Increase Trade Show Success With An Exhibit Audit

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3D Exhibits custom trade show displays

Exhibit measurement has become a hot topic at 3D Exhibits. More and more of our customers are asking us to provide trade show tips that will help them improve the success of their custom trade show exhibits.

When customers ask us how they can identify the low hanging fruit—the opportunities for improvement that are the easiest to implement and will make the biggest impact on results—we suggest an exhibit audit.

An audit is simply a visual evaluation of how the exhibit actually performs in comparison to plan. Does it communicate the correct image and message, attract and educate customers, and function as intended?

Often customers hire us to conduct a comprehensive exhibit audit because their companies value having a third party opinion.

So how can an exhibit audit benefit your company? By going beyond identifying shortcomings to make specific recommendations for future improvements.

Here’s how it works:

1.  We put ourselves in the shoes of a show attendee and experience the booth for ourselves. Hypothetical example:

  • As I walked up the aisle I couldn’t see the Free Trial graphic because it was mounted too low and was blocked by an exhibit staffer standing near the aisle.
  • I sat in on the presentation. At the conclusion of the show I lingered in the exhibit. When no one approached me, I left.

2.  We deliver a report that outlines opportunities for improvement and specific recommended actions. For the hypothetical example above, we might recommend that you:

  • Position key messages high enough that they aren’t blocked by people standing in the exhibit.
  • Create a system where sales people are assigned to visitors as the sit down for the presentation—and train them to engage those attendees after the presentation.

Our clients have used information from our audits to create staff training programs and to design better functioning exhibits.

How much could you improve your exhibit results if you had an audit?


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Stand Out With This Custom Trade Show Exhibit Design Trend

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3D Exhibits exhibit design trend

What’s the hot emerging trend in custom trade show displays? “Fortified Immersion.”

3D Exhibits’ Jeff Bartle, exhibit designer and chief creative officer, describes Fortified Immersion as custom trade show exhibits that stand out for their unique and imposing structure—structure which serves as an outer envelope to house an interior experience that captivates and engages attendees with well-crafted high and low-tech booth interactive experiences.

Bartle says when done right, Fortified Immersion is exactly what you want on the show floor. “Think structure that captures attention and attracts visitors paired with an experience that entices them to linger and learn,” says Bartle.

Bartle saw many examples of Fortified Immersion at Euroshop, a trade fair held every four years in Dusseldorf that focuses on retail and exhibition design. “European exhibitors do a great job of focusing their exhibit experiences on building relationships,” he says.

Three example custom trade show displays the employ Fortified Immersion:

3D Exhibits exhibit design trend

1. D’art Design Gruppe (exterior image shown at the top of this post) designed its exhibit structure as an angular fortress. Bartle says the architectural exterior mass contrasts well with the sophisticated graphics, technology and content delivery inside the structure.


3D Exhibits exhibit design trend

2. Visitors who penetrated IFES’ walled structure found themselves in a warm and comfortable hang-out space. This exhibit experience included lots of reasons for visitors to linger: good lighting, inviting atmosphere, and plenty to see, do and touch.


3D Exhibits exhibit design trend

3. 100% ECHT, which is German, translates to 100% Real. The concept behind this collaboration between Konrad Knoblauch GmbH and Shop SYSTEMS GmbH is that the streamlined perimeter structure represents the industry and the modular retail systems the companies create. In other words, what the world sees of them. The carefully hand-crafted “barn” structure on the interior—a striking contrast in style to the exhibit exterior—is their perception of themselves: meticulous craftsmen who create enduring relationships.


