How to Conduct Research for Your Trade Show Display

We’re more than halfway through 2016 – which is to say a lot of trade show ideas are pretty tired by now. On the other hand, some display tactics have real staying power. What’s the best way to find the right blend of classic and innovative? Research, research, research. Let’s talk about how to get started.

Set Clear and Obtainable Goals

To take full advantage of the time and money – not to mention energy – you’ll invest in pulling off a successful trade show exhibit, make sure you have goals in mind. These should be clear and well thought out, with measurable objectives. For example, while you certainly want to generate leads and build rapport with current customers, how will you measure success?

This is where research comes in. Based on what your organization or comparable organizations have done at past trade shows, figure out what you can reasonably accomplish, and set reach goals if you’re feeling ambitious.

Trade Shows Can Fuel Your Research

In addition to fulfilling sales and customer-related goals, make sure you use your time at the trade show to scope out trends. Trade show gatherings are fantastic places for observing competitors and industry experts, so keep your eyes and ears open. Weave through various exhibits and pick up snippets of conversation. Pay attention to your competitors’ tactics as well.

Don’t “steal” anyone’s ideas, per se. If you show up with a display that’s nearly identical to one of your competitors’, you’ll end up offending your audience rather than drawing them in. Instead, gather ideas from multiple sources and synthesize them to create a cohesive exhibit that incorporates many of them.

As you peruse your surrounding exhibits, ask yourself some questions. For example, how does that company promote itself? Are their graphics clearer than yours? How do their staff members dress while on exhibit? It’s not enough to tell yourself your competitor’s exhibit is better than yours. Identify what they’re doing that attracts attention – and don’t forget to take note of any strategies they’re using that don’t seem to be working. Their failures are just as much an opportunity for learning.

Revamp Your Exhibiting Program

Consider this case study from Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc., which shows how a brand needed to completely restyle their exhibit to appeal to a new audience. Their old exhibit was enormous with comprehensive graphics showcasing tons of data about the clinical attributes of Science Diet Prescription pet food, which was marketed to middle-age male veterinarians. But this strategy didn’t appeal to other vets – specifically ones who were younger or female.

The company desperately needed a new model, and by researching message memorability and surveying veterinarians’ preferences for communication, Hill’s pulled off a brand new booth that showed immense success. Instead of a towering outdated structure that displayed everything there is to know about their products, Hill’s created stations that prospects could visit at their own leisure.

Each product had its own kiosk, so attendees could visit and find more information. Presentations followed a more logical order – so instead of info dumping data, presenters went with the proven storytelling method of showing the problem, explaining how their product solved it, and then offering proof.

Apply Your Research

A successful trade show booth has many different aspects. In order to make your booth as good as possible, you’ll need to incorporate ideas from multiple sources – and transform them into your own.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.