How To Design A Trade Show Booth That Stands Out

A booth design is like the icing on a cake. It won’t make the cake taste nice but it definitely makes the cake stand out. The ultimate goal of your booth is to grab the attendee’s attention while at the same time being on-brand.

While grabbing attention is the main goal of an exhibition stand, you don’t want to create a huge bright pink booth just for the sake of grabbing attention when your company is a B2B company that targets C-level executives in a male-dominated industry like mining.

Grabbing attention is easy. Design a huge pink booth and get all your male staff to wear pink singlets and skirts and your company will be guaranteed to be the talk of the show. The hard part is actually grabbing attention while at the same time being on-brand.

The exhibition stand exists to serve two goals:

  1. Grab attention while being on-brand
  2. Answer the question “Who you are and what you do”

Grab attention and be on-brand

The first thing your booth must do is to attract the attention of attendees. This might seem like common sense but in fact, many exhibitors forget it.

During their trade show planning process, they pick the cheapest booth without considering about the attention-grabbing prospects of it. Worst of all, most exhibitors tend to play it safe and blend in with the crowd.

“If the attendee doesn’t see you, he/she won’t be able to make the decision of whether to stop or not.” – Steve Miller

Who you are and what you do

Recently, I went to a printing industry trade show in Melbourne and there was a booth with a huge hanging sign shaped like a submarine. It definitely stood out among other exhibitors. However, until this day I still don’t know who the company is and what it does.

You can get all the attention you want but if no one knows who you are and what you do, all those attention won’t convert into brand equity and most importantly sales.

Here is one that I like because:

  1. It’s simple
  2. It stands out
  3. Most importantly you know what the company does (Artificial Intelligence)

Changhong’s CES booth

Five attention-grabbing factors of a trade show booth

Colours, colours, colours

“Many years ago, somebody decided that IBM’s “Big Blue” was the corporate look. If you were going to be taken seriously by customers and competitors at a trade show, then you had to have that same rich blue colour in your exhibit materials and fabrics. Besides, you can’t go wrong by picking the same colours as everybody else, right? It’s safe. So over the years, we’ve seen a lot of “Big Blue” wannabes at shows around the globe. In reality, all this does is make everybody look alike. That’s exactly the opposite of what you want! Every day you and your company work hard to separate your company and products from the competition. You beat your brains out to show that you’re superior and different in some form, right? So then why go to a trade show, where thousands of current and potential customers are wandering through the hall, and blend in with everybody else? It doesn’t make sense.” – Steve Miller, author of How to Get The Most Out of Trade Shows

Fruit-themed booth made with TRIGA wall and portable counter

Modular exhibition stand made from TRIGA

Amazon’s booth

Lighting to focus attention

Lighting attracts attention and it can also be used to spotlight products that you want to promote which will give it the attention it deserves.

Another good use of lighting is to create motions in the booth like how Discovery Communications did it. They used lights to create a water motion to tie into their exhibition theme.

On the other hand, too much lighting will cause attendees to steer clear away from that area.

Here are some examples of exhibition stands with excellent use of lighting.

Brighter lighting directed at the promoted drones.

Hisense uses spotlights to direct attention to their TVs.

…or you can use backlit signs to stand out too.

Booth using backlit signs

Incorporate motion

Most exhibits are static. Walls are static. Hanging signs are static. Counters are static. An effective yet underutilised method to grabbing attention is to incorporate some type of motion in your exhibit. It could be a video wall, a live mascot or a product demo. The more unexpected, the more attention you will receive.

Milestone’s booth with multiple TVs

…or create a 4K OLED tunnel like what LG did in IFA, Europe’s largest electronics trade show.

LG’s OLED tunnel in IFA (Europe’s largest electronics trade show)

Here’s a quick 1-minute video of the tunnel.

Incorporating motion in your booth doesn’t necessarily have to be a video wall or anything that uses a TV.

A product demo is also another form of motion.

Product demo at TomTom’s booth

Use focal points to direct attention

Focal points are used to direct the attention of viewers to a specific location. They are generally incorporated in photography, architecture and paintings.

For example, take a look at this aquarium.

Which part of the aquarium grabs your attention?

The two mountain peaks? That is what focal points do. They focus the attention of your attendees to a specific area.

The benefit of having a focal point is it gives you the ability to “control” where you want attendees to look. In a trade show, using a large structure as a focal point will enable your brand to draw attention and stand out from the rest. Hanging signs with the company’s brand name is one of the best displays to use as focal points.

Regional Queensland’s hanging banners

Pathfinder’s tower display

Be different with unique shapes and materials

Incorporating unique shapes and materials that are not commonly used by other exhibitors is also another way to stand out from the crowd. For example, if most exhibitors use a circle hanging sign, go for a hanging sign with the shape of a rocket.

Tobasco’s booth

Detpak’s booth

Klipsch CES 2017 booth

Bottom line

An exhibition stand exists to serve two purposes: (1) Grab attention and be on-brand and (2) Answer the question “Who you are and what you do”.

Five attention-grabbing factors of an exhibit are:

  1. Colours, colours, colours
  2. Use lighting to focus attention
  3. Incorporate motion
  4. Use focal points to direct attention
  5. Be different with unique shapes and materials


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