In Exhibits, the Fewer Surprises, the Better

When it comes to developing and managing a trade show exhibit, the only thing that should surprise you is the design itself. Life is unpredictable enough without discovering that your welcome desk is located on the slow aisle or a giant column, that you never saw in renderings, is right next to your booth.

The truth is, ours is a business of a million details, which means a million opportunities for something to go wrong. It’s also a business of constant revisions as you work to accommodate the interests of multiple stakeholders, all of which generates even more details.

So having an iron-grip handle on the processes driving all of this is essential. For one thing, we believe you should insist on a good clean rendering after every significant revision, and your final rendering should be identical to what you see on showfloor.

We make that point with a nifty little interaction on our website called Rendering to Reality. You can move your cursor along and watch renderings turn into photographs of completed exhibits to see just how unsurprising a tightly run process can be.

There is, however, one great exception to this rule and that’s the creative. Here, no surprises is the enemy and safe is positively deadly.

Fresh design is really just a strategy for dealing with all the marketing noise out there. Audiences, be they B2B or B2C, are jaded. Saturated with promotions, advertising and push notifications, they’ve pretty much seen it all and have erected walls around their brains that rival Fort Knox. Nothing much gets in.

But if delivering a memorable customer experience is what great trade show design is all about, you have to get inside your audience’s head. Which means that standing out boldly, differently and yes—surprisingly—isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s essential.

Some go so far as to say that if a design doesn’t make you at least a little nervous, it’s probably too expected and you should push your trade show exhibit agency to go further. We think that’s solid advice. 

But, creative aside, no surprises is king. So the next time you find yourself saying, “Where is the box of giveaways?” or, “Why is the welcome desk located on the slow aisle?” take a deep breath and imagine a better way.

Wouldn’t that be a nice surprise?