(Note: This is part one of a two-part post.)

WOW Defined

So what is a WOW? A WOW is a technique or tactic used in trade show marketing that slows people in their tracks long enough for your exhibit staff to engage. A WOW can be an attraction, an activity, a promotion, or an activation—anything that draws the attention of your target audience. Overall architecture, a visual focal point, a dynamic element—many things can function as a WOW if they’re implemented the right way.

WOWs work for all sizes of exhibit—and WOWs can be implemented with any budget.

The important thing is that you select a WOW that appeals to your target audience. WOWs only work if they appeal to the people you want to connect with.

10 Trade Show Techniques for Marketers Who Are Ready to WOW Attendees

As promised, here are ten techniques you can use to create WOWs for your exhibits and events—plus examples.

(Note: All exhibit design and fabrication by 3D Exhibits unless otherwise noted.)

1.Put Something in Motion

It’s happened to all of us. You’re driving to work when suddenly, out of the corner of your eye, you see a car pulling out of a parking spot too fast and without looking. Thanks to the early warning, you slam on your brakes and avoid the collision.

What you’ve just experienced is one of our very human instincts—the instinct to detect motion. It’s an automatic response that goes back to prehistoric times when noticing a saber-toothed tiger lurking in the bushes made the difference between eating dinner and being dinner.

Adding a kinetic element to your exhibit taps into this very human instinct and enables you to grab people’s attention on the trade show floor. The source of the motion could be any sort of kinetic element, game, activity, or automated display.

One of our favorite applications of motion to WOW trade show attendees was the choreographed array of kinetic light tubes that floated and danced over the IBM Watson exhibit at Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). The light tubes, inspired by the ray elements in the IBM Watson logo, symbolized the movement of data.

2.Play with Scale

When you were a child, were you enamored with the small houses and trees that made up your grandmother’s Christmas Village? Or perhaps you were awed by life-sized replicas of dinosaurs? If either of these scenarios spoke to you, then you already understand the mesmerizing power of scale.

Elements that deviate from life-size attract attention—regardless of whether you go big and supersize it or shrink it down to a fraction of its actual size. Apply this technique to your exhibit marketing program by blowing up a model of your product (or props that speak to your brand attributes) to create a “Honey I Shrunk the Kids,” experience—like Garden of Life did. Or employ scale models to convert a huge product, complex installation, or even a cityscape to table sized, like the display S&C Electric Company created internally.

Pro-tip. Another alternative is to use technology to play with scale. At RSNA, Hitachi showcased a large piece of medical imaging equipment it chose not to include in its booth with a hologram. An animated fly-over could be an option too.

3.Light It Up

The human eye is naturally drawn to points of light. Sunrise. The stars. A city in the distance. We can’t resist.

This technique also works on the trade show floor. Companies have been using spotlights to direct attention to their products and gobo lights to entice people to enter their exhibits for years. HMS recently used lighting in its exhibit to connect information contained in its touch screen drill-down program with its product samples. It worked like this: as people visited the section of the drill down that showcased the product, LED light tubes illuminated to form a box around the product so people would understand which product they were learning about.

4.Evoke Importance with a Shrine or Showcase

Have you ever had your imagination captured by a store window? You didn’t even plan to shop, but the combination of product, prop, and lighting all conspired against you. Before you knew it, you were inside the shop perusing merchandise.

Whether your product is large or small, placing your product in a showcase draws attention, glamorizes your product, and implies value and importance.

Applying this technique can be as simple. All you need to do is place your product on a pedestal and leave some open space around it, the same way museums display sculptures.

You can also augment this with environmental accents—such as banners or walls to create a chamber or mini-room around the display. For smaller products, you might also place them on a pedestal or in a case. Or into a recess in the wall.

Dell took this concept to the extreme at Dell Technology World to highlight its Latitude laptops. Attendees were first drawn in by concentric arcs of swirling blue fabric that led them deeper and deeper into the exhibit. At the center, they found a large cylinder, cut at an angle to reveal multiple Dell laptops mounted on and around a small LED stairway. Swirling and morphing brand textures added to the sense of magic without distracting from the products.

5.Design a Striking Architectural Element

Remember the awe you felt the first time you stood in front of the Empire State Building or the Eiffel Tower? The sense of amazement you felt when you stood in the center of the hotel atrium and looked up?

Dynamic architecture can be its own wow. This could be a tall tower, the illusion of water, an arcing roof, or just a single element that stands out by being a different shape, color, or scale than anything else around it.

One example is the sculptural, twisting fabric structure of the Merck Animal Health exhibit. The shapes and textures alone were enough to elicit oohs and aahs from attendees.

A larger scale example is the AI area within Hitachi’s RSNA exhibit. The giant, scrim box elicited curiosity while the giant spiraling ribbon inside the box acted as a visual transition tool, moving attendee’s attention between the Hitachi logo above and the product display below.

Check out Part 2 here.

Looking for help to jump-start the creative process? Try one of our 3D Exhibits Ideation Workshops. Or set up a call with one of our trade show marketing experts by contacting Cole Hauschildt at (chauschildt (at) 3DExhibits (dot) com).