Capturing Hearts and Minds at the Trade Show, Part I: Three Signage Don’ts

Ahhh, trade shows. Booth contents lost in the mail. Sensible shoes. Long hours. People who have no idea what your company does and don’t care, they just heard you’re giving away cool stuff. Who among us hasn’t partaken of the wonderful, wacky world of trade shows?


photo by maebmij

photo by maebmij

I’ve assisted lots of different clients with lots of different shows, and back during my chamber of commerce days, I was in charge of putting on trade shows. From how to set up your booth, to capturing visitors, to booth assignments (nothing to say here; it is IMPOSSIBLE to please everyone), I’ve pretty much seen or done it all. The bottom line is that we’re all trying to get people in the booth to see if we can make a connection. I’m going to keep it simple here and talk about your signage. There are lots of ways to illustrate your brand. Here are three no-nos:

1. Don’t get too wordy

A banner or sign with a lot of copy is just going to look like a big, grey blob to people walking down the aisle. If someone has to be standing right in front of your sign to get it, it’s not effective. Are you trying to simply brand your space, or draw them in the booth?

You can draw them in with a key sentence or two, but anything more is asking too much of someone walking by. Make the copy as big as possible, and put as much space as possible around it.

2. Don’t get too fancy

Keep it simple. No extra colors, no groovy graphic treatments with boxes and bars and fonts. A client with a lot of quality research was eager to illustrate it. He had great stuff, but a banner is not the place for an elaborate bar graph showing eight difference performance scenarios. We stripped it down and blew up two bars: One without his product and one with his product, showing a much taller bar. It’s colorful (in his brand color) with an easy-to-see difference. It’s something you can see across the aisle, and it’s a simple story to tell to booth visitors.

3. Don’t forget who you are

Is it in your brand colors? Is your logo present? Your tagline? Your URL? It sounds simple, but you’d be amazed at how many companies get caught up in the booth or show theme, or the products in the booth, and forget to brand the signage.

We’re just scratching the surface on trade shows. I’ll come back to this subject soon, and I’m happy to discuss with you in more detail anytime. What part trade show life would you like me to address next? Any tales from the front? I’d love to hear them.

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