Effective Trade Show Booths: The Dos and Don’ts of Booth Design
by Larry Worden and Deb Harrsch
There’s a lot of information out there about the best ways to exhibit at a trade show and follow up with leads (including on this blog here, here, and here). What I don’t see a lot of information about is what your prospects are thinking when they attend a trade show.
Let’s take a short journey from your customer’s perspective – and figure out what could make your trade show booth one your customers want to visit.
Why Are Your Prospects at the Show?
Let’s first think about why your prospects are at a show like AACC, for instance. After all, it’s not all fun and games or an excuse to get out of the lab for a few days.
They might be attending because they are in an acquisition cycle. If they are, this means they want to have a close look at your technologies, and the advancements and efficiencies of your equipment or assays. They need to talk to your R&D personnel and service staff to understand what you have, its operational life span, and what’s on the horizon for you.
Or – if they aren’t looking to buy right away – they’re investigating new technologies or solutions from up-and-coming companies. They’re also talking to staff from companies they currently use to express concerns or seek solutions to challenges. No matter where they are in their purchasing cycle, they are always studying available techniques and innovations. They also are researching what they need in order to bring new testing capabilities into their labs.
Trade Show Booth Elements: What Works and What Doesn’t
Open, Clearly-Organized Booths
Show attendees prefer booths that are open and welcoming. Your booth is not a castle to be defended. Visitors don’t want to feel like a mouse in a maze. Lay out your booth in a way that allows visitors (from outside the booth) to select the product areas they want to visit. Use signage to help your prospects navigate your trade show real estate.
Appropriate Booth Lighting
It’s surprising what people remember about your booth. Lighting is one critical element to consider. Of course, you want to highlight important areas, but you don’t want to make it hard to see what you’re highlighting. You want to make the experience of your booth calm and relaxing – not have visitors feel as though they need sunglasses or are under a harsh spotlight. You can still highlight important areas, but use more diffuse lighting. Consider placing the lighting higher above your exhibit or use lower-wattage bulbs.
Walkable, Comfortable Flooring
Believe it or not, your booth flooring choice matters. Yes – everyone recognizes that your booth staff needs (and deserves) some padding. Visitors also appreciate the relief from those unrelenting concrete floors. But, you need to be certain that the matting you choose is trip-proof and easy to walk on. I’ve heard some of those plush carpeted booths referred to as “walking through mud,” “quicksand,” and “a mattress” well after a show ends. Consider the floor choice of your booth.
Provide Interactive Experiences
Prospects enjoy being able to self-direct their booth visits. Nobody likes the used car salesman treatment. Many visitors feel that booth staff often hound them and can be too aggressive. Allowing prospects to interact with the information in your booth and approach your staff when ready is a far more effective way to advance the sales conversation.
With the technology available today, automation is a valuable tool for your visitors. Provide multiple interactive screens with presentations and allow your customers to educate themselves the way they choose. But, ensure you always have enough staff on hand to help visitors on demand.
Give Opt-in Educational Presentations
Short 15-minute presentations are a hit with attendees, but only if they provide solid information. Your prospects have a lot of ground to cover at these shows and they don’t appreciate their time being wasted. So, consider holding a small schedule of brief educational seminars and focus on content – not fluff.
Trade show attendees aren’t just looking for the equipment they need right now. They’re also exploring what they are going to need two to five years from now. Your prospects are digging into what products you have under development and how they might serve future needs. Also, you should be aware that your customers could visit your booth with very specific questions on technical issues they may be experiencing with your products. So, it’s critical that you have the right people staffing your booth.
You need staff from R&D, service, sales, and marketing. People with real experience with your products – whether they are developers, service personnel, or trained sales individuals. What you don’t need and shouldn’t hire are professional actors or presenters. Believe me – your prospects will know, and they don’t like it one bit. They are scientists and they want to talk to people who can solve their problems…who can get into the technical aspects of using the kit.
What is also extremely important to your prospects? Your staff needs to stand out. Make it easy for your customer to identify who is staffing your booth. One simple way to do this is have everyone wear the same color shirt.
How to Save Money and Deliver an Effective Trade Show Booth
Let’s talk literature for a moment. It drives me crazy that people insist on bringing a ton of high-dollar literature to a show. Guys, let me tell you – it’s going in the garbage. You spend a ton of money, cut down a bunch of trees, and it ends up in the trash. Did you know that 64% of trade show literature is thrown away?
Think about the last time you went to a trade show. You walk the floor, pick up a bunch of literature, take it back to your room and then – as you’re packing – you say, “Oh gee, I can’t possibly take all of this home.” So you do a quick sort through it and take only a few pieces back. The rest? Into the waste bin it goes.
Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring anything. Just carefully consider what you do take. We advise exhibitors to bring limited literature and use a PDF version of your brochures as a follow-up to nurture your contact. By providing a PDF, your customer can share the literature with their colleagues and other decision-makers. You might also consider stocking your booth with less costly print pieces and perhaps holding some of your higher quality literature in the back to give to highly qualified prospects.
Whatever you decide to do with trade show materials, make sure they are valuable and communicate the benefits your kit provides users.
So, Let’s Recap
Your trade show booth will be more effective if you:
- Staff it with people with actual experience with your products.
- Design your booth to be open, welcoming, and easy to navigate.
- Choose appropriate lighting and avoid bright, harsh lights.
- Watch your flooring choice.
- Provide interactive experiences and allow visitors to self-direct their visit.
- Hold 15-minute educational seminars.
- Make sure your staff is easily identifiable to visitors.
- Bring the minimum amount of lower-cost print materials and follow-up with electronic marketing materials.
Need help organizing and implementing a trade show booth plan? Give us a call.
Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, energy, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – who want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.
Larry Worden co-founded MDxI in 2006 and is now the principal at IVD Logix. Larry has spent 40 years in the fields of medical and scientific marketing research and syndicated data services. Today, he focuses on the in vitro diagnostics marketplace, providing market information solutions to clients using qualitative and quantitative market research methods. Contact Larry at 214.434.1923.