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Brainstorm Your Way To Better Trade Show Marketing Ideas

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trade show ideas brainstorm

Brainstorming sessions are a great way to develop new trade show ideas and exhibit design concepts. When 3D Exhibits conducts these sessions for our clients, we find that they help trade show exhibit managers break out of ruts and discover innovative new exhibit marketing strategies and tactics.

trade show ideas

Seven tips:

  1. Choose participants carefully. Brainstorms only work when everyone feels 100% comfortable to speak freely. Invite enough participants to evoke conversation, but not so many that the session becomes too formal. Do not include anyone who will dominate the conversation or whose presence will inhibit others. For instance, for some companies, brainstorming will be far more productive if the boss is not in the room.
  1. Select the right moderator. In order to generate innovative trade show marketing ideas, you need someone who can sense when to just let the conversation go, but isn’t afraid to step in when the conversation veers off track or gets too granular. The moderator also has to be ready to toss out ideas or alternative ways of thinking if the conversation stalls.
  1. Warm up the attendees to help people break out of their normal cycle of thinking. An ideal warm-up is a field trip or quick slide show to look at ideas from other industries’ trade shows or what’s new in retail and museum environments. At a recent brainstorm we moderated for Hill’s Pet Nutrition opened with a slide show of immersive exhibit experiences at E3—the Electronic Entertainment Expo.
  1. Set the ground rules. Common rules include: nothing gets ruled out, no interruptions during the session, there are no bad ideas—and no worrying about budget (yet). You’ll also want to decide in advance how you will designate who has the floor. You want to make sure everyone who wants to speak has their turn—but you also don’t want to put anyone on the spot.
  1. Start with non-specific exercises to help people think big picture concepts. Brainstormsare aboutgenerating idealistic concepts, not about nailing down program details. When we worked with Hill’s Pet Nutrition, we asked participants to write the most memorable experience they’d ever had in their life—and what made it so memorable—on a Post-it. The objective was to get them thinking more generally about what provokes an emotional response in terms of sights, activities, environments, smells, touches, tastes and feelings. From there, it was far easier to look with fresh eyes at what could type of experience could be created in the Hill’s Pet Nutrition exhibit.
  1. Write it all down so everyone can see. Ideas build on one another so be sure to keep all ideas posted on the walls around the room so everyone can continue to build on what’s been thrown out thus far in your session.
  1. Have fun!

trade show marketing ideas

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Energize Your Attendees’ Trade Show Exhibit Experience with Instagram

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Instagram wall trade show exhibit design

The current obsession with selfies proves that people love to share what they’re doing with their friends and colleagues. Instagram is a great way to harness this trend and supercharge your trade show exhibit experience with energy and enthusiasm.

If you have any doubts about the value of social media to improve trade show exhibit results, check out EXHIBITOR Magazine’s just published 2014 Social Media Study. (The report says 80% of companies are integrating social media into their exhibit marketing programs—versus just 58% in 2012.)

Back to Instagram: Just picture it: Your trade show exhibit filled with happy prospects and customers—all posing for the camera, your logo, demos and exhibitry in the background—shared with hundreds of their contacts.

Instagram Trade Show Exhibit Social Media

3D Exhibits just did an Instagram wall for Thomson Reuters at the annual meeting of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). Who ever said librarians aren’t much fun should have seen the Thomson Reuters exhibit. There were smiling faces and iPhones snapping away all over the place.

After shooting their images, people sprinted to the Instagram wall and watched to see their photo appear among the constantly-refreshing montage of images.

If you’re thinking about adding an Instagram wall to your exhibit, here are a few things to consider:

Ten Things To Consider When Creating An Instagram Wall for Your Trade Show Exhibit

