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Trade Show Booths: Good, Better, and Best Booth Ideas from ASI Chicago 2012

A well-organized, noticeable trade show booth isn’t as easy to pull off as you’d think.

How is it possible to stand out among the aisles? What does it take to draw people in, make a connection, and ask for the business?

Besides the relevance of the products and services themselves, a stellar trade show booth all starts with an impeccably planned layout and strategy.

Today, I’ll show you a few examples of nicely done booths, assigning points for organization, placement of products and signage, and overall decor. All of these booths tickled my fancy at the ASI Show in Chicago this year; let’s take a look.

Good Idea:

Organize your offerings in a pleasing fashion.

What makes it good:

An organized booth has moneymaking potential, because people can find exactly what they’re looking for (and maybe even find something they didn’t know they needed until that moment). Think about it: How will trade show attendees see what you sell if your booth is laid out like a last-minute garage sale?

This layout works especially well if you have a wide variety of products available, but it’s just as effective with a limited selection. These vendors chose to attach their offerings to the booth walls, which was not only visually appealing but also a space saver for heavy foot traffic.





Better Idea:

Organize your offerings in a pleasing fashion, provide additional information for passersby to take, put up eye-catching signage, and encourage customers to interact with your booth.

What makes it better:

Even though I liked the layout of the booths in the “Good” section, they did make me think of a science fair — it must be the boards. The booths pictured below used the same type of organization, but with shelves instead of wall attachments. That way, people could walk up and touch the product that interested them without worrying about knocking down an entire display in the process. Quite a relief for someone as clumsy as I am!





Best Idea:

Organize your offerings in a pleasing fashion, provide additional information for passersby to take, put up eye-catching signage, and encourage customers to interact with your booth, and tie it all together with a theme to create a welcoming atmosphere.

What makes it the best:

As I’m sure you’ve already figured out, the booths I’ve selected for the “Best” category use all of the decorating elements and tips I mentioned in the “Good” and “Better” categories, as well as something extra. Don’t EVER underestimate the power of a theme! Trade show booths are prime advertising opportunities, and you’ll want to create an environment that keeps people interested for longer than thirty seconds. Whether you sort your products into logical categories like a grocery store aisle (see the top two pictures below) or go all out with a comic book theme (see the third image below), your efforts will attract visitors like crazy.

Just look at these booths; aren’t they inviting? I felt like I was inside of a store when I checked out their offerings, and for a second I almost forgot about the rest of the trade show going on around me.



Trade Show Booth Add-Ons:

Some of the booths went even further with their decor and accents by including little extras like mascots (in full costume), demonstrations to gather a crowd, and celebrity likenesses to get people’s attention.

You can’t go wrong with a cuddly mascot or a signed Iron Man helmet giveaway, right? And if all else fails, you could always try handing out Mad Men hand fans. That Don Draper is SO hot right now…






It’s recap time. Here’s what you need to do if you want a trade show booth as conspicuous as the ones I featured above:

  • If you have tangible products to sell, then display the crap out of them!
  • Don’t be shy about your signage, product literature, or freebies (if applicable).
  • Use a theme that brings your booth together and invites people to come in and browse.
  • There’s no shame in using drawings or giveaways to increase traffic. For maximum ROI, though, be sure to follow up!

Which one of these trade show booths is your favorite? What draws YOU into a booth? Have you ever won anything at a trade show?

Image credit to Quality Logo Products®.


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  1. Scooby

    This was a great article… nice work!

  2. amy

    Great post, Jill! I think my favorite tip, “If you have tangible products to sell, then display the crap out of them!” Looking at your pictures I’m in complete agreement with your advice. Your “good” example would also have me a bit hesitant to touch anything, but I guess if you’re trying to deter people from touching your merch that’s a good way to do it. I love the “best” example because it created that ‘store’ feel that would be calming oasis among the busyness going on around the show.

    Looks like there were a lot of booths to work with for this blog! Great job!

