B2B Trade Show Wisdom:

Kelley Vogel
Designing B2B
Published in
4 min readDec 14, 2022

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What 16 years of trade show design has taught us

Picture your last trip to a trade show. Row after row, booth after booth, hard concrete floors, poor overhead lighting, information pouring in from all sides… to describe one as overstimulating would be an understatement. While they clearly present incredible opportunities for B2B exhibitors to connect with an audience, there are serious communication challenges to overcome. Oftentimes, assuming that not everyone attending the show will engage in conversation, companies exhibit as much information as possible. The result is ineffective signage that fails at both drawing visitors into a booth and communicating any clear message. A more effective approach leans on building intrigue. Since it’s not likely that passersby will retain a message or convert to customers, the goal should be to stop them in their tracks so that meaningful engagement can follow. Secondary to visual intrigue is clear, concise messaging. Given that a visitor’s engagement might be limited to a business card exchange, it is crucial to convey exactly what is intended–one message and one message alone. Practically speaking, there are endless ways to build intrigue through booth design. In this article, we will explore three of our favorites.

Try Using the Floor

Floors might be the most underutilized trade show real estate. But why shouldn’t every surface do the work? In 2021, CVD completed a brand makeover for TRIPBAM, a well-established market tracking company in the corporate travel industry. TRIPBAM was expanding their services beyond hotel-booking to include air travel. Symbolically, 2-dimensional brand assets were made 3-dimensional to carry the audience from ground to air. This concept was extended to their trade show booth design which included expansive floor graphics and large clouds overhead. The booth was free-standing, which provided an ideal opportunity to keep it open, showcase the floor, and provide plenty of space for audience engagement.

TRIPBAM floor graphics

Project to Connect

Projection can be a powerful tool for storytelling, but for trade shows it must be executed with consideration for the forum’s unique limitations and opportunities. If a slideshow or step by step process is projected, it could be out of sequence or out of context at the moment a visitor passes by. Assuming they’re gripped enough to stop, they also have to be patient enough to wait for the rest of the sequence to finish, restart and watch it again in order to receive a complete message. Getting back to the idea of one message and one message alone, CVD suggests an alternative approach that puts projection to work in service of messaging. For Ad Sales Genius, that message was dependent upon the audience at hand, which made projection an even more appealing option. CVD provided creative direction on a series of animated motion graphics with different messages that were tailored to each trade show they planned to attend. The approach took advantage of projection to save money on printing expenses, generate visual intrigue and deliver a clear message.

Ad Sales Genius Animated Motion Graphics

Don’t Show the Product (on your graphics)

At a robot trade show, the best way to blend in is to show your robot. That was the driving idea behind CVD’s trade show booth design for Waypoint Robotics. Using striking and unexpected imagery of a worker’s hands, Waypoint proactively joined the conversation about the role of industrial robotics in workforce displacement. The messaging was clear, the imagery was intriguing. In lieu of including the robot on their graphics, Waypoint had an actual robot on hand at the booth for 360-degree, fully tactile product engagement.

Waypoint Robotics non-robot imagery

If all else Fails…

… and you’re really leaning into intrigue, just put lipstick on a pig and see what happens…

Banner Design Created by Chris in 2007 for his then-employer, Winntech

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