Organising your presence at an exhibition or conference can be a daunting task. You’re efforts are on show for all to see and apprehension rises as you think of what your boss, colleagues, and competitors might think when they see your exhibit.

I’m all for keeping up appearances, but it’s the visitors you want to worry about! What do they really think?

“The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions.” Donald Calne, neurologist

This quote hit a nerve with me. It makes me question how I make decisions and wonder where in the process I switch from using logic to emotion?

If you’re looking to buy a house you target a suburb, the number of bedrooms, bathrooms etc and after all the boxes are ticked and your logic is supported/convinced, you take a look in person. At your inspection you begin the process of visualising your life in new surroundings and the emotional side kicks in…

Or could it be that the emotion is involved right at the start? After all, the search is usually instigated by an emotional reason so perhaps it’s a classic case of which came first, chicken or the egg?


Either way, the important take away is that emotions are involved in all decisions (including those for business). Most of us have preconceived ideas about topics before we even begin to part with any logic and seriously consider them. In the exhibition world this is a frustrating trait.

It means us marketers have to work harder at guiding people to feel what we want them to. (I know this is getting a little deep, but we do it everyday without thinking so stick with me!) The clincher is that we need to acknowledge the existence of this issue before being able to use it to our advantage.

When using exhibits as a 3D marketing tool you have the unique ability to play to all of a visitors senses rather than relying solely on sound and sight as most other channels do.

  • What are the preconceived ideas people have about your business?
  • What do you really want people to feel towards your business?
  • What do you want people to feel about your product/service?
  • Is your current stand design reflecting this? Do they know this (insert special point) by looking at it?
  • Are your staff behaving in a way that helps move people towards this interpretation?

Interpretation will naturally vary between people as its subjective, but when you’re trying to get cut through (among a sea of others trying to get cut through) you are far more likely to achieve this when you understand your target better.

So, what does this mean for your next show?

Once you have a basis for your brand personality and are clear on where you want to be, it’s time to bridge the gap. This process needs to start way before the design concept. It’s something we do with our clients right at the very beginning of their campaign to get every element clearly focused on their key message and linked to their outcome. When you get your marketing right, then you can focus on the “how”.

Forget what you have done in the past and imagine yourself as a visitor who is seeing your business for the first time. Imagine you have 20mins left at the end of the day and you are whizzing around the halls to make sure you haven’t missed anything. What would make you stop? What design elements make you glaze over and what are those that stop you in your tracks? Don’t forget to consider pre and post show communications in this exercise as well. These are make or break touch points that are often forgotten.

What does your target market need to see to understand (at a glance) what you do? To want to talk to you? To remember you and your company for the right reasons? You can use a draw card piece to pull them in but I don’t recommend relying heavily on gimmicks, which either pull in the wrong people who don’t care what you do and who only want a free coffee/gift/chocolate.

(Back in your visitors shoes) Trial every element of your approach: All your content including tagline, logo, overall message and communications in and around the show, your giveaway, show offer, interactive, your process for taking leads and your follow up strategy… Sounds tedious, just do it. If it’s too much of an emotional stretch for you to undergo this exercise or you aren’t sure about something, grab someone external to the project and ask them! Make sure it’s someone who will give you honest feedback. 