The (Unofficial) Idiot's Three Minute Guide to
Trade Show Displays



Trade Show Booths and Duct Tape

What do the terms "duct tape" and "trade show booths" have in common? If you're like the majority of us (and/or a trade show veteran), then you're probably thinking that you use the first item to repair the second item (you use duct tape to repair trade show booths). Actually, that's not what this article is about, and if you're repairing your trade show booth with duct tape, let me suggest that perhaps it's time to put your old trade show booth out to pasture and invest in a new trade show booth. The way that duct tape and trade show booths are related is that an effective trade show booth should be able to pass the "duct tape test" (and the duct tape test has absolutely nothing to do about repair or repairing your trade show booth).

random scene at a trade show 4The trade show booth duct tape test is, in plain simple English, "Can your trade show booth speak for itself?". Put another way, if your mouth was taped shut with duct tape, would a person looking at your trade show booth design know what it was about? An effective trade show booth design must clearly communicate your trade show marketing message, and it must do this without you standing next to the trade show booth and opening your mouth to "explain" your trade show booth design.

Effective designs for trade show booths (and an effective marketing message) will clearly and quickly answer three questions.

First, it will state WHO your company is.

Second, it will state WHAT YOUR COMPANY DOES (particularly if your company name doesn't indicate what it is that you do).

Third, and most critical, your trade show booth design will state WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOUR CUSTOMER (WIIFM ~ What's In It For Me). This is the most important part of your trade show marketing message! If your potential customer isn't able to look at your booth and instantly know who you are, what you do, and, of course, how you are able to help him, then you must rethink your trade show booth design and your trade show marketing message!

To evaluate your trade show booth with the "duct tape test", you don't need to literally tape your mouth shut and seal it with duct tape. However, you do need to confirm that your booth design has an extremely clear and to-the-point message, and that message must answers three questions. Don't be like many exhibitors and rely on being at your booth to shout at prospective customers that pass by your booth. Don't be the used-car-salesman that pesters every person within earshot and tries to convince them to stop. That is the job of your booth design. Your booth design is supposed to stop prospects, not you. It should cause people passing by stopping to talk to you -- not you saying "So, how are you doing today?" Trade show attendees will wander by hundreds of competing trade show booths at the usual show. Only the trade show booths that pass the duct tape test will stop them. So ask yourself, does your trade show booth pass the duct tape test?

And please remember when you're buying trade show booths, only consider a high quality trade show booth that will stand up to the rigors of your trade show schedule. Let your competitors buy the cheap trade show booths and then worry about keeping a roll of duct tape handy for fixing them at the show. Make sure you purchase a high quality booth with a high quality (trade-show-booth-duct-tape test-certified) design, and enjoy your trade show marketing success and forget about the duct tape.

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A word of warning to any random scrapers or copycats - please don't be a trade show ruffian (and don't even think about it either), and please don't copy my article from the Idiot's Guide to Trade Show Displays without my permission! In legal terms, this article is "all rights reserved". In practical terms, please be courteous and if you'd like to use this article, drop me an email (the email address is on home page) and ASK me first. Thank you.