The science of traffic-stopping trade show booths

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May 17, 2010 by Stephanie Janard

If you’ve ever manned a trade show booth, you’re familiar with that sense of urgency to bring back home a stack of qualified leads. And with so many other exhibitors vying for the same prize, you may find yourself acting like a carnival barker in your efforts to lure visitors into your booth.

Luckily, there’s a more dignified option: let your trade show booth do the work for you.

I interviewed industry expert Les LaMotte, founder and CEO of Xtra Lite Displays, to learn how marketers can attract a continous flow of traffic, using a few tips and tricks from the science of spatial dynamics.

According to Les,  it’s  preferable that your booth should be noticed from several distances, starting with something eye-grabbing that attendees can spot from about thirty feet away. “Side wing” displays that catch attention from several aisles are also a good option.

But let’s say you weren’t able to secure such a desirable spot, or for that matter, invest in a fancy exhibit booth. That’s ok – attendees are still going to pass your booth at some point and you can still grab their interest with your exhibit spaces’s three distinct “Zones.”

“Starting at about fifteen feet from your booth, the attendee’s Memory Zone kicks in, where their eyes naturally move to the top of your display,” Les notes. “This is where you want to put your take-home slogan, that power statement attendees will remember about your company.”

For new or unknown companies, the Memory Zone is a particularly ideal place to put the major benefit of working with you.

But what if you’re a big brand, a Coca-Cola or an IBM? Everyone already knows who you are. So your Memory Zone statement should reveal something new and of relevant interest to the trade show’s audience.

Now that the Memory Zone has attracted several attendees to your booth, let’s extend their visit into the Sensory Zone.

“This is the middle zone where you want to appeal to the attendee’s senses. You can stimulate them with compelling words and big visuals, or even give them something tactile to do,” Les suggests. “Learning is a key aspect of the Sensory Zone, so your demos or other interactions should happen here.”

If you want to get really creative (and maybe split some costs), consider pairing up with one of your customers or partners to create a demo.

At an engineering design trade show, one of my clients, a 3D rendering company, teamed with an auto-manufacturer to set up a memorable scene in the Sensory Zone. The auto manufacturer had a sleek sports car shipped in, which my client displayed next to a large graphic of its indistinguishable 3D prototype – generated by my client’s rendering software.

Les points out that one of the biggest errors exhibitors make in the Sensory zone is putting up blocks of text from their brochure copy. This won’t stick with attendees, as it simply won’t make that immediate, big impact.

On to the Data zone, the one most people get wrong by using weak messaging – or none at all.

“At this point, the attendee is now looking down at the bottom of your display. And when people are looking down, they’re contemplating,” Les states. “Essentially, what they’re contemplating is if they should work with your company. How will you solve their problems, or make their job easier? The Data zone is where you want to give them the answers.”

In other words, the Data zone is where you give attendees the major reasons to purchase your product or service, or to at least take further action.

Les concludes with the following tip: “Never block the entrance with a table, especially if your trade show staff is standing behind it observing everyone who comes in. It makes visitors feel self-conscious. Consider your trade show booth your company’s living room where guests – potential customers – should feel at ease. Make it inviting!”

Les LaMotte is founder and CEO of Xtra Lite Displays, home of the patented XL1 lightweight aluminum display, and supplier to organizations such as Best Buy, Microsoft, Forbes, and Compassion International. Prior to founding Xtra Lite, Les was the chief designer for Skyline Displays.

Stephanie Janard is a freelance copywriter based in North Carolina. She specializes in B2B copy for national and multinational companies with a particular focus on technology-related products and services. You can reach Stephanie at 828.288.2831 or email


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