Exhibit Design and Management Best Practice: Gain Stakeholder Consensus That Less Is More

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Kristin Affatato Magic Chef

Kristin Affatato elevated the success of MCA Corporation’s trade show marketing program by convincing upper management to incorporate less product into its new custom trade show exhibit. Here’s how:

As the new Director of Marketing and Brand Management at MCA Corporation, Kristin Affatato was charged with revamping the 85-year old Magic Chef appliance brand to create a presence that demonstrates the company’s evolution into a marketing-driven company. The first step was to get the brand into more brick and mortar and online stores—which meant connecting with retailers.

Kristin turned her attention toward MCA’s best opportunity to impact retailers—its custom trade show display at the International Home + Housewares Show. “In past years, MCA showed everything in its booth. It was product overload. Visitors didn’t know where to focus,” says Kristin. There was no clear message or brand statement and product appeared to be placed randomly in the booth.

“Just because you can show it doesn’t mean you should show it,” says Kristin.

Magic Chef trade show exhibit design before

MCA custom trade show exhibit design before

Kristin created a strategy to present a more streamlined and organized image to retailers by being selective about which products were shown in the exhibit—and designing a new, streamlined exhibit to show them off. Her success hinged on getting the entire team onboard—from sales and sourcing to marketing and product management.

Kristin’s approach to achieving buy-in was to let the exhibit speak for itself. She created a PowerPoint presentation that enabled team members to compare images of the previous year’s exhibit with renderings of the custom trade show exhibit from 3D Exhibits she had in mind.

Magic Chef trade show exhibit design after

MCA custom trade show exhibit design after

“People tend to be fine with an exhibit while they are at a show, but if you give them some distance and show them the images again later, they are more likely to recognize the booth’s shortcomings,” said Kristin.

Here are Kristin’s recommendations for other trade show exhibit managers and marketers who need to convince management to rethink their trade show exhibit design or product display strategy—and gain consensus on the new direction:

  1. Create a visual presentation where people can see the before right next to the after. “Seeing your old booth juxtaposed against your new concept is a very powerful way to communicate. It enables stakeholders to come to the conclusion that there is opportunity for improvement on their own—which is way more powerful than if you have to convince them,” said Kristin.
  1. Talk everyone through the key issues—using the images to illustrate your points. Some of the major points in Kristin’s presentation were: a brand can actually get lost if there is too much going on, too much clutter devalues the visitors perception of the brand, and too many small messages are confusing—not helpful.
  1. Identify potential objections and have a strategy in place to accommodate those needs. Kristin understood that while she didn’t have to have the entire Magic Chef line on display in the exhibit, she needed a way for the reps working in the exhibit to demonstrate the breath of the line for customers. Likewise, she could eliminate small graphics only if she provided another way for the reps to access detailed product information for customers who expressed interest. She accommodated these needs by integrating tablets into the booth. That way, reps could access the entire Magic Chef catalog and all product sell sheets whenever a customer requested more information.
  1. Demonstrate the value of the plan you are presenting. Kristin outlined her overall objectives such as to make the exhibit a destination and to make the product displays visually appealing. Then she brought her plan home by sharing how her strategies and tactics would achieve those objectives.

What tactics and tools have you used to convince management to approve a major change in the way you manage, staff or run your exhibit program? We’d love to hear. Email me at If we use your story, we’ll send you a 3D Exhibits t-shirt as a thank you gift.

Magic Chef trade show exhibit design after 2

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Wishing You All The Best For 2015

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Happy Holidays 3D Exhibits

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8 Biggest Trade Show Exhibit Design Mistakes

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Exhibitors can rise above the masses with a stand-out trade show exhibit design—just by avoiding a few common mistakes, says Jeff Bartle, chief creative officer for 3D Exhibits.

The typical trade show floor looks something like this: There are a bunch of ok-looking exhibits, a handful of particularly not so ok-looking exhibits and just one or two really appealing trade show displays. Standing out is just a matter of cleaning up the clutter and focusing on a few key messages.

Most common trade show exhibit design mistakes:

  1. Too much stuff, not enough white space. It’s hard to cut through the clutter on the show floor if you are the clutter on the show floor. “Instead of bringing all of your products, focus on one or two good things,” says Jeff. The rest of your line can be represented by access to your website or via iPad. And leave a little space between the products you do bring. The open area will function like a mat and frame do for a painting—they’ll draw attention to the item you want to highlight.
  1. Too many messages. See #1 above. The same goes for graphics. Less is more, so focus on a few key messages and save all of those other things you want to say for the website.
  1. Failure to introduce yourself. Unless you’re the Microsoft or Google of your industry, attendees may not know who you are or what you offer. Be sure that among the messages that made the cut from #2 above are statements that express what you do and how you are different from the competition.
  1. Visual inconsistency. If your exhibitry looks mixed and matched people won’t know what to think of your brand. Likewise, if you come to the show with a look and feel that doesn’t match what they’ve seen online or through your advertising, your customers aren’t going to know which image to believe. Or worse, they won’t recognize that you are the same company—and they’ll walk right by.
  1. Failure to invite exploration. People will only enter your exhibit if you give them a reason to. Draw them in with displays, presentations or interactives that catch their attention and make them want to know more.
  1. Failure to create engagement for different types of visitors. Your visitors may be paddlers who are seeking some basic info, swimmers who want more depth—or divers who ask minute and detailed questions. Too many exhibits plan a one-size fits all experience that fails to meet the needs of all three of these groups. Make sure you are prepared by having content available for every level of visitor.
  1. Over-reliance on eye candy. Technology is awesome. We LOVE it. But to be an asset to your exhibit, your technology has to be more than window dressing. If it doesn’t convey content and/or increase interactivity with visitors, you’ve wasted your money.
  1. Expecting the design to do it all. Great design can catch visitors’ eye, but it can’t do all of the heavy lifting by itself. To achieve real success, you will still need to rely on your booth staff to engage visitors in conversation, qualify their interests, and lead them to pertinent content.

Are there any other design mistakes we should add to our list?

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Use RFID/NFC to Increase Trade Show Booth Interactivity

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NFC Wristband trade show display interactive

RFID/NFC is a great solution for exhibitors who want to make their trade show exhibit more interactive. Thomson Reuters used this technology at AALL, an event attended by legal librarians, to excite attendees to participate in multiple demos and lengthen their stay in the exhibit.

NFC stands for Near Field Communication—a type of RFID that exchanges data when the chip is placed within close proximity to a reader. Thomson Reuters leveraged NFC chips housed in orange wristbands to facilitate an interactive knowledge quiz that kept attendees coming back to learn—and win—more.

Here’s how it worked:

  1. When attendees arrived at the exhibit, they were checked in and given their NFC wristband. They also scanned their badge and entered their name and other demographic data into the system. This record went into the master database that would track game activity and points—and later be used for measurement and lead data.

NFC trade show display interactive 2

  1. Attendees selected from 17 different education stations—visiting as few or as many as they chose. Topics included: Tax and Accounting, Government, Academic, and Law Firm. Questions were a mixture of product-related questions and trivia questions.

trade show exhibit design nfc

  1. At each station, visitors tapped their NFC wristband against a scanner. This brought up a screen with their rank in relation to other attendees, the names and numbers of stations they had visited, the number of questions they’d answered correctly and their point score in relation to other participants.

NFC trade show display design

  1. Attendees then listened to a brief product presentation (delivered by a Thomson Reuters team member) and answered corresponding questions (via iPad)—earning additional points for every correct answer. When visitors had completed the questions, the screen with their rank appeared a second time so they could see how much progress they’d made toward the prize of their choice—or toward overtaking other visitors’ scores.

trade show exhibit marketing NFC dashboard

  1. An additional message on the score screen notified visitors who had earned enough points to earn a prize.
  1. After visiting as many stations as they chose, visitors moved to a redemption counter where a Thomson Reuters staff member scanned their wristband one final time, delivered a prize corresponding to the visitor’s point total and marked that the prize had been delivered on the visitor’s electronic record. Prizes for smaller point totals included orange jellybeans and orange gummy bears. Larger prizes for higher point totals included t-shirts and device chargers.

NFC trade show interactive prizes

At the close of the show, Thomson Reuters tallied its results. Via NFC data collection, Thomson Reuters collected visitors’ names and demographic data—as well as tracked their subject interest through the number and type of stations they chose to visit.

Have you experienced RFID or NFC in an exhibit? The 3D Exhibits team would love to hear about it.



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Use Trade Show Exhibit Design to Make an Emotional Connection

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3D Exhibit trade show emotional connection

You hear it all the time: “Successful trade show displays and marketing forge emotional connections with the target audience.” But what does that really mean?

In the book Grow, author Jim Stengel defines five fields of human values. Stengel’s research shows that some of the best performing companies in the world are those who connect with their customers via at least one of these values.

Based on Stengel’s findings, companies who appeal to at least one of these values via their trade show exhibit experience will forge that desired emotional connection and make a memorable impression on their audience.

A list of the values Stengel identified follows—along with ideas on how to activate them through a trade show exhibit experience.

Five Fields of Human Values Applied to Trade Show Exhibits

1. Elicit Joy—Steal your attendees’ hearts by delivering something in your exhibit that activates a feeling or experience of happiness or wonder.
Example: Graphics and case studies that depict a customer who has made a real difference in the business or life of one of his customers.

2. Enable Connection—Orchestrate ways to connect your visitors with others in a meaningful way. This can be their peers, your team members or industry experts.
Example: Make industry experts available for Q&A in your exhibit or create peer-to-peer or ask-the-product-developer meet-ups that give attendees access to resources they wouldn’t normally have.

3. Inspire Exploration—Help your attendees explore new experiences and options.
Example: Make visitors feel they are on the cutting edge. This could be accomplished via hands-on demos of new tools and techniques that will enable them to perform their job better—or through interaction with content via technologies they haven’t seen before.

4. Evoke Pride. Give people increased confidence, strength, security and vitality.
Example: Demonstrate how your product will improve positive outcomes, make your customer into a hero—and score points with management in the process.

5. Impact Society—Help attendees positively affect society.
Example: Communicate your company’s values by sharing how you’ve made a difference to a specific cause or objective. For instance, if you’ve reduced company waste or energy use by 20%—demonstrate how. If your company supports a charity, demonstrate the difference your support has made to specific individuals’ lives. Invite the attendee to join in…

What are the best examples you’ve seen of companies activating human values through their trade show experiences?

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