How to Manage the Exhibit Design Process

How-To Tips

Are you looking to learn how to manage the exhibit design process to unlock an extraordinary exhibit design? Then look no further. These are the 4 most important steps you can take!

Ferrara at NACS 2019
How to Manage the Exhibit Design Process

In our last blog, we discussed mastering the RFP process to create an impactful experience on the trade show floor. Even as we wrapped up that post, our minds kept racing. It was pretty clear to us the conversation needed to continue.

Nailing the RFP is the first step, but to really bring it home – to create a splash on the show floor – requires a measurable goal leading to a purposeful design process.

Do you know how the showstoppers figure out the RFP process? Honestly, the showstoppers might be struggling through it too. It’s challenging for everyone! We do know they have figured out one thing —  the design process. They’ve mastered creating an “AHA” moment.

Notice we said they created. The name leads most people to think those moments pop out of thin air. Nothing could be further from the truth. Bringing a brand to life and making them the darling of the trade show floor takes more than pure luck and the right timing. It takes consistent preparation and robust research.

1. Embrace your inner child – why you need to be asking why

Why you need to be asking why
Embrace your inner child – why you need to be asking why

Have you ever dealt with a child who just keeps asking why questions? It can be pretty frustrating, right? What’s not annoying is getting what you want out of an event, but first, you have to know what you want. So, start acting like a kid and keep asking why. These 3 why’s are a great start!

  • Why are you exhibiting at this event?
  • Why is this audience important to your brand?
  • Why will attendees be attracted to our space?

We referred to the NASA process in our last blog, and we get it, you’re not sending someone to the moon. Let’s take a look at a company that’s a little more relatable.

Ferrera — a leader in the confectionaries industry —is well known for their brands Brach’s, Laffy Taffy, Nerds, Famous Amos, and many more. Following a series of mergers and acquisitions, they wanted to hit the market with a booth announcing the alignment of their brands. The goal was crystal clear; they needed to solidify their place in the candy aisle.

It was a big task, so where did they start? One hint – the power of why!

Their team didn’t wait for an “AHA” moment to come out of the blue. They got to the bottom of their why from the start and used it to drive the design process.  Want to know the best part? By being clear from the beginning on what they wanted to achieve, they were able to boost quality leads by 300% (nope, that’s not a typo.)

2. Think like a Scout – how to design your goal

Think like a Scout - how do design your goal
Think like a Scout – how to design your goal

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “how can I triple my leads?”

Two words — be prepared.

That’s right – think like a Scout! The exhibit design industry is full of creative geniuses. When you give them the right tools, they can, and will, blow your mind. However, you probably don’t want to establish your company’s show goals on the design sketches of someone you just recently met. Instead, they should be sketching designs to a goal that boosts your business plan. Sounds ideal, right? But what exactly are the right tools?

 As we discussed in the RFP blog, there are several things to consider when creating your design toolkit, including:

  • Audience profile: who is attending this show, and what resonates with them?
  • Attendee journey: how will people move through the event, and how do you want them to move through your space?
  • Messaging: are you introducing a new product or announcing a merger of companies? What story do you want your brand to tell? Has there been a remarkably successful ad campaign?
  • Call to action: what action do you want the audience to take? Do you want to scan their badge, schedule a post-show meeting, or sell them something on-site? 

As you begin brainstorming, your goals will naturally start to take shape. Do not be afraid to admit what hasn’t been successful in the past, discussing previous and current challenges. And, remember, like the NASA diagram shows, the steps are not linear. While the goal may be in the middle, it takes the sum of the moving parts to make it a reality. Defining your goal is critical to exhibit success. With a well-thought-out, measurable goal, the design process will take off, and you’ll make the most of your investment – just like Ferrera.

3. Work smarter, not harder – measuring sucess

Work smarter, not harder.
Work smarter, not harder – measuring success

How many of you receive SMART goals at work? (If you haven’t heard of SMART goals, you’ll want to check them out.) SMART goals aren’t limited to your annual review. They can be a great tool in the exhibit design process too. With SMART goals, you’ll have actionable steps to define success, but what does success look like?

The answer to that question differs from organization to organization. It might look like:

  • Increase in quality leads (a la Ferrera’s inspiring spike)
  • Brand Awareness (PR, social media mentions)
  • Revenue (did you bring in new business because of attendee traffic)

How you measure success might look different than the company across the aisle. Still, one thing is true for every exhibitor – your key performance indicators (KPIs) must be defined early and should always be determined while finding your goal (SMART or otherwise.)

4. Don’t short-change yourself OR your exhibit

Don't short-change your exhibit design process
Don’t short change yourself OR your exhibit design process

In-person trade shows are just around the corner, and how you manage the exhibit design process is going to determine your future trade show success. Don’t short-change the design process; treat each step with the care and the respect it deserves.

Your exhibit goals should be at the center of everything you do. It’s your brand and your message, so YOU need to feel comfortable with the image you’re projecting.

Take it from Ferrera; achieving sweet success is not out of reach! Their partnership with EDE and dedication to the design process not only won them an avalanche of new business, but it also earned them an Exhibit Design Award!

If you need help building your brief, preparing your toolkit, or you’re looking for ideas, reach out to to get started!

Get trade show tips, reports, checklists and more delivered to your inbox once a month by signing up to the Trade Show Marketing blog.

Related Articles

Booth Staff Bootcamp: Training Top-Notch Staffers

Booth Staff Bootcamp: Training Top-Notch Staffers

In our last newsletter, we discussed the benefits of professional staffers. But not everyone has that option — whether it’s due to budget or C-Suite buy-in. So this time, we’re turning our gaze inward toward preparing your in-house staffers for the show floor. Let’s...