How to Ruin a Good Display

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What’s the number one cause of a negative impact on your brand at your exhibition booth? Clutter!

Clutter happens at a trade show almost by accident. It can happen when one of your staff carelessly drapes a jacket over a chair, leaves a notebook on a counter, places a coffee cup on the display or ignores the scatterings of literature or products by visitors.  It all produces clutter which in turn affects visitor’s perception of your corporate professionalism. In the 1960’s psychologist Albert Mehrabrian stated that 55% of a person’s opinion of the people they meet comes from what they see. It is a safe postulation that the same judgement comes from your booth presentation.

If your display is large enough to have a full-time person dedicated to ensuring that everything is where it should it would be a worthwhile investment. However, this is costly and many trade show budgets are already stretched to the limit.  Here are a few tips that you can take to eliminate unnecessary clutter in your booth.

Create dedicated space

When you plan your booth you consider such things as signs, graphics, product displays, demonstration areas, traffic flow and so on. All of these elements are important but also remember consider what happens when it’s populated by staff and visitors? Here are some of the questions that need to be answered:

  • Where will staff leave jackets, coats and personal items?
  • What is the policy around food and beverage?
  • Is there dedicated space for business related items such as extra literature, promotional items, business cards, Mobile device chargers, staplers, pens, etc.?
  • Have you allowed easy access for repairs to technology, lights, and moveable product displays?

Delegate responsibility

Whose responsibility is booth maintenance and appearance? The quick answer is everyone who is working the booth. Recently I was in a retail store and was greeted by a friendly woman. She welcomed me and asked which department I was looking for. She then said, “Let me show you the way.” On our walk she stopped once to pick up a piece of paper and a second time to remove a coffee cup on a display case. Both retrievals were done without comment or fuss. Keeping the store clean and neat was something that she knew was everyone’s responsibility. The same holds true for your booth. Whenever anyone sees something out of place it should be rectified on the spot – no conversation, no complaints, just a sense of pride in your organizations. This attitude of pride in the workplace needs to be communicated to everyone who works in the booth.

Be prepared

Accidents come in small and big packages. You never know which will affect your booth so the trick is to be prepared for both. Small incidents like a spill or smudge can be handled quickly if your booth staff has the necessary tools. Include in your planning such things as a broom and dust pan, glass cleaners and paper towels. For the larger and more serious occurrences where a quick fix won’t work then include the emergency number for the professionals who can best handle larger maintenance issues.

Train staff

Hopefully you will have a pre-show briefing for the people who will staff your booth. In this briefing you will include such things as a description of the show and its amenities, a statement of your objectives; a profile of the visitors, the skills needed to accomplish your goals and an explanation of the booth and its features. Here is where you should include one additional agenda item which is aesthetics. You need to reinforce the importance of ensuring that the booth looks as good when it’s first put together as it does one minute before tear-down.  Let each person know what your expectations are and that no one is above stooping to straighten a display or pick up something from the floor.

You may have read this article and said, “That’s a lot of common sense.” If you did, you are right. But with so much to plan and organize, sometimes common sense takes a back seat.
Remember you can’t tell visitors about your professionalism and expect them to take your word for it. You have to show them.

© 2014 by Barry Siskind. Barry Siskind is author of Powerful Exhibit marketing. He is also President of International Training and Management Company who offers a number of services to exhibitors including the creation and implementation of a mystery-shopping program. Contact Barry at : for more information.

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