  1. An Instagram wall will work best with a social-media loving audience. It’s important to know your trade show audience demographic to ensure that your customers and prospects are comfortable with social media and therefore likely to participate. For younger audiences, especially those with a good percentage of millennials, participation is a no brainer—almost a natural reflex. For older audiences—or audiences who feel strongly about protecting their privacy—an Instagram wall probably won’t work. A good test would be to survey your customers and find out what percentage are already on Instagram. The higher the percentage, the more likely your activity is to be a success.
  2. An Instagram wall works best if there is an activity in your booth. Thomson Reuters’ Instagram wall was a component of a larger integrated trade show marketing program that included an educational game that drove attendees from station-to-station in order to accumulate points and earn prizes. This quest  aroused attendees’ competitive spirits, heightened the energy level in the booth and got people in the mood for a little photo fun.
  3. Place your Instagram wall where it will draw attention. Your Instagram wall should be large, bright and where everyone notices it to achieve maximum impact. Thomson Reuters located its Instagram wall along a busy aisle. The wall was positioned at an angle, a few feet in from the edge of the carpet so passers by would notice the images, then step into the exhibit to view them.
  4. Make sure people know that you have an Instagram activity. With all of the exhibit hall commotion, visitors don’t automatically notice every activity available to them in your booth. Thomson Reuters promoted its Instagram wall to attendees via an Instagram Squad—a group of exhibit staffers equipped with cameras who explained the activity and even offered to shoot photos for them.
  5. Supplement the user-generated images to get things going. Audiences are shy about going first—but you need momentum to keep those photos coming. Get the ball rolling yourself by having your staff shoot a couple of dozen photos for your wall as soon as your show opens. Thomson Reuters peppered its wall with photos shot by camera-equipped members of the exhibit staff.
  6. Decide on your technology well in advance. There is lots to decide here, so take the pressure off yourself by planning what you want as far in advance as possible—and giving your trade show technology team ample time for programming. Questions to ask yourself include: How will the technology work? What type and size of display? Do you want one photo to show at a time or a collage? How frequently should the display refresh?
  7. Include a hashtag related to your show or company (link to ) so people can easily locate your Instagrams. Thomson Reuters used #AALL2014 so the images would be visible to everyone following the show on social media.
  8. Like your participants’ Instagrams. And while you’re at it, get other team members to like participants’ Instagrams too. It’s hard to squeeze another item on your todo list in the middle of a show, but thanking your participants expresses your appreciation and gives attendees the validation of knowing that their images were viewed.
  9. Consider a prize to spur activity. Thomson Reuters didn’t use one, but if you really want to stir up a selfie-frenzie offer a prize for one or two participants chosen at random.
  10. Start promoting your Instagram activity pre-show. Build excitement and engage your audience before your show through an e-blast that invites them to post photos to Instagram before the event starts. Designate a hashtag and offer a prize or incentive for posting.

Have you tried an Instagram wall? If you have, we’d love to hear about your experience. If you’d like to hear more about what we did for Thomson Reuters, email me at

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Seven Great Things About Our New 3D Exhibits Office

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3D Exhibits new office 15

How do we love our new 3D Exhibits home? Let us count the ways…

1. Collaborative workspace. Our new office has conference rooms, presentation rooms and several lounges with comfy couches. Everything we need to sit down and brainstorm together on new trade show exhibit designs and programs.

2. Awesome technology. We’re wired—and it’s not just the coffee. We can seamlessly access reference and materials from our conference rooms, share our portfolio with visitors from multiple locations in our facility, and collaborate with colleagues in our other offices.

3D Exhibits new office 9

3. It shows who we are. There is absolutely nothing corporate about our workspace. Like working with 3D Exhibits, it’s inventive and a little irreverent. And it’s as colorful as we are. Red and lime green. High ceilings. Reclaimed doors. A very large statue of a head. Being here is just a whole lot of fun.

4. Room to grow. If you visited us before, you probably noticed that we were getting a little cramped. Now we can stretch out a bit—even take a jog around the office.

5. We can exercise our passion—literally. You may not know this, but as an organization, 3D Exhibits places a high priority on fitness. Many of us workout regularly and some of us even run marathons and do Iron Man competitions—including our president, Gene. Often we run 5Ks together for charity as Team 3D. So of course our new facility includes an onsite gym that enables us to keep both our brains and bodies active.

3D Exhibits new office 8

6. Going green. We’re doing our part to reduce the number of plastic bottles we use. For our own health—and for the good of the environment—we’ve installed an Elkay filtered water system.

7. Our building references where we’ve been. We’re proud of our history. So yes, you’re seeing that right. That’ s the 3D “evolve” logo that was featured in our EXHIBITOR exhibit five years ago in the photo at the top of this post.

We hope you’ll stop by for a visit soon. We’d love to give you a tour and start you on your own 3D Exhibits Journey.

3D Exhibits new office 7


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