    • Jill Tooley

      Haha, thanks Amy. I’m always hesitant to touch merchandise at trade shows, because it feels like the vendor is watching my every move. But at a show like ASI, it’s expected that people will touch the products, so it’s best to be as inviting as possible. I loved how organized the “good” booths were, but I also worried that I’d knock over the display by accident. I’m not the type to walk up to someone and say, “Oh, can I hold this [insert promo item here]?” Therefore, I walked right by the majority of these booths. 🙂

  3. Eric

    Spacing is actually the most under-thought thing I’m seeing here. While it’s nice to cram as much as you can into your space, and represent the majority of your new items (or entire inventory), it’s far more functional and practical to leave enough space BETWEEN the items and sections of items so that people aren’t all on top of another and can actually enjoy the time spent in a particular booth.

    • Jill Tooley

      Yep, cramming is a popular trade show strategy! You’d be amazed how many convention booths resemble a thrown-together garage sale (not at ASI, thankfully). I agree, it’s much better to leave some space and avoid stacking things on top of each other. People won’t buy your stuff if they can’t find it, and chances are they’re not going to dig through piles of junk in hopes there’ll be something they need.

  4. Jenna Markowski

    This is an excellent run-down, Jill! I really liked the booths that had everything neatly organized as you pointed out in the “good” section. With everything clearly organized (and labelled!) it was easier to comprehend exactly what I was looking at and take it all in. Related to the “better” section, I was surprised with how many vendors barely had their name and/or logo visible at all on their display. So the ones with bright, welcoming displays certainly stood out.

    I think the last booth you featured in the “best” section was my favorite, not only because of the comic book theme, but also because they had super soft and cushy carpet in their booth. That made stepping into their booth refreshing after walking on the hard auditorium floor for so long. That was a nice touch and added to the feeling that their booth was more like a store than a booth at a convention!

    • Jill Tooley

      Thanks, Jenna! That comic-themed booth in the “best” section was my favorite, too. It looks so clean, bright, and friendly. And you’re so right, the carpeting made it easier on our poor tootsies! 🙂

  5. Mandy Kilinskis

    Like Jenna, I wholeheartedly agree about the importance of a theme. It might be a little more money to print materials and signage specifically around a theme, but it’s far more memorable. There were three booths at ASI with comic book themes, and I remember all three company names. I can’t say that I remember the names of people that just had shelves of products (unless they passed out promo products, of course).

    • Jill Tooley

      Themes are the bees’ knees! Of course, I’m partial to comic book or superhero-esque themes, but there are so many other potentials to choose from. I felt like I was in a store, not in a trade show booth, which put me at ease enough to linger a bit longer than I would have elsewhere. 🙂

  6. Rachel

    Maybe I’m just weird, but there’s something really soothing about those pictures of the Tekweld booth and all those neatly organized promo products … appeals to my organizational side, I guess, haha. 🙂 But, good point about how those kinds of boards can make it more difficult for passersby to touch and handle a product they’re interested in.

    I like your section on tradeshow “add-ons,” too — gotta love those mascots! And I’m still bummed that none of us were contacted about winning that Iron Man helmet. 🙁 Ah well, at least I got a Pez dispenser out of the deal … 🙂

    Great roundup, Jill!

    • Jill Tooley

      I thought so, too! There’s definitely nothing wrong with the way the wall-style booths were set up, I just thought the shelves encouraged people to interact more with the products. Visual appeal is one thing, but function is another! The boards made me nervous because I envisioned myself knocking them over, which would then cause a domino effect that would destroy the entire ASI Show…shudder…

      Maybe I’m being paranoid, though. 😉

      Thanks for commenting, Rachel. I was pretty sad none of us got that callback, too, but our Iron Man Pez dispensers are enough to keep us company!

  7. DavidM

    Brilliant idea of having the kind of trade show,indeed! Aside from being well organized of how the the product was displayed, it also shows how it made to attract its target market. It’s also nice seeing those cute mascot roaming around, entertaining its valued clients.

  8. Margaret Colebeck

    Your point about feeling like you were in a store when you were actually just looking around a trade show booth was very interesting. Sometimes looking around a booth can feel disorganized and overwhelming if it is overloaded with product or there is too much technology that is difficult to work with. It is vital to think of your audience when organizing a tradeshow booth. Placing the audience in a familiar, store-like environment is a great idea. Another tip: if you’re adding technology to your booth (QR codes, touch screen monitors, or social media integration), it might help to hire an experienced booth host/hostess to show customers exactly how to use it.

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