Trade Show Exhibits: The Promise of Experiential Design

Industry Insights and Trends

The visitor experience rules as the centerpiece of trade show exhibit design.

For several years now, experiential design has been a watchword in the trade show world. So what is it? What difference does it make? And why should you consider it? 

What is Experiential Design?

Experiential design includes anything that focuses on engaging booth visitors in an experience that will make a brand memorable. From immersive LEDs that can enable experiencing the thrill of parachuting without jumping out of a plane to digital twin technologies that can put a physician into a hospital setting to test drive a company’s radiology software, experiential design makes a lasting impact. 

The term ‘experiential design’ has been around for decades, although it exploded in popularity in the 2000s. I look at my desk and see a book published in 1999 titled The Experience Economy which sums up the experiential design movement. The book describes ways for customers to experience a product or service rather than simply learn about it.

Oh What a Difference

As consumers are increasingly exposed to visual and virtual experiences of products in everyday life, they are trained to expect this regardless of the venue. Yes, even hardened B2B purchasers. 

With that background, imagine enabling a prospect to try out your product without having the product physically in your booth. Experiential design replaces relying solely on a person’s imagination with virtually experiencing the product. The potential cost savings alone can be tremendous, and we have long advocated for this. 

So the idea behind experiential design is solid; immerse your customers so they retain the information and remember it when they actually decide to make a purchase. As attendees bring their consumer-shaped expectations to the show space, companies that match their exhibit experience to those expectations are going to be the ones that grab the eyes and attention of prospects and customers. 


As technologies evolve, it’s easy to think that experiential design is something new. But in truth, experiential design has always been part and parcel of any great trade show exhibit. 

Parts of a Whole

Great trade show design focuses on the experience, the message, and the presence within a trade show hall.  The experience is largely defined by our clients and the messaging by a marketing firm while the presence is our domain. That is where exhibit design should be headed. 

Learning that in order for the first two parts of a trade show design to work, the presence needs to be impactful and yet inclusive.  A great exhibit makes sure that there are areas for experiences to happen, and places for face-to-face introductions and explanations to occur. 

The same can be said of messaging and creating spaces for those messages to be read, as a component that helps great exhibits thrive. Experiential design, rather than being the star of the show that draws attention to itself, should be considered a powerful tool to help a company reach its goals and objectives.

Bring the Experience

As the exhibit industry evolves, there’s no reason to miss creating a memorable experience for your booth visitors. Consider the possibilities.

  • Embrace the technology. LED tunnels and three-dimensional displays are only the beginning. With new tech being created almost daily, the only question is – will you be left behind? 
  • Would you like to play a game? Most everyone enjoys games, and targeted gamification opens the door for visitor data collection through fun and interactive experiences.
  • Start with why. As exciting as new tech can be, it should only have a place in your exhibit if it helps you reach your goals. Make every piece of your exhibit earn its place.

The presence of a space is inclusive, but where a great trade show exhibit design firm shines is in the impact. And these types of exhibits should be designed more often for more brands.

Exhibit programs that realize this are often the most successful, most admired, and most attended. And isn’t that what you want from your exhibit?

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