Marketing 101 says this:

You can invest as much money as you want in something, but if it isn’t optimized and conceptualized, and if it doesn’t answer a question or a strategy, it won’t serve its purpose.

Here are our five essential steps to make sure your booth is not only a visual and creative success, but also an opportunity to connect with clients, deliver leads, and serve its purpose.

Step 1: Get clear on the purpose

Ironically, the first step to designing a booth is actually not designing the booth itself but designing the strategy and purpose of the booth. Kim Willner, Studio’s creative services director says:

“When I sit down with a client about an upcoming tradeshow my first question is always, what is the highlight for this show? Will it be the debut of a new piece of equipment, a product…? I want the booth design to reflect and support whatever the highlight is. I believe it’s important that the design of the booth ties into your brands’ image along with the marketing message. […] At Studio we want to be an extension of (the clients) marketing team. It’s our job to ensure as much cohesion as possible between the marketing message, brand image, and the booth’s design.”

To do that, you should answer those questions:

  • What audience does the show attract?
  • What is our goal for the show?
  • What target was determined for the show?
  • And what is the product’s role on the show floor?

Identifying answers to these questions will set the course for the booth’s strategy and will play an important role in the conceptualization of the booth.

Step 2: Be bold with your key story or message

Storytelling is another tool that will help to determine your trade show booth’s purpose and concept.

A company has a multitude of stories to tell about the brand, the company itself, the products and services it offers. Pick the one story that is going to make a powerful impact for this respective show and audience.

Then, kick it up a notch! Be bold with that key story or message.

In choosing to be bold, don’t forget to be smart, too, about the way in which you display your key messages. Don’t be afraid to be literal and tell it like it is.

Also, make sure your message is visible and concise. Your message’s display can either boost its impact or defeat it.

Here’s a good example: if your message is related to heights – as in increase, elevating, or top-notch – use the actual size and heights of your booth to your advantage.

And lastly, don’t forget to be cohesive to the very last detail! For example, Kim highlights the importance of supporting literature and giveaways:

“Lots of clients don’t think about their handout materials, they have a well-thought-out, attractive booth, but the content of the literature is outdated and the look doesn’t match the brand’s image and/or the marketing message. Or, their giveaways aren’t relatable to the core business or key purpose for the show. (…) Offer your visitors pertinent handouts and a giveaway that will tie back to the experience they had within your booth.”

Step 3: Use spatial arrangement and flow to make an impact

Depending on the goal you have now defined and the placement of the product in your booth, you can now define the spatial arrangement and flow of people you are expecting through your booth to make an impact. We always want to be better than the neighbor, but keeping it real can boost the event’s impact.

“Bigger isn’t always better. Dropping down into a smaller booth size to have access to a greater budget which will allow you to create a more impressive impact is not a bad thing. I often enjoy the 10×20 booths at shows I attend more so than most of the 20×20’s. Space is used better, generally speaking, it’s more concise messages, the information is just right in front of you, you don’t have to walk around the booth seeking out the complete message. Pick the booth size that compliments your budget but, will also allow the greatest avenue to creatively showcase your purpose.” – Kim

The layout you come up with must fit the use and purpose of the booth itself. For example, if your company is trying to attract new clients and start new lines of communication, then you need to create a space that allows for easy flow of people and provides comfort for guests. Furnishing the booth with a few seating options will help attract new clients and create the space for conversation.

In the same spirit, if the event is more fast-paced or networking oriented, a booth layout that places team members on the front lines and ready to engage is preferable; in that case, seating options would be useless and a waste of money.

Step 4: Create “the WOW! effect”

Sato, Studiod Displays, Exhibit, Tradeshow, Colors, Design, Function, Promat,

SATO attracted visitors to their 30×40 booth at NRF 2019 with the scent of freshly brewed coffee. Their visitors left the booth with perfectly branded coffee cups in hand. In addition to the brightly colored coffee cups, SATO displayed an unconventional, eye-catching, unforgettable pink colored hanging sign. 

There’s no other way to say it – your booth needs to be eye-catching. Your booth needs to WOW.

We call that “the WOW! Effect” – it’s the element of surprise and appeal; it’s that little extra something, that added value that will move someone to stop and engage with you and your booth.

And it can be as simple as colors, Kim encourages her clients to go for bolder colors: “I like to see the out-of-the-ordinary colors like rich pinks and purples, or deep oranges and lime greens paired with the clients brand color(s), blues and reds are everywhere on the tradeshow floor. Stepping out of your comfort zone and making an impact with a complementary bold color can make a memorable impact and set you apart from your competition.”

Here are some of our favorite WOW! effects in action:

  • Video walls: Save floor space and engage people. State-of-the-art video walls also present a myriad of interactive opportunities.
  • Project mapping: While creating a mesmerizing element in the booth, it also makes adapting graphics from show-to-show easier.
  • Interactive activities or presentations: Hands-on product demonstrations allow potential customers to test drive your product or equipment, making a lasting first impression.
  • Full use of the cubic booth space: Raising the roof, so to speak, gives another dimension to the booth and lots of added space to stand out from the crowd. This can be accomplished with hanging structures and double decks.
National Gypsum Studio Displays Booth Exhibit Tradeshow Design Function

National Gypsum makes good use of their unique brand colors and flooring that differentiate itself from the carpet of the show aisles.

  • Stimulate the senses: Playing on sensations can also help people remember your booth and ultimately your company. Texture and scents are not often considered but can make a huge impact. Kim says about this: “People are mostly walking on carpet through the show, changing their sensation with a different flooring is one more way to get them to notice/pay attention to your booth. […] When I’m walking through a mall I can tell when I am getting close to Bath & Body Works or Abercrombie & Fitch by the perfumed scents alone. Scent can make that same effect on the show floor. Think of the impact freshly brewed coffee or buttery popcorn could make on your visitors show floor experience.”

Step 5: Let there be light

We’ve known this since the beginning of time – literally – the game always changes when we shed some light on it.

Lighting is an easy opportunity to play with the booth space and create one, or a multitude of ambiances, within the booth. Using lighting as a structural tool is a good way to optimize a small booth.


There’s a common theme running through those five essentials, and it’s one of our favorite words – it’s creativity. This tradeshow booth is an opportunity to get creative – to explore, to experiment, to create.

There are a lot of creative opportunities – even in a smaller, more intimate booth. Here, gives six good examples of those options.

Also, don’t forget creativity can always adapt to every budget and every show floor.  Creativity can be optimized and conceptualized, and it will answer a question or a strategy.

Be different. Creativity will always serve its purpose.

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