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Double-Stuff Cookies, Not Your Trade Show Exhibit

Double stuffed cookies not double stuffed exhibitsRecently Nabisco made a good thing even better with double-stuffed Oreos cookies, which have twice the sweet, creamy filling of regular Oreos.  Unfortunately, double-stuffing your trade show exhibit makes your booth less appetizing for attendees.

Here’s why: the job of your exhibit is to get people’s attention and reinforce the brand, NOT tell your entire story.

But sometimes when a trade show exhibit is designed, it can be mistakenly designed from the company’s perspective, NOT the attendee’s perspective.  What causes this is:

  • The product managers want to show every product
  • The marketing director wants to list all the competitive advantages
  • The sales director asks for a graphic to recruiting new dealers
  • Your partners want their logos on your booth
  • Other stakeholders want to have their own say about what is in and on the booth

So your exhibit gets OVERSTUFFED. And you get blah… instead of bold.  You get visual clutter that prevents your booth from quickly communicating why attendees should visit you.

Overstuffed trade show exhibitSure, it’s hard to say no to everyone who asks for their piece of the pie.  But in the long run, you’re not really helping them by just tossing their messages onto the pile and creating a mess of a display that looks like it could be on the TV show “Hoarders.”

Trade Show Exhibits Are Like . . .

Need help convincing others in your company that “Less Is More” when it comes to trade show exhibit design?  Here are 3 other mediums to consider:

  • Billboards: A billboard usually has only one big visual element and a few well-chosen words, because viewers have just a moment to take it in before they’re gone.  Use this to your advantage.  Take your team for a drive.  Ask them to count how many images and words are on each.  Hopefully they’ll have their “Aha!” moment before you get back to the office.
  • Magazine Covers: Publishers put one big picture on to catch the eye, often with a large headline of the main story.  They will also have smaller headlines for a few main stories inside, but only a fraction of what is on the table of contents.  Magazines arrived at this formula by testing multiple versions to find which cover will sell more newsstand editions. And it’s not the one that looks like the table of contents.  Try this: Count how many stories are in the magazine, compared to mentioned on the cover.  Now apply that to your exhibit: tell only your main stories, not all of them.
  • Your Website: Someone, perhaps you, had to negotiate with every person wishing to add another image, another sentence, another link about their personal favorite product, message, or story.  Say yes to them all and you get a cluttered front page that confuses visitors.  Say no and you keep a clear path to the main things web visitors usually look for.  Have you said no to people, and have web traffic analytics to prove your point?

Simplify, Then Amplify Your Exhibit Design

Once you have reduced your messages and images to the essential core, you can now go bigger, and make a bigger impact, with those that remain.  Rather than 100 words that are an inch tall each, you can have 7 words that are a foot tall instead.  Similarly, your bold visual 8 feet tall will make a much bigger impact than the bulletin board of 12 images it replaced.  And when you leave most of your products at home, you can better showcase your few remaining new and top-selling products that get a better reaction from attendees.

Splashtacular trade show exhibitAnd the need to simplify is not just for 10 foot and 20 foot trade show exhibits – it applies equally to big island exhibits as well.  Display fewer, larger visual elements in your exhibit to cut through the clutter to get your prospect’s attention.  Cram too much into your booth and you risk looking like a flea market.

Some of your fellow exhibitors have already successfully simplified and amplified the images, messages, and products in their exhibits.  When we asked exhibitors how they improved their results through exhibit design for our What’s Working In Exhibiting white paper, the most common answer they gave was “make the booth cleaner and more concise.”

Because, contrary to what some people think, it’s not the exhibitor with the most messages and/or products that wins.  It’s the one who creates the most visual impact and the most welcoming environment.

So unstuff your exhibit.  And go have a cookie!

What's Working In Exhibiting White PaperLearn more best practices for exhibit design and other pillars of successful trade show marketing in the 32-page white paper, What’s Working In Exhibiting.  Click here to get your free copy.

About the Author

Mike Thimmesch was Skyline Exhibits' Director of Customer Engagement, for over 25 years. He is now retired and spends his time freelancing, traveling, and enjoying time with his family.

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