Back to school for exhibitors
It's Back to School for Exhibitors

Back to School for Exhibitors

By Roger Noel, MA

Back to school. That’s a phrase the most kids dread because it means their care-free summer days are coming to an end.  When I hear it I can’t help but think about the Staples commercial where the dad and two kids are walking the aisles of the store, as he gleefully tosses school supplies into the shopping cart, to the background music, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” 

Back to school also has significance for the trade show industry because the trade show calendar tends to run concurrently with the school year.  Early fall is a great time to rethink and refresh your exhibit and ad content for the new season, if you haven’t already. Some of the things you should be thinking about are refreshing your graphics/signage, flooring and A/V content.

Graphics & Signage
Graphics and signage are arguably the most important element of your exhibit and should be inspected early.  They tell your story in a glance and set the tone for potential customers, while offering an immediate impression.  It’s crucial that the impression be a positive one. Signage and graphics can make the difference between someone being attracted to your exhibit or avoiding it.  If people can’t figure out what solutions your company offers, in that glance, there’s a good chance that they’ll bypass you.

Graphics and signage need to be current and have excellent readability.  They can be printed on a variety of materials, from paper to fabric.  They can be used in lightboxes, posted on a wall, or even suspended as part of the exhibit itself. 

Think of trade show graphics and messaging as a three-step process.  First: What’s going to catch potential customers’ attention, from a distance across a convention hall, are hanging signs.  Hanging signs are typically suspended from the convention hall ceiling with the company’s logo, and possibly a catch phrase that communicates, in just a few words, what your company is all about.  The fact that they’re placed high up in the air makes them easier to see from a distance.

Second, as a potential customer gets closer to your exhibit, there needs to be an intermediate level of signage that provides more detailed content than the hanging signs, and identifies your company’s products and services.  This intermediate messaging helps to entice guests to make the leap of faith and cross your exhibit threshold.

Third, the content in your collateral along with the face to face dialog with your show representatives, needs to sell the customer on the solutions your company offers.  So, in a phrase, make your messaging count.  There’s a lot riding on it.

Depending on your industry, flooring can sit in storage for several months.  At least two months prior to your next show you should unroll flooring to do a visual inspection for damage.

Sometimes carpet may get rolled onto a core unevenly, as it’s prepared for storage, and other times the carpet can get crushed while in storage.  This can happen due to other rolls of flooring being stored on top of it, or the role sitting on a rack, or being squeezed against one in storage.  It may also happen if the carpet was previously rolled onto itself with no core support (for shame) and stored so that it creases under its own weight.

Once you’ve unrolled the carpet, it’s not unusual to see areas where the carpet appears to have different shades of light and dark.  This is usually due to crush (pressure) marks that have flattened certain areas.

The first remedy to try is getting a good, powerful vacuum cleaner and vacuuming the carpet to attempt to coax the crushed areas back into place.  If that doesn’t work to your satisfaction, try a liquid carpet cleaning machine with warm water (no detergent necessary).  Once the carpet looks back to normal, and is completely dry, it can be rolled back onto a cardboard core.  Make sure you have at least two people rolling so that you don’t crease the carpet all over again.

Vinyl flooring can crease for the same reasons as rolled carpeting.  Once you’ve unrolled it, if you see any areas that are unsatisfactory, leave it in a warm location, away from direct sunlight.  It may loosen up any creases over a couple days.

Be smart with how your flooring is stored.  The better you take care of it the fewer problems it should give you!
If there’s no hope for your flooring then it’s time to re-order.  Just don’t wait until the last minute to do so!

A/V Content & Equipment
Take a moment to evaluate your current A/V tech and content in your booth.  If you have none, this might be a good time to add it.  If you already have it, ask yourself how you can improve on it.  LED panels are now in the mainstream, and they’re everywhere you look at trade shows, with everyone seemingly trying to out-dazzle their competitors.

If you’re new to A/V in your exhibit, or you don’t have the budget for LED panels, fear not!  4K wide-screen TVs are available in a wide range of sizes, from small up to 80 inches, and these days they’re much more reasonably priced than in years past.

If you’re ready to make the jump to LED panels, be aware that there are several types to choose from with wide-ranging prices. For more detailed information, please refer to my August 2022 blog, “Introduction to LED Video Display Tiles.”

Regardless what kind of display you use, make sure that you have compelling and visually appealing content to play on it.  If you haven’t updated it recently, it’s probably time to.  If your company doesn’t have a creative department in house, partner with a local company or freelancer who can help you create eyepopping content, animations and videos.

Just as a child needs to be prepared to go back to school, exhibitors do as well for the trade show season. This is the time of year to rethink and refresh your exhibit. Make sure your graphics and messaging are on point to quickly and effectively tell your story, and the other parts of your exhibit are in tip top shape. Don’t wait too long to find out that something needs to be replaced!