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6 Steps to A Successful Exhibit Design


Custom exhibit design is easy. Be big, bright and bold. Be flashy… that works, right?

Make Memorable Connections

Crafting a successful custom exhibit isn’t quite that simple, especially if you want a timeless design that evolves with your brand. The goal of your exhibit is to create a space that provides an opportunity to start a conversation and make memorable connections. It’s all about the content and the experience you offer. That’s where our team of experienced professional exhibit designers can step in to develop a space that makes connections for your brand. We asked our design team about their process and these are the 6 key elements of a successful exhibit design according to the pros:


#1 – Handle the Logistics First

Jumping straight into the exhibit design seem enticing. It’s creative and exciting … but it’s not the first thing to do it’s actually the last step. Before we jump right into creating a unique experience, we handle the logistics. That’s where good exhibit designs start!

  • How many shows are there?
  • What is the exhibit space for each show?
  • How much time is there between shows?
  • What is the total budget?

Experienced designers know that it takes a holistic approach. If you are exhibiting at five shows, and each show has a 20×20 space timed a month apart, then the job is simple. Design, storage, shipping and execution are pretty straightforward. But if three shows have a 20×20 space, two have a 10×20 space and they are only a week apart, then everything is much, much more complicated.

By thinking about the logistics first, you can clearly define any physical challenges you face and create an exhibit design that solves them up front. You can develop an exhibit design that generates the results you need and can be adapted to different show spaces. Once you have handled the logistics, you’re ready to move to the content and the experience.


#2 – Have a Clear Audience in Mind

Before you can start designing a successful exhibit, you need to understand exactly who your target visitors are and what they want from the experience. “Everybody” isn’t a realistic audience. Zero in on the select group of people who are most valuable to you. Make them your first priority.

  • Who are they?
  • What do they do?
  • What do they need?
  • What information or experiences are they looking to find at that specific show?
  • How can you appeal to them and be their best, most logical choice?

Clearly identifying the audience can be the single biggest difference between a successful exhibit and one that doesn’t quite deliver.


#3 – Form Follows Function

Now, design the exhibit space to make it happen! Your booth has to be more than an attractive, colorful box that contains your content and the experience. It must showcase the value you provide. Unfortunately, we see the same problem all the time: A company has designed a booth that looks great. Then they have to go back and figure out how they can make their people, demos, presentations and displays work in the booth. Suddenly, everything is a compromise. Including sales! That’s why our Shepard team emphasizes that a successful booth is designed around the content and experiences and not the other way around.


#4 – Tell a Story

Don’t just demo products and services. Don’t just exhibit signage and product pictures. Instead, look for ways all your features, advantages and benefits can be woven into engaging stories that describe a need, solve a problem and attract buyers. Once you find your stories, then the exhibit design can use signage, graphics, media and technology to present the narrative. Don’t be afraid to make it personal. Instead of showcasing what your company, products or services are and what they do … showcase what they mean to people and how they help them.


#5 Always Give Them a Show

Trade shows are as much a performance as they are a sales opportunity, so use graphics, media and gamification to bring your messages to life. Integrating technology into your exhibit design can help you capture and hold the attention of your visitors. Remember, time equals engagement, engagement leads to sales and that’s a very good thing. The key thing is to do what our designers do: Build an experience into the design. Combine visuals, movement, light, color, action, surprise and entertainment. I don’t mean trot out the old-school trade show gimmicks, games and giveaways. Always give the people who come to your exhibit a show, but:

  • Make it meaningful.
  • Make it relevant.
  • Make it exciting.
  • Make it emotional.
  • Make it matter.


#6 – Don’t Make Attendees Work

This idea goes hand-in-hand with understanding the audience. Don’t make them work. Make it easy to understand the objective and messages of the booth. Exhibit designers often use the 3-Second Rule. People need to see, understand and value your booth message in three seconds.

So design the experience to “walk” visitors through the booth. Make it easy to navigate and understand. If they have to search to get the point and figure out the “Big Deal,” they will just walk away. One of the keys to a successful exhibit is to simplify the design so visitors can focus on key areas that communicate the value you offer. You want to help people quickly recognize the benefits of doing business with you.

Finally, keep the design clean, elegant and customer-focused. Make it easy to do business with you. Be flexible and adaptable. Don’t force them to do things your way. If potential customers are comfortable and feel that you are actively working to serve them, then they will want to stay longer and work with you.

Be Successful By Design

If all this looks very strategic and intentional – it is. Our exhibit designers know that an effective booth is much more than creativity, design and architecture. As I said at the beginning, the ultimate goal of your exhibit is to create opportunities to talk to people and make memorable connections, so they will want to do business with you. It’s a combination of resourceful design, targeted content, an exciting, meaningful experience and an enthusiastic, well-trained booth staff.

Put them all together and you will be your customer’s first and best choice because your exhibit booth is successful. By design.

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