What makes a great trade show exhibit? To answer this question, we went back and analyzed our 2016 awards winners. In addition to the givens—i.e. great design, clear messaging, a well-designed visitor experience—we were able to glean the following insights:

1.  Attendees like to have fun. Yes, trade shows are about business, but that doesn't mean your interactions need to be stiff and dry. It's actually a very strategic move to weave fun into your in-booth experience—so long as you stay on message and brand. Achieve this, as Garden of Life did and you'll increase your booth's memorability and engagement.


2.  The exhibit staff performs better when they're having fun too. Give your team a fun role to play and you'll be surprised just how engaged—and animated—they'll become.


3.  You are what you look like. Almost every company claims to be an innovator, but when it comes to the look and feel of their trade show exhibit design, it's not always obvious. And if you don't look like an innovator, then can you really make that claim? Booth design is a straightforward way to show that your company walks the walk—and is exactly who it claims to be. Control4 applied this logic with an exhibit design that conveyed cutting edge—and that its products are for use in residential environments.


4.  Multi-sensory experiences immerse visitors and reinforce your brand image. Nature's Plus showered its visitors in tastes, sounds, scents, touches and sights. This enabled visitors to experience and understand the Nature's Plus brand in a very visceral way.


5.  Sometimes the best engagement opportunities are off the show floor. Jacobsen's food truck event sold out every day and enabled Jacobsen team members to spend additional time bonding with customers and prospects.


6.  Simple can be powerful, good graphics rule. Taconic Neuroscience proved that strong design doesn't have to be complicated—or heavy (in look or physical weight). Light-weight fabric elements and good graphics earned Taconic Neuroscience two awards and lots of qualified traffic.


7.  Any product can be made to look glamorous with the right display design and lighting. Even commercial vacuum cleaners—just ask TTI.


8.  Give visitors a coffee in front of a tablet and they'll consume your content. Hill's Pet Nutrition significantly increased attendee dwell time with this tactic.


What insights did you gain from exhibits you saw or worked on last year?