Each of us looks for opportunities to improve our lives and often this requires accepting new challenges. The tradeshow industry can provide you a lot of new challenges yet be very rewarding.
When my business focused on providing commercial and architectural signs, like most of you, I wanted to be recognized as a shop that provided creative designs and high quality work. I studied the sign business by reading magazines, collecting pictures of cool signs and trying to push myself to the next level of competency on every sign project.
THE BEST SIGNS
I discovered that my most effective signs were the ones where I heard my customer. Too often, when I first started my business, I approached a design concept by assuming or pre-determining what a customer needed.
I found that by truly listening to my customer that I could create a design that really met their objectives and helped them build their business.
To be successful in the trade show industry, it is imperative that you listen to your customers. Although they may only have one exhibit booth, often they will have several sets of signs or graphics that pertain to their specific audience and/or objectives for any given show.
KNOW THE AUDIENCE
If a show’s audience consists of primarily upper management personnel, then the exhibitor will need to present the message of how their offerings will benefit the buyer’s net profits or bottom line. If the show’s audience is made up primarily of sales management personnel, then the message needs to indicate how the exhibitor’s offering will increase sales.
If the show is attended by a high percentage of production management personnel then how an exhibitor’s offering will increase productivity and efficiency should be the message.
Should the audience be administrative personnel, the benefits of the offering should be how it will it reduce costs and save money. You see, the show attendees are looking for solutions to their specific needs and concerns. For an exhibitor to be successful they must present their offerings to meet the needs of the greatest number of people. Consequently, understanding who the show attendees are, at least by job titles, helps to be able to create the message through signs and graphics to attract and qualify the potential buyers.
Hopefully it is clear to you that a company who markets through trade shows offers you a great opportunity. They will continuously need additional signs and graphics in order to keep their message fresh and up to date.
EXPERIENCE PAYS OFF
One of your greatest opportunities is being able to utilize the many skills that you have acquired by creating and producing signs. As you browse through your portfolio, as well as the pages of this magazine, you will see many variations of signs that have been created. When you walk through trade shows you will notice that there is not nearly as much versatility in the signs and graphics being produced.
Hint: This is your Opportunity!
Whether you work directly with the exhibiting company or you align yourself with either a show producer or an ad agency, you offer the exhibitor an unmatched skill. You know the many substrates available to create a diverse range of signs. The primary difference between traditional signs and signs for the exhibit industry are weight. Most generally, your signs will need to be constructed from lightweight substrates, as many of the exhibit structures in the market today will not support heavy signs.
A high percentage of the signs used in the exhibit industry are two-dimensional. Your opportunities to stand apart from the other producers of signs and graphics for this industry, is your experience of working in the third dimension. Just a few years ago, most of the signs seen at trade shows were applied vinyl. Today most of the signs are being produced with digital printers. How can you make these signs three-dimensional?
Very few are doing it because most shops producing digital printing only think in two-dimensions. Often the graphic image is designed to simulate a third dimension, but what if you create it in three dimensions?
But be aware, you need to think lightweight.
TYPES OF EXHIBITS
The pop-up exhibit systems are not designed to carry a lot of weight. However, that is not to say that adding a dimensional sign is out of the question — it will just need to be light. You may need to create special hardware and mount it to the pop-up frame structure or to struts.
Many companies who purchase pop-up systems are looking for ease and portability. Adding dimensional signage for those specific companies may not be in their best interests, but you will simply need to ask that question.
Folding panel and folding frame systems generally offer a bit more structure to attach a dimensional sign. Modular exhibit systems offer a greater opportunity to create dimensional signs because they are more structurally sound and can carry more weight.
Traditional custom exhibits may be constructed from a wide range of substrates and structures thus allowing dimensional signs to be more easily accommodated.
OPEN UP YOUR BAG OF TRICKS
You do need to understand the type of exhibit structure your customer owns, but think creatively! The tradeshow environment is a very competitive environment and each exhibitor is looking for an edge or advantage. Can you offer that advantage by offering unique or creative signs and graphics that will attract, inform or direct?
Hopefully you will find this to be a rewarding challenge. But don’t forget, you must listen to your customer. To produce successful signs and graphics they must meet the goals and objectives of your customer.
A well-known fact is that black and yellow are one of the most visible color combinations for the human eye to see. The Department of Transportation has known this for years and that is why highway-warning signs are black and yellow.
When Draco Systems, a manufacturer of video editing equipment became one of our customers, they informed us their primary colors were black and yellow.
After a good exchange of ideas with Draco’s marketing personnel, along with their graphic designer, Clyde Mason of Masondesign, we created an exhibit design featuring their primary colors that has worked well for them.
Draco’s exhibit booth requirements include a large presentation area for live demonstrations, an area for hands-on demo stations, and a conference area for more private, one-on-one conversation. In order to accommodate the large crowds they attract at shows, their booth space ranges from a 20’ x 20’ up to a 50’ x 50’ for select shows.
Draco Systems created tag lines such as, Bring your video to life and Video editing made simple. Their tag lines along with their product name, Avio, as well as customer testimonials attract their target audiences. These tag lines are repeated around the entire perimeter of their booth space by magnetically attaching 5''-high polycarbonate strips, with vinyl lettering, onto the trussed booth system. This allows Draco to define their booth space while also presenting their key messages.
The 5''-high polycarbonate strips are .020 Lexan, matte finished on one side, with black vinyl lettering applied to the smooth, second surface, with sunflower yellow vinyl applied over the lettering as the background color. Magnetic tape is then applied to the back of the strips to align with the truss beams. Their primary 4' x 12' identification sign, is black Coroplast with white vinyl lettering applied. We drill holes along the top edge of the Coroplast and wire-tie the sign to the bottom beam of the truss system.
Although simple, this sign stands out within any exhibit hall when enhanced with the yellow, 5''-high, tagline strips. The key to the visual attraction is the combination of sign components. Without the yellow strips, the primary sign could easily blend into the visual environment of the trade show and hardly be seen at all.
Within the larger sized exhibits, Draco includes two 12-foot-tall towers with signs attached, displaying the product name, Avio. These towers are highlighted with yellow strips also, as are any counters used within the exhibit. The combination of black and yellow definitely stands out and sets them apart at trade shows.