Deanna Nord, account executive, Live Marketing, Chicago, and Tom Frisby, creative director, 1220 Exhibits, Orlando, Fla., were team members in exhibit designs that won Grand Awards in The Trade Show Exhibitors Association's 2002 Exhibit Focus awards. The Exhibit Focus program recognizes outstanding efforts in creating and implementing exhibit programs that achieve marketing excellence. Live Marketing was the trade show marketing agency behind ADP Dealer Services' winning exhibit. 1220 Exhibits was the design company behind Tempus Software's exhibit.

Here are some of their pointers for designing an award-winning trade show strategy:

  1. Get the Word Out

    One of the best ways to lure attendees to your booth is to let them know you'll be exhibiting in the first place.

    Tempus Software created a targeted mailing list and sent a direct mail piece to 2,500 people. The piece drove attendees to Tempus' Web site, where they received more information and could enter a contest.

    ADP did much the same. “Invitations featuring the ADP Dealer Services control knob and ‘Helping You Take Control and Relax’ message were sent to 11,000 people,” says Nord. ADP even sent a reminder to attendees staying at convention hotels, reminding them to stop by the booth and say hello.

  2. Location Matters

    Most exhibitors believe that a booth near the hall entrance or stairs or escalators offers a foot-traffic advantage.

    Dead-end corners and booths far from the entrance can lower your chances of being seen, according to information from Czarnowski Exhibit Service Specialists, Chicago.

  3. Get Their Attention

    You've sent invitations and grabbed a great spot on the convention floor. Now what?

    Whether you're planning a booth like ADP's — with a 40-by-90-foot exhibit with multiple levels, two theaters, and a private conference room — or simply taking over a 10-by-10-foot space, you've got to be noticed. To do that, you want an eye-catching exhibit.

    Simple images and messages reinforced Tempus' themes. Its 20-by-20-foot design used soft, organic curves combined with contemporary finishes to create a warm, inviting, high-tech oasis. And who wouldn't stop to look at the real waterfall in the midst of the exhibit? Tempus also had a backup plan. Three sets of twins roamed the show and invited people to the booth to “take a second look.”

    “The twins were a big hit,” says Frisby, “They always appeared wherever the biggest crowd would be.” Response to the twins went so well that they proved a better budgetary expense than show ads and banners.

  4. Keep It Simple!

    You've caught their eye — now don't mess things up! A complicated message or too much information can repel attendees. Keep things clear and focused from the get-go. That includes your booth design. Details are for brochures and for staffers to convey.

    For ADP, that meant an introductory presentation that provided an overview. Attendees could then decide whether to attendee smaller, educational presentations that went into more detail, or to simply roam the booth and ask questions.

  5. Staff the Booth

    Your staff is possibly the most important element of your booth. They should look and act professional and be able to answer any question an attendee might have — or know who can.

    Tempus' exhibit staff received a guide that included show information, schedules, contact numbers, and notes on required attire, as well as a summary of the show objectives. They met on-site to walk through the exhibit and review procedures. And they were debriefed at the end of the day to compare notes and make improvements.

    “You want to motivate and brief the exhibit staff on expected performance and results,” says Nord.