Branding at a Trade Show

I just returned from a conference, which had over 100 exhibitors in the exhibit hall. In over 20 years of both attending and displaying at trade shows, I marvel at how badly many companies manage the opportunity to promote their brand. Here are a few tips for more effective branding on the exhibit floor:

1. Make your booth presentation simple and uncluttered. People are drifting past, making decisions in seconds about whether your booth is worth stopping at. A graphically appealing, open, and readily understood booth presentation will tend to draw people forward. A cluttered, boxed-in look, without any clear message about who you are and what you offer, will guarantee lots of walk-bys.

2. Concentrate on one message in the (visual) booth presentation. Tell who you are and what you do – one thing! – in the booth wording and graphic(s). Many companies fall into the trap of creating panels that are essentially static Powerpoint slides – bullet points of everything they do. Remember – you are trying to grab attention in seconds, not provide a written sales pitch. Save the additional words for when someone actually stops.

3. Concentrate on one message in what you say. People will be inundated with multiple messages from dozens of companies during a very compressed time frame. Unless your message is simple, memorable, and focused, you’ll be easily forgotten. And be sure to have several memorable client stories to tell – this will fasten the message in the mind of the attendee. If you don’t know how to accomplish this, work with a marketing consultant who can help you; or, at the very least, read Chip and Dan Heath’s book, Made to Stick.

4. If you’re going to promote yourself through some sort of giveaway, make it small, and hard to throw away. Small, because attendees often have little room in their luggage (or trade show bag) for big/heavy items. And you want to multiply your brand exposure by putting your logo and/or message on something with a long shelf life. Branded candies, or large cans of popcorn, do not fall into this category! Tile coasters, memory sticks, business card holders, and other such valuable items are better candidates.

5. Above all, differentiate! You are competing for limited time and memory space. Unique colors, striking message delivery methods, booth “uniforms,” cool business cards – all of these are helpful. But the most compelling differentiator is sincere caring, genuine listening, and steady eye contact. Be real, and have real people in your booth. That will end up drawing the most traffic, and getting the best long-term results. Because ultimately, that is what creates valuable business relationships.

(Image credit: Duncan Davidson, Flickr)

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Author: Steve Woodruff (19 Articles)

Steve Woodruff launched his consulting practice (Impactiviti LLC) in 2006, working with clients to create branding that sticks. StickyFigure, a division of Impactiviti, specializes in helping small and mid-sized businesses that are seeking to make greater impact in their marketplace, but do not have the internal resources to brand themselves effectively. We also partner with larger organizations that need to borrow a fresh creative perspective. Steve also actively consults in the training/communications field, with a particular focus on healthcare and pharmaceuticals; and he serves as VP Communications on the Board of a local ASTD (American Society of Training and Development) chapter in NJ. LinkedIn profile: