Trade Show 101: Graphics protocols for a successful event

With several printing industry trade shows and closely related events on the horizon in 2018, writer and marketing expert Cass McGee explores the do’s and don’t’s for exhibitors as they try to attract the maximum number of prospective clients to their booths.

Trade shows are launch pads for major businesses and vendors. Be it a rising star or a traditional name in the market, putting on a good show at these events yields serious bread and butter. Trade shows tend to be exclusive affairs, courtesy of the organizers. The general public may not have access to these events – but media, press, and related investors grace the occasion. This is the reason why it’s important to be spot on, and to use compelling graphics to attract attention for all the right reasons.

Why are trade shows so challenging? The scenario and set-up provided by the organizers play a vital role in determining the strategy needed to succeed. A vendor can be competing with parties with a similar background, or those who are entirely different. On the broader side of things, technology or innovation events may have entries of varied backgrounds and genres. The key to standing out in trade shows is being unique and projecting the best version of your product. And what better way to do it, than with exceptionally eye-catching graphical representations.

Do’s and don’t’s to make your trade show exhibit a memorable one

Do have a preview of your exhibit beforehand. This enables you to place important pieces in the correct places and gives room to edit final appearance. This may seem like a rookie tip, but most organizers ignore the basic principles of planning a successful event. As they say, the devil is in the details. You should be aware of the placement of all components – starting from shelves to banners.

Do invest in good quality graphics and visually compelling exhibit booths. The ideal showstopper usually has a four-fold blend – one part message, one part graphics, one part marketing and the last part, psychology. You can use the Adobe Experience Cloud to improve customer experiences and workflow.

Do maintain ease of access leading to your exhibit. People like to feel welcome, so a spacious arena with minimum barriers is the best way to go. Some organizers forget to add seating spaces, needless to say, forgetting just how important they are.

Do pay attention to colour codes and try to blend in with the ambiance. Colour can be your friend or your enemy, so keep multiple options open and research the venue beforehand.

Don’t use cursive, handwriting or funky fonts. Avoid using complex fonts because your message will likely first be viewed from a considerable distance. Stick to simple and easy-to-read fonts, keeping legibility in mind. For diversification, use a maximum of two variants, but nothing more. Pushing a variety of fonts onto the graphics often leads to an identity crisis.

Don’t decorate your display with photo booths. Graphics come in various ways, even in a better format than videos. Switch to new trends such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), to deliver the best designer/artist experience.

Don’t limit your booth to 2D graphics – supplement them with props. This is a successful professional strategy, as who doesn’t stop by a prop to click photos. For example, hiring a mascot is a sure way to draw attention and bring in more customers.

Don’t make your display a brochure. The message should be concise, apt, and loud and clear. Promote only the best products and steer clear from text-heavy graphics because you have only mere seconds to grab someone’s attention.

Finally, don’t forget to have a smile. Be minimalistic, as less is more when it comes to these events.


Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.