide range of information to a booth visitor.
In fact, the use of printed brochures on the trade show floor is diminishing. This new trend has several benefits: it is more cost-efficient; it reduces paper waste; and it allows exhibitors to tailor specific messages, rather than a generic/all-purpose one.
Often seen in exhibits today are large, flat screen monitors that are being used to attract an audience. Once a show attendee takes an interest in what is being shown on the large monitor, then a booth staff person takes over and is able to provide more specific information for the attendee. This activity begins the Inform function. Often, informing the attendee is done with the iPad or tablet. In smaller booths, the booth staffs often reinforce the information being presented on the large monitor, verbally.
Direct: Show Promoters
The function of directing is also being leveraged with the use of EDS. So far I would have to say, from my experience, that the show promoters are using this function more so than the exhibitors. Convention halls today make extensive use of EDS systems to direct and inform show goers about events and for wayfinding.
20/20 Exhibits utilized a large flat screen monitor to present their design capabilities at the 2009 Exhibitor Show.
I have seen some instances where exhibitors use EDS to announce the location of a function—a time that a live performance or product demonstration is going to take place, etc.
Entertain: Positive Communication
Entertainment is almost always a positive form of communication. If the content of an EDS in-booth system can be made entertaining as well as informative, it’s much more likely to be effective. If people enjoy seeing or hearing a message they are more likely to comprehend the message, and will also be more likely to recall the message at a future time, which is of crucial importance.
Roughly seven years ago I presented a seminar focusing on the use of signage and graphics at trade shows. At the time I was only aware of the first three functions that signs provide: Attract, Inform and Direct. In the corner of the room I had a fiber optic sign created by FiberOptic Lighting, Inc., with my company’s Blue Goose logo, which showed an animated goose walking across the sign. The digital sign had a lot of color and motion within the design. As I asked the attendees what three functions a sign can provide, one of the attendees suggested a fourth function, which was to entertain, based on her observations watching my logo sign… and she was correct.
An EDS system certainly be used to entertain viewers—which in our case, will be viewers at trade shows. The goal is to present the message in an entertaining way, which will be understood now and recalled later. If the message is comprehended, is memorable and is able to be recalled later, then the message was presented successfully.
Electronic digital signage systems can certainly aid in making all this happen. In fact, an EDS system needs to include all four functions—Attract, Inform, Direct and Entertain—if an exhibitor wants it to be successful.