Done right, trade shows can be a fantastic marketing channel for earning publicity, generating leads and growing your business.
Unfortunately, like any sales or marketing strategy, businesses can make numerous mistakes when preparing for a trade show. From designing a booth that’s overly ambitious and costly to go into an event without clear goals, many of these errors are surprisingly easy to make.
Luckily, they’re also easy to avoid, provided you know what to look for. Below, we’ve listed five of the most common trade show booth design and preparation mistakes, all of which belong on your “must avoid” list when preparing for your next event.
Designing Without a Specific Goal in Mind
Trade shows are all about results, and results are all about working towards clear, measurable goals. One of the most common trade show booth design mistakes is designing a booth without any clear goals or objectives in mind for your event.
Many companies “sleepwalk” into a trade show, designing a booth not so much to achieve any specific goal but to simply represent their business. The end result is often a costly exercise in marketing that achieves few if any, real results.
Before you start designing your trade show booth, make sure you have a clear, measurable goal in mind for the event. Do you want to generate a specific number of leads? Do you want to earn a certain amount of media attention and press coverage?
With a clear, measurable goal in mind, designing a booth that produces real results becomes a far easier task for your business.
Choosing an Overly Complicated Message
One of the keys to successful trade show design is simplicity, both in the visual aspect of your booth and the message you send to prospective customers, clients and partners.
A common trade show mistake is to choose a marketing message that’s overly complicated or difficult to understand. Many businesses with great products and services set themselves back by using headings and copy that are overly complex for a trade show environment.
Remember, trade shows are busy environments in which attendees are surrounded by flashing lights, loud announcements, and product demonstrations. If your marketing message takes more than three seconds to read and understand, it’s probably too complicated.
Using an Overly Busy, Cluttered Booth Design
Simplicity doesn’t just matter when it comes to your marketing message — it’s also essential for an effective trade show booth.
Just like many businesses opt for a marketing message that requires too much thought to fully grasp, many first-time exhibitors design trade show booths that are too visually “busy,” with text crammed onto every square inch of available space.
One of the most important factors in effective design is white space (or negative space) — a type of empty, unused space that acts to emphasize your key design elements. Effective trade show displays use white space to their advantage to highlight headings, images, and other graphics.
Just like your marketing message, if your displays require more than three seconds of thinking to fully “get,” they’re probably too cluttered to achieve optimal results.
Opting for an Overly Large, Expansive Booth
Going big with your trade show exhibit can be a highly effective strategy, provided you’ve got the funds, marketing message, and products to back it up.
However, for most startups, small businesses and first-time exhibitors, opting for anything other than a small exhibit is usually a bad idea, especially if you’re taking part in a trade show with a limited budget.
While large exhibits can attract lots of attention, they also come with significantly higher costs than small trade show booths. In addition to larger displays, you’ll also need more furniture for your booth, a bigger sales team and a larger amount of floor space.
These things can all add up, resulting in greater expenses for your business. Combine this with a non-linear results curve for booth size (doubling your booth size might not double your results, for example) and it’s usually a mistake to start with a large trade show exhibit.
Forgetting to Focus on Booth Lighting
Lighting is one of the most important elements in trade show booth design, as well as one of the most neglected.
From spotlights to downlighting, different forms of lighting can make your trade show booth look and feel exciting, relaxing, mysterious, modern, old-fashioned, large, small or neutral. In short, a tiny change in the way you light your booth can have dramatic effects on its appearance.
Despite this, many businesses either fail to spend any time on lighting their trade show booth or treat lighting as a forgettable, unimportant afterthought.
The way you light your booth has a huge impact on its appearance. From making your products command attention to giving your entire exhibit an ultra-modern look, focusing on the way your booth is lit can have numerous advantages for you as an exhibitor.