I'd like to suggest a radical change in how we think about exhibit booths. In the conventional trade show jargon, a booth is referred to as "a space of fixed dimension used to house an exhibit".
I find this definition to be constricting. It limits our thinking, inhibits our creative process and generally results in an average or sub-par presence.
Try thinking of your booth as a stage... a platform to launch your message. A stage complete with characters, sets and props. Each has a specific contribution to make to the overall success of the production as well as its own directed mission. The design of all the pieces individually, and as a group, should create a harmonious message.
The props should be designed to complement the characters and their role in the production. Literature needs to be clean and crisp to deliver a clear message. Product should be displayed in such a manner that it can speak for itself as well as support staff presentations. The staff must understand the message and be familiar with all the props available.
Before any of this is possible, you'll have to do some basic homework. Like any stage production, you'll need to make sure you have covered all the basics. What is the message, or... why are you exhibiting in the first place?
Every product starts with a message (objective). The message has to be structured (scripted) in a manner that is clear to the audience. Once the message has been determined, someone (a director) should be given the responsibility to bring everything together.
It is at this point that a set designer or exhibit builder joins the effort. This is the person who can help you think "outside the box" when designing your show exhibit.
Although most exhibits emphasize booth dimension by putting furniture along the sides and large graphics in the back... there is nothing that says you can't be different (provided you conform to sight restrictions imposed by show management).
Here are a few thoughts to get you started:
There are many other questions to help you get out of the design rut. Use them to get your creative juices flowing.
Remember the main purpose of booth design is to communicate your script to the audience in a memorable way... one that will make you stand apart from other exhibitors. The first step in setting your exhibit apart is to start thinking on a different level. Try thinking of your show effort in terms of producing a hit stage play. You will find that you will stand out like a sore thumb... and that's what you want!