The New Marketing Manager & Exhibit Design

Julia O'Connor

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The question is - Our new marketing manager just spent $65,000 for a new trade show exhibit. She loves it, but it doesn't seem to draw people in. Are there lessons here for us?

There are different scenarios but the main problem is - there is a new Marketing Manager. New broom sweeps clean. Wants to start all over. It does not work. What went wrong?" T here are five basic concepts to understand before changing exhibit designs.


Remember - Form Follows Function. Sometimes new managers come with great ideas, sometimes more time would have allowed a better integration of exhibit form with marketing message. Do a marketing plan for Each Show.

WHY? Because each show will draw different attendees with different expectations and you need to focus on the attendee, not your ego. All marketing messages must be integrated, so a new exhibit with an old message - or vice versa - is jarring to your audience.


Let the folks who are going to work the booth have input. Experience on the floor is invaluable when upgrading or designing a new exhibit.

WHY? They know the problems with lack of storage space, lost keys, theft, crowded demo areas, poor lighting, off-message graphics, difficult set-up, and shipping disasters.


Way-out designs may scare away prospects because you do not look like “their" type of company. Sure it’s fun to explode on the floor with something really fantastic, but unless the exhibit matches the image the attendee has of the company, unless it is on-message, then some potential clients will shy away.

WHY? There is a psychology to the trade show and attendees – whether first time or experienced – come with desires of comfort. Trade shows are quick, intense and sometimes overwhelming in assaults on the senses. Attendees do not want to spend time and the psychic energy to figure out strange exhibits.


Have you ever been to an exhibit where entering was part of the mystery? Or where to go next, or the demo stations are in a secret place, or you just can’t find people to answer your questions? Never design an exhibit that is a maze or barrier to people.

WHY? Most people will not take time to figure out something new. They want the option to get in, get out or linger at their leisure. Note – the demo and conference areas require privacy. The most important aspect of a good exhibit is Good Signage. Clear. Easy to read and multi-lingual when to your advantage. Especially important in today's necessity for ADA and diversity awareness.


There are many reasons a new exhibit does not live up to dreams. One of the most obvious, yet overlooked, is the staff. Do you send the same folks? Are they tired, resentful, bored, boring? Enthusiasm - before and during the show - can overcome many design flaws.

WHY? You must view each show as a new show and that requires a new outlook each time. The fresher and better selected the staff, the better the message. The Center for Exhibition Industry Research – – estimates that 85% of the reason for a sale is the staff in the booth. An exhibit only draws people to your space. It’s the staff that makes or breaks the introduction, discussion, follow-up and sale.

Spiff up your whole presentation with training before each show to help you make better design and staffing decisions.

Julia O'Connor - Speaker, Author, Consultant - writes about practical aspects of trade shows. As president of Trade Show Training, inc, , now celebrating its 10th year, she works with companies in a variety of industries to improve their bottom line and marketing opportunities at trade shows.

Julia is an expert in the psychology of the trade show environment and uses this expertise in sales training and management seminars. Contact her at 804-355-7800 or check the site http://www.Trade


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