Thriving at Tradeshows: Design Attraction

Evoke emotions

Have you ever been drawn to a display even though you have no idea what the product is? That’s called design attraction and it could be as simple as being drawn to textures, colors, or movement. Probably it was some combination of all 3.

Textures can vary from smooth to shiny, soft, or luxurious. Mixing and contrasting can take a display from a dull, flat arrangement to a warm country trend or something chic and sophisticated, or anything in between.  

Colors evoke emotions from energetic and powerful to muted and serene, from tranquil and fluid to high power and demand respect combinations.

When you design a space for a tradeshow keep these questions in mind; who’s your target market? Are they looking for high end, or are they more practical? Are they techies into bold innovations, or meditative seeking the next existential item to try? These answers will guide you in texture and color choices.

Can you picture homemade jam sitting on thick brown fur? Or how about on a red checkered table cloth with perhaps a sprig of lavender lying nearby.  One of them causes the brain to stutter and try to decipher, the other flows seamlessly.  Visualize a piece of finely crafted silver jewelry on a black velvet stand with bright white lights enhancing every fluid twist and bend. Now see that piece of craftsmanship on blue gingham placed on a table top.

Which display projects more value, which feels appropriate? This is a subconscious perception based on life experience gathered from advertising we find throughout our day. TV, magazines, digital ads all use graphics to give subtle hints about worth. Next time you see an ad you appreciate, take a moment to discover where the appeal comes from.


Where does the target fall?

Not sure where your target market falls? Take a moment and look at common interest and themes with your current clients. Where do they work, what do they drive? These are income questions. Do they grow organics (Earthy) or are they eating at high end restaurants (Trendy professionals) or maybe they prepare their meals at home (Practical)? Not everyone falls into one category, but you can get a general consensus.

Look at the colors they wear; are they making a statement or being subtle and general. Do they accessorize with bling or spurs?  Now you are getting a better sense of how to market to their taste.

These different personality types also shop differently. That is why the design of your display is so important. It has to make sense for the product (remember the jam on brown fur), and it has to catch the target market’s eye from a distance.


Guide the consumer's eye.

Lastly, there must be movement on your display. And I’m not talking about that literally, I mean eye movement. Draw the consumer through your display through differing heights. A flat table is just that, flat and boring. Differing heights draw the eye through, and if done correctly will lead consumers through a sales pitch. Don’t get carried away with too many props, you are not creating a miniature city. Keep in mind that items should be placed from back to front in order of heights as well. Enticing displays have nice balances of blank space and objects.  Displays made of literature and business cards can utilize different racks and stands to add vertical depth to a table.

If your product is a service, use visuals such as props or videos, place graphic designs on the outside edges and closing points toward the center. A looping video can be used as talking points; hit the benefits and show what problem you are solving. In addition, stand-up displays can hold a variety of information answering common questions, or perhaps giving your sales pitch. These are nice for reaching consumers when tied up with other customers. Make sure there is a way to collect their information so follow ups can be conducted at a later date. Collecting electronically can verify valid email addresses and eliminate typos. Offer something in return for their data; newsletters, discounts, etc.


To swag or not to swag...

Swag, or small promotional items, are a great way to distribute branding, but make sure they reflect the quality of your professionalism. And think outside of the box. Dozens of pens and flash drives end up in forgotten drawers, and the brands get buried along with them. Find something that is deserving of the brand name, something that is appropriate to the product or service being offered. For instance, lip balm from a jeweler is confusing, whereas lip balm from an outdoor recreation store is a logical choice.

Choose quality items. It’s better to not hand out swag at all, than to hand out items that break or worse, leak ink on potential clients. Think they’ll remember the brand then? Absolutely! But for all the wrong reasons. Do some research and ask around, then buy within your budget and make it a positive memory.


Plan ahead

Knowing what you want to accomplish, and how you are going to do it, makes it much easier to plan ahead. Gather display props, decide on colors and textures, order signage and literature early. Then practice setting things up so if there are problems you will have plenty of time to repair, replace, and substitute if necessary. And don’t be afraid to start over if the original concept doesn’t work.

Sometimes you need to work with what you have and build the display over time. This is fine too, as long as what is used is done properly and cleanly. A display that is rushed and thrown together looks that way, and gives the impression the business isn’t well thought out. 

Planning ahead sets you up to draw your target market to you during a tradeshow. This one piece of the experience is so important that little else will matter if it’s not done right.  So take some time to look at display ideas, get creative, and prepare yourself for making your next tradeshow a great success!

Kathie Fingerson / Healers of the Valley


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