Trade Show Exhibit Design Trend: Captive, But Not Claustrophobic

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trade show exhibit design trend 3D Exhbits

Trade show marketers want to immerse visitors in their brand. Place them in an enclosed space and turn them into a willing Brand Captive—if you will. At the same time, they don’t want the space to feel claustrophobic.

Is it possible to do both at once? Create a brand-enclosure without making people feel enclosed?

“Absolutely yes,” says Jeff Bartle, chief creative officer for 3D Exhibits. “It just takes a little design ingenuity.

Two Ways To Create Enclosed Yet Spacious Trade Show Exhibits

1. Louver Wall. The approach used in the Audi exhibit above uses a louvered wall and ceiling to visually enclose the space—creating a complete brand immersion of color, light and form inside. From the outside, the space is completely open on two sides, with the other two blocked physically but not visually. “From a distance, it looks like a solid structure. But because there is a good four feet of space between the louvers, people standing next to the booth can see right in—our out,” says Bartle.

enclosed spacious trade show exhibit design

2. Inside Outside. For EXHIBITORLIVE2015, 3D Exhibits created a cozy environment by dividing a 20’x30’ space into four meeting areas. “We staggered the walls and used changes in finish, texture and color on both the walls and ceilings to create separate rooms and add visual interest—without using any physical dividers between the individual spaces,” says Bartle. These included wood, custom-patterned laminate, and even faux grass.

An LED sky mural—which featured moving clouds, butterflies and an occasional hot air balloon created the illusion of expanded space—as did the use of translucent panels for a couple of the wall segments.

trade show exhibit design trend

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Trade Show Exhibit Design Trend: Quiet Conversation Nook

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trade show exhibit conversation booth nook

Just in case you didn’t get the memo: When it comes to trade show displays and marketing, quality interaction is in—and large quantities of product are out.

Jeff Bartle, 3D Exhibits’ chief creative officer, says he expects to see more and more booths and conversation nooks in exhibits. These quiet spaces enable the exhibitors to really sit down and connect with qualified attendees.

This is a dramatic shift of best practices versus just a few years ago when trade show exhibitors were advised to qualify visitors quickly and then move on to someone else. Exhibitors were advised not to provide a place for trade show attendees to sit.

trade show exhibit booth conversation nook booth

Now the rule of thumb is qualify quickly, then go as deep as possible with the qualified attendees. And while seating isn’t a requirement, it can be helpful in creating thoughtful engagements.

“This trade show design approach shows that an exhibitor is serious about sitting down and talking custom solutions—it demonstrates that your company is anything but Walmart,” says Jeff.

Jeff recommends that marketers combine booth/nook seating with a product-sparse approach that leverages tablets or touch screens for content. “It gives a very clean, uncluttered look if you can leave most of the product home and use the tablets as a storytelling tool in the nooks,” he says. Plus, the money you save on shipping, drayage and labor related to the products can offset the costs related to creating the booths or nooks.

trade show exhibit booth nook design

Three reasons to create a conversation nook in your exhibit

Booth or nook seating:

  1. Creates one-to-one intimacy.
  2. Blocks out some of the noise and commotion of the show floor.
  3. Shows the prospect that they’ve got your full attention.
  4. Makes the prospect feel like a VIP.
  5. Makes people comfortable so conversations go longer.
  6. Demonstrates that you are very serious about understanding the prospect’s needs and developing a custom solution.


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Engage Trade Show Exhibit Visitors With Transparent Touch Screens

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Hills NAVC low res 15

Transparent touch screen technology will transform the product display cases in your custom trade show exhibits into interactive experiences. Evan Plotkin, our 3D Exhibits tech guru explains:

What is a transparent touch screen?

Evan: A transparent touch screen is exactly what it sounds like—it’s a touch screen where the background—what would be the desktop on your tablet—is transparent. Like a window. Graphics and copy only appear on the parts of the glass face where you want them.

How does using a transparent touch screen improve the visitor experience in a trade show exhibit?

Evan: Transparent touch screens turn static product displays into a dynamic experiences. Up until now, if we wanted to provide our visitors with additional information we had to place it on a monitor next to the product display. With a transparent touch screen, we can create an overlay where the additional information sits right in front of the product. The product is still visible, it’s still protected—but now you’ve made the case interactive. So you can still see the actual product, but you can also dive deeper in the story right there in the moment.

trade show exhibit transparent touch screen

What kinds of the media can you display on the monitor?

Evan: On a transparent touch screen, you can display any sort of media you want—text, graphics, photos, video and animations in whatever combination it takes to tell your story. For instance, if your product were a medical device, you could have interfaces where visiting physicians can pull of animations of the device in use, graphs of success rates, and data sheets with manufacturing specifications.

Any other tips on making sure my transparent touch screen works well?

Evan: Like any other interactive, the quality of the experience is dependent on two things: the quality of the media you load into the experience and the clarity and simplicity of the user interface. Just because the technology is cool doesn’t mean you can skimp on content.

How do costs compare to that of traditional touch screen monitors?

Evan: Transparent touch screens are a little more expensive than a standard touchscreen from a factory because it’s all custom—the transparent screen has to be built to fit your casework or exhibit—and you need to build that casework. But spread over several shows, the cost difference starts to be negligible versus the same content programmed on a traditional touch screen interactive. As time goes by more manufacturers are producing ready to load complete systems such as the 32” planar transparent display case that can sit on a counter or table, so stay tuned as a lot of these product will be available for rent in the near future

Have you seen a transparent touch screen in use? If you have, we’d love to hear what you thought.


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8 Tactics: Elevate Exhibit Staff Membership From Duty to Honor

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Christine DiDomenico square for Social Media

Even the best custom trade show exhibit designs fail when the exhibit staff isn’t up to par. This is a story about how one exhibit professional elevated her staff’s perception of exhibit staff participation from chore to honor—and in the process brought her entire program to a whole new level.

