Trade Show Displays

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designing-a-trade-show-boothWe’ve all seen the cluttered trade show booths with bad design included. You remember them …but for all of the wrong reasons! Optimizing your trade show booth design and layout is extremely important to ensure your trade show budget isn’t wasted. In the first few seconds that trade show attendees view your booth a decision is made and perceptions are formed. Lets quickly outline some core design principles that get help you boost trade show leads and improve engagement.

Graphic Backwall

Trade show back walls have many similarities to billboards, they’re large, should have one or two eye-catching graphics and a single message that can be read from a distance. Make sure your message isn’t cluttered or confused by a busy background pattern or image.


Limiting the amount of copy is also a good idea, use your logo, tagline and maybe a bullet point list….it’s not a brochure!! Take a good look at who your audience or target market and develop a look and feel for your booth that caters to them.


Image Resolution MattersGathering images for a large display is always a challenge. You’ll want to find images that not only represent your brand well, but are also visually stimulating.

A common issue with images used in trade show displays is resolution, images spanning 10 to 20 feet need to be high resolution. Taking an image off the internet that is 3″ x 4″ and is 72 DPI and making it 4 feet x 5 feet will produce an incredible bad result. If you’re purchasing images you’ll want to buy the largest size of that image that’s available.




Strong and vibrant colours are a great way to introduce good contrast between images and your copy. The age, gender and culture of your target market should be taken into account when choosing a colour scheme. Colours invoke emotions good and bad, take a good look at the psychology of colour before choosing your colour theme.


Choose simple clean fonts that will be easy to read from 10’ to 20’ away and incorporate an adequate amount of white space if possible. White Space around text greatly improves readability from a distance!

Booth Layout

It’s important to know the rules and restrictions for your assigned booth before you arrive, your exhibition organizer will have provided these details to you when you signed up for the show or will have them readily available on their website.

booth-sizeOverhead, a ceiling hung sign with lighting is an excellent way to draw attendees toward your booth long before they’re in front of your booth. This type of signage can be seen from a 100 feet away. Include a simple eye-catching message with your brand.

If your booth restrictions or your budget do not allow for ceiling hung signs, a header sign attached to your pop up display or back wall can be an excellent alternative. It can’t be viewed from the same distance but still provides a large clear message for those walking by.

At the front of your booth, banner stands with a bold matching colour choice provide an opportunity to present more details at close range. A literature rack can also allow a passer-by to grab your well-coordinated print materials.

Try not to clutter or overcrowd your space with props or people. Most people prefer to step into a space that’s clean and well-organized. Allow 50 or 60 square feet of sales space for a sales person, having four salespeople in a 10’ x 10’ booth is overkill and will certainly scare people away.

A well designed trade show booth staffed with professional, happy staff will provide the best opportunity for success at your next!

From hunting to weddings and everything in between Toronto offers a massive selection of popular trade shows at world-renowned centres such as the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place.

The days of solid, rigid and heavy exhibit booths might not be over, but an increased use
of structures using tension fabrics is making the lightweight and portable components far more common in the trade show industry. Convention-exhibitors

Enhanced lighting and graphics applications combined with savings on shipping and drayage costs are making more exhibitors turn to tension fabrics for use in their exhibits.

Choosing a Trade Show Display

The variety of trade show display types and graphic materials can be a bit overwhelming to start, but with a few key questions you can quickly narrow down the best trade show materials for your company.

  • What is the booth size?
  • Will your booth size vary?
  • What is your total budget for the show?
  • How many individuals will be working the show?
  • What are the marketing and sales objectives?
  • How will the display be transported to the show?
  • Will custom graphics need to be created?

These questions can help narrow down your scope, so you can ultimate choose the display and materials that work best for your situation.

The trade show display decision should consider your company’s trade show objectives, marketing budget, and your branding goals. For example, a small mom-and-pop shop would require a smaller, less flashy design that one for a nationally recognizable brand.

Tension Fabric Trends

One major contribution to the increased popularity of trade show displays is the evolution of lightweight frames combined with tension fabrics, making today’s displays extremely light and portable. Former popular, rigid construction is declining as trade show exhibitors find ways to have the best of both worlds; amazing colours and graphics combined with a durable yet easy-to-manage frame.

Traditional Fabric Pop Up Frames

Tension fabric on a traditional pop up frame.

Tension fabric systems that utilize a traditional pop up frame make a great low-budget solution but are only available in a standard straight or slightly curved frame style.

Pillow case style tension systems that utilize lightweight, aluminum tubing create a great opportunity to get outside the traditional trade

Pillowcase style aluminum tube framing

Pillowcase style aluminum tube framing

show box that is, to experiment with curved or parabolic designs. This type of framing system utilizes 1 1/2” or 2” diameter aluminum tubing that can be constructed with horizontal curves, vertical curves or even custom parabolic shapes.

Tension fabric structures can also be combined with LED lighting solutions to provide an additional appeal. Spotlighting and backlighting are very popular choices with companies that want their cutting-edge brand reflected in their promotion materials.

Whether in trade booth components or stand-alone promotions, tension fabric designs can attract attention with bright, bold colours on high-quality fabrics that are easy to install for quick setup and teardown at trade shows and events.

Features and Benefits of Tension Fabric Displays

  • Easy snap button assembly
  • Lightweight
  • Create unique serpentine or parabolic shapes
  • Large fabric graphics can be seamless
  • Save money on shipping costs

Pop up Displays


Pop Up Display Frame

Pop Up Display Frame

Traditional pop up displays are still a popular choice for spaces at sales events and conferences. There is a wide range of pop ups and most are available with podium wraps to convert your carrying case into a podium or small table. Further, panel displays can be complemented with shelving, peninsula counters, backlit headers, literature racks, and other accessories which can convert an ordinary panel display into unique marketing tool.

Some of the key factors to look at in selecting a pop-up are the quality and durability of the printed graphics, ease of setup, and warranty. If you sometimes exhibit in smaller spaces, you could consider a convertible booth which can be easily converted to a smaller size.

Each display booth uses a frame that can “pop up” allowing the display to be easily assembled and torn down in minutes. They are made of different components, some graphite, steel, and/or extruded aluminum. Most suppliers would argue their frame is the strongest, the lightest, or simply the best. You could equate it to the myriad of different HD televisions now available on the market. Though, when broken down to its bare essence, no one is any better than the next. Further, most of these displays have one thing in common… a lifetime manufacturers warranty on the frame.

The same cannot be said of the graphic panels on a pop up display which vary greatly in their quality. This is where you can find a wide variation in price and quality for what is supposed to be “the same” pop up display. The type of printer (UV, ink-jet or eco-solvent) that’s used, the quality of print media and laminate (if it’s included) will affect the price and long-term performance of the panels.

18mil trade show panel

A photo of an actual 18 mil trade show panel produced at KCB Graphics.

Panels printed with a UV printer on 20pt styrene that are not laminated will be considerable cheaper than a panel printed with an ink jet printer on 18 mil PVC with a quality pebbled laminate. Most people would assess these as the same pop up display panels but the latter panel will outperform in durability, print quality and long-term performance.

Today, marketers must achieve their goals with reduced budgets. Again, Pop Up Displays will assist you in stretching your budget because they are lighter weight and designed for easy setup and tear-down. Further, you will save on storage, transportation, and labor costs.

Features and Benefits of Pop up Displays

  • The frame pops up in seconds and assembles in 5-10 minutes
  • Lightweight
  • Shipping case doubles as a podium that can be wrapped with graphics
  • Save money on shipping costs

Modular Panel Exhibits

Panel systems give you an extreme amount of flexibility of design choices as displays can be custom created to your needs. Flexibility also abounds in colour selection as upper and lower panels can be different. Most come with panels utilizing fully customized dye sub fabric graphics.

Modular Exhibits are high-end exhibits that provide a custom look but can still be setup in a few hours, shipped in standard rotomolded plastic cases, and thus have a lower total cost of ownership than custom booths.

Modular exhibits generally use higher end materials including tension fabric structures, extruded aluminum frames, high-end composites and laminates, and innovative bold designs. Modular exhibits will hold more weight and can also be used to hold large plasma screens and LCD panels.

Features and Benefits of Modular Displays

  • Easily reconfigure for smaller or larger both sizes
  • Simple add-ons for video presentations, lighting and tables
  • Large seamless graphics spanning 10 feet to 30 feet

Truss Display Systems

Truss Style Trade Show Display

Truss Style Trade Show Display

Truss Systems provide a brash, modern, and unique look to a display. They are also excellent functional components that can be used to mount lighting, projectors, and Plasma or LCD panels. The fact that truss systems have a high weight-bearing capacity makes them great for displaying heavier weight products like computers, machine parts, free weights, etc. They also have a unique industrial look that works well with certain target markets. The beauty of truss systems is the ability to be used in conjunction with other display structures like Pop Up and Panel Systems.

Features and Benefits of Truss Displays

  • Very modular
  • Easily reconfigured for 10′ 20′ of 30′ booths
  • No tools required for assembly
  • Structural trusses allow for the easy addition of large monitors or other addons
  • Heavy duty shipping cases are included

What is Dye Sublimation Fabric Printing?

Dye-sub, or dye-sublimation printing is commonly used to print on synthetic fabrics, including trade show banners. Using traditional dye sublimation printing each image is printed first on coated, heat-resistant paper and transferred as a reverse image to the fabric by using a heat press. The high temperature and pressure converts the dye into a gas that permeates the fabric and then solidifies – this creates a permanent transfer so the fabric can be washed without reducing quality. Fabric graphics are then finished with either Velcro or zippers depending on the framing system that’s been chosen.

Dye Sublimation Fabric Printing from KCB Graphics

Dye Sublimation Fabric Printing from KCB Graphics

Advantages of Dye-Sublimation Fabric Printing

  • Ink is infused into the fibers providing a permanent image transfer
  • Excellent saturation provides colours that are very bright and vibrant
  • No peeling or fading
  • The dye won’t build up in the fabric
  • Continuous tones can provide a near photograph effect
  • Light weight fabric can be folded and packed in small boxes

The disadvantages of dye-sub graphics are few; polyester fabrics are not opaque and can wrinkle when packed away.

What is Inkjet Printing on Semi-Rigid Panels?

Wide format, inkjet printing utilizes equipment capable of printing widths from 54 inches up to 120

18mil trade show panel with a pebbled laminate

An 18mil trade show panel with a pebbled laminate.

inches in at resolutions up to 1440 DPI. Trade show graphics are typically printed on a 14 to 20 mil PVC panels and allowed to dry for 24 hours at which time they’re laminated with a 3 to 5 mil pebbled laminate to provide long-term protection from fading or scratches.

Advantages of Inkjet Printing

  • High resolution images are printed at photographic quality
  • 18 mil PVC panels are completely opaque, allowing through no backlight
  • Lamination protects your graphics from scratching or fading

The disadvantages of ink jet printing on semi-rigid panels are few; aligning graphics across multiple panels can be challenging and panels should be packaged carefully to avoid shipping damage

With each of the above-aforementioned display types and printing methods, designing attention-grabbing graphics for your booth is essential to setting yourself apart from your competitors. Below, you will find some important strategies to consider:

  • The 10 foot rule. Make sure all logos and text can be clearly read from a distance of 10 feet (i.e. Rule of thumb for text is 2″ per 10′ of distance viewed)
  • Limit bullet points to 10 words or less… Less is more.
  • Infuse a bounty of visual images to elicit emotion and make your exhibit unforgettable
  • Make your logo simple to view even from a long distance. You want to make sure that your target audience can find you at a glance. High visibility is a priority.
  • Consider using mural graphic panels to increase the value and emotional impact of your display. Remember, “Perception is Reality!”

Remember, purchasing a trade show display allows you complete freedom of expression. Be cognizant that the exhibit design should revolve around your specific trade show needs. The Trade Show Display, Exhibit or Booth should project your company’s individuality, character, and panache.

Over time purchasing a new trade show display may be your most economical long-term solution to your trade show needs. Once you’ve answered the questions presented earlier and understand the dynamic differences between the many display options, you will be more informed and better suited to create your new display space.




ID-100224522Happy New Year! Here’s to a prosperous year, one where your business excels in every way. So what are the best ways to succeed marketing your business? Here are some upcoming trends that may help you get ahead:


Although the economy seems to be recovering, trade shows are still feeling the pressure. Your company needs to maximize its marketing dollar to get the most out of each attendance. If you can’t afford the investment in a trade show booth, look for ways for your marketing materials to do double duty. You can even consider renting a booth and using banners and other marketing materials, until your success proves that the investment is worthwhile. Booking your trade shows early to save costs can help as well.


Every investment needs proof of its returns; the same goes for your company’s investment in trade show marketing. Arm yourself with information, balance costs with returns. Track your expenses, but also track the number of visits, as well as those that are definite prospects. After the trade show you can work on converting prospects into clients.

Trade Shows = Great Marketing

More and more buyers are looking for an in-person experience prior to committing to a purchase; a trade show offers the perfect venue to let major players test out new products and services – particularly when it comes to B2B marketing. Rather than focus on phone calls and other marketing methods, set more time aside to meet potential buyers face-to-face.

Savvy Buyers

Today’s buyers like to research before they buy, or before they attend a tradeshow. Make sure your internet presence is solid – you should have an informative, great-looking website, as well as accessible marketing materials, including demo videos if possible. The more potential buyers can learn about your product, the better.

Promote More!

Regular marketing doesn’t cut it anymore; you need to work harder to get the message out. Social media is a key element here; but so is word-of-mouth marketing, promotions, and even contests. Find unique ways to get the word out about your event.

Social Media is Key

Where traditional marketing methods may not be as effective, social media is an incredible tool to help promote your trade show. Before, during, and after trade shows you should be using any and all social media channels available to you in order to encourage followers to come and check out your booth. You can also promote events, promotions, or special giveaways during a tradeshow to attract attention.

Better Promotions

Setting up a booth and handing out brochures isn’t enough these days; if you want to bring in leads you’ll need to offer something in return. You can offer something physical such as something branded by your company – a pen, thermos, keychain, etc. You could also offer an intangible benefit: knowledge. Offer free advice, or a way to get more out of the product you of are selling.

Digital Trade Show Booths

Trade show marketers used to get by with the same booth, show after show, only exchanging a banner here and there for a different look. By adding an LCD TV or computer screen you can change the look of your trade booth, or promote a different product, without having to pay for new promotional material. Between trade shows your digital components can run double-duty in other areas of your business.

Interaction Engages Visitors

While you’re updating your trade show booth with technology, you might want to work on increasing engagement through interaction. Tablets and touch-screen can help visitors engage with your product, explore new features, or view how-to videos. The more you can engage trade show attendees, the more likely it is that they will become buyers.

Lighter Materials

For national trade shows you can save significant cost shipping your trade show by investing in today’s lighter, stronger trade show materials. Tension Fabric Trade Show Displays are not only lighter and cheaper to ship; they’re printed using vibrant, dye sublimation printing and they look great and make your company look great in return. Additionally you can get more distance out of your trade show booths by incorporating trade show materials into existing displays, such as on your sales floor.

Qualified Leads Equal More Sales

Handing your salespeople a list of prospects and expecting them to turn them all into sales – they need more information. You’re better off to pare down your list to only include leads you feel are ready to talk to a sales person – that way sales can spend more time on working each individual prospect for a better closing rate overall.

Photo Credit: Gubgib
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