Three Marketing Tips for Trade Show Booths

Written by Kimberly MacArthur Graham on June 26, 2013

I visited the AIA National Convention Expo last week and came away with an armload of brochures and a head full of ideas about what works – and doesn’t – in a trade show booth.

Use eye-catching elements in your booth

For an expo targeting architects, I was surprised at the overall lack of design innovation and quality. There were some winners, of course – a handful were built more like lounges, incorporating glass walls, furnishings, water features, or other design elements. Fewer still sported eye-catching, meaningful graphics or architectural elements like the one shown here.

A few were so bad they were good.

But most were disappointingly generic, cluttered with too much information and/or product and no clear message. Considering the thousands of dollars that it cost to exhibit at this show, it’s too bad that so many companies apparently decided against investing in professional design and messaging.

Illustration of what not to do.

I was shocked at the lack of engagement. I actually hung around several booths for a few minutes, perusing their materials, and no one greeted me. They were not busy with other visitors; typically, they were either talking to one another (about the lack of activity and sales!) or glued to their smartphones, probably texting about the lack of activity and sales. With this egregious violation of trade show etiquette, here are three quick trade show tips:

1 – Grab visitor attention with eye-catching graphics and smart presentation of elements such as product samples, furniture, giveaways, etc.

2 – Use clear, bold design and messaging to help visitors quickly grasp what your company offers and why they want it.

3 – Engage passers-by, gather contact information from everyone you speak to, and follow up with them after the show – before they forget you and your company.



Layer Cake Creative is a strategic marketing agency specializing in communications, design, and strategic marketing that enrich your brand and support your strategic and sales goals.  This Denver marketing firm specializes in promoting professional services such as architecture, construction, engineering, law, finance, and real estate.

Kimberly MacArthur Graham, founder of Layer Cake Creative, is an expert in professional services marketing with 20+ years in the design and building industry.  She’s especially proficient in marketing communications including technical or creative writing and editing, articles submitted for publication, and brand messaging.

Posted Under: Construction/Architecture/Design/Engineering Industry, Design, Event Marketing, Marketing

2 Responses to “Three Marketing Tips for Trade Show Booths”

  1. Skyline NYC says:

    Great post. Architects are very good at what they do, but sometimes having the creativity for a trade show booth is a little too far from their expertise.

    • Greg says:

      We completely agree. There is just no way for someone to be an expert at everything.

      A big part of what we are interested in is helping architects, tech firms and other businesses do what they do best by doing what we do best. This might sound obvious, but there are a lot of people who try to cut corners by doing everything themselves, and this often affects their bottom line.

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