During Christine DiDomenico’s tenure as director of exhibit marketing at a major pharmaceutical company, she completely reinvented the way her company looked at staffing its exhibit. Not only did her team come to look at exhibit participation as an honor—it became an honor the sales reps competed for.

Christine’s objective of building a skilled, enthusiastic, committed trade show booth staff was accomplished through a long-game process where she moved the needle one small increment at a time. Her entire process from start to finish took her about four years to achieve.

Christine says an important part of her process was to convince the head of sales of the benefits of hand choosing who was allowed to work in the booth. “When you make booth staff membership selective, you play to people’s natural competitiveness. Suddenly everyone wants in—and everyone improves their game,” says Christine.

8 Steps to Elevate Exhibit Staff Membership from Chore to Honor:

  1. Get management onboard. Christine started small—with casual conversation. At shows, she would stand with the head of sales and watch the exhibit team interact with physicians. As the staff worked, Christine called the head of sales’ attention to what was being done well—and who was doing it well—so he’d understand what ideal behavior looked like and see for himself that good booth staff interaction resulted in better engagement with physicians.

Key to Christine’s success was that she focused on positive behaviors and not negative. “I went in gingerly so he wouldn’t feel like I was attacking his people,” says Christine.

Next, Christine commissioned a third party exhibit audit—but even without the audit the groundwork had been laid because the head of sales had seen the difference that great booth staff performance made.

  1. Recognize good behavior. Christine continued to watch the team at shows. When she witnessed a staffer doing something right—such as engaging prospects from the aisle with open-ended questions, she complimented the staffer and praised the behavior to the other staffers. “You could see the team members beam with pride as their skills improved and we praised them for their efforts,” says Christine.
  1. Propose the solution as a benefit. Once sales understood the benefits of having a strong exhibit staff and understood what exceptional exhibit staff behavior looked like, Christine segued into an aspirational conversation—“I asked, ‘What if we replicate this model for every staffer at every show?’” says Christine. She had sales management’s attention.
  1. Formally propose to create a “convention team” of top performers. Christine went back to sales management and formally pitched the idea of selecting the best talent to create a Convention Ambassador Program. Her proposal hinged on establishing participant eligibility criteria and only sending the best—and recognizing them for their efforts so membership on the team would be viewed as an honor.
  1. Select the A team. Christine’s next step was to stand and observe the exhibit staffs at various shows with the high-level stakeholders one more time.  “We watched and then selected the staffers we wanted for the convention team together,” says Christine.
  1. Design exhibit specific training – “We knew the key to achieving a high performing, high energy exhibit team was to train the staff and provide them with tools and techniques that are unique to the exhibit sales environment,” says Christine. Partnering with her internal Sales Training group, Christine created a formal exhibit staff training curriculum that included: a series of live training workshops and distance learning modules, pre-show training instruction, on-site team briefing meetings and role playing exercises, and a third-party partner to conduct exhibit staff training.
  1. Recognize the team. Christine treated the members of her Convention Ambassador team as though they had been inducted into a prestigious society. The head of sales welcomed them to the club with “Congratulations, you’ve been selected” letters. Articles in the quarterly internal sales department magazine featured photos of the convention exhibit team in action—and attributed the success of the shows to their efforts. And no opportunity for praise was overlooked. “We even sent thank you for a job well done letters and copied their managers,” says Christine.
  1. Reap the benefits. “After that everyone wanted to be on the team—and we had our pick of the best talent,” says Christine. After four years, Christine had turned around her company’s perception of what it meant to work an exhibit. No one would ever call it booth “duty” again.

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.

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U3D: 3D Exhibits Harnesses Technology, Creates Custom Experiences for EXHIBITORLIVE Attendees, Wins Best Booth Staff

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EXHIBITORLIVE 2015 was a huge success. 3D Exhibits engaged with a record number of high-quality contacts by leveraging RFID/NFC technology to create customized experiences for visitors to our trade show booth. In the process, we earned the Best Booth Staff Award from the show.

“Our team was really excited to talk to people about what we’re doing and how we create custom solutions that solve our clients’ exhibit marketing challenges. Their enthusiasm showed—and that really moved the judges,” says Nicole Genarella, our senior v.p. of marketing.

This 2015 EXHIBIORLIVE presence was part of our larger U3D campaign. The program utilized a micro-site to pre-schedule meetings pre-show and an onsite registration app to qualify and register visitors onsite. Information collected in the registration process included the visitors’ name, favorite color, favorite type of music, and the types of trade show and marketing services they were interested in learning more about.

When visitors arrived onsite we checked them in at a 10’ x 20’ exhibit, gave them a red 3D Exhibits RFID/NFC wristbands loaded with their data, and led them to a private lounge in a larger (20’ x 30’) booth across the aisle. At the lounge entrance, the visitor tapped their wristband against a sensor to receive a custom welcome that included their name on a screen, a flash of light in their favorite color, and a few bars of their favorite type of music–as shown in this video:

Next, visitors were seated in one of three presentation areas where their 3D Exhibits RFID/NFC wristbands launched content pertaining to the areas the visitor had expressed interest in when they registered—presented by 3D Exhibits team members who are expert in those areas. The system included an over-ride for instances when the conversation expanded beyond the original areas of interest.

3D Exhibits’ strategy of creating custom experiences for each prospect and only sitting down with qualified prospects—reflects a growing trend in trade show exhibiting. “We get very few opportunities to meet prospects face-to-face. So when we do get that opportunity, we maximize the value of the meeting by focusing the discussion on the areas they are interested in,” says Nicole.

EXHIBITORLIVE 2015 was held March 2-4 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.

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