Many companies fail to recognize the link between the design of their trade show exhibits and the overall objective of the show itself.
This is the old horse and cart question. Which comes first? Do you build a display and then decide which products fit...? Or do you select products and then build the display? What is the primary objective for exhibiting in the first place? Allowing the exhibit design to dictate show objectives can often have disastrous consequences... like having a fine carriage pulled by a donkey.
Once you have determined your primary show objective then you are in a position to answer the other questions.
A trade show booth is an extension of your company... it is a branch location. It should tell your story quickly and concisely. You have approximately seven seconds to capture the interest of those passing by.
Unless you have a product that is extremely eye-catching or very large, try getting your message out with large, bold, colorful graphics.
DO NOT put chairs in you booth. Chairs make for inattentive employees and prospects. Your objective should not be to provide an oasis for show patrons. Make arrangements for conferences with clients to be held in another location.
Your booth needs to be USER-FRIENDLY. Be careful not to place obstacles between you and your prospects. Allow enough room so people can come into your booth and look at your products. If possible, allow people to handle products. If you determine that a demonstration is in order, make sure your booth is large enough to allow a sufficient number of people space so they have a clear view. A demo that can't be seen is useless.
If you don't want people to handle your product and don't plan a demonstration, then leave the product at home. People are leery of products that say "do not touch".
Use GOOD LITERATURE! This is not the time to be penny-wise and pound foolish. Remember the donkey and the carriage? Engineering drawings and artist renderings are not good literature. Many fine displays are built around "literature stations". Often literature enlargements are used as the focal point for a booth. Try using enlargements with lighting from the bottom for a striking effect.
Try doing things a little different that you would normally. If you are "left brained" and need to have symmetry in your life, try arranging your booth as a "right brained" person might arrange it - with broken lines and non-geometric stacks. Remember your booth should be inviting.
If you are a software company, try leaving the computer, printer and furniture at home. Use literature and people to spread your message. Many software entrepreneurs become so engrossed in showing off their system that they allow all but a handful of prospects to walk on by without a word.
A recent survey by Exhibitor Magazine found that over 70% of buyers use trade shows as the major source of information when making a buying decision. The survey also found that the average cost of a trade show lead is $180.00. Both facts seem to point to the importance of a well-planned booth staffed with competent people who understand the primary objective - a fine carriage pulled by a fine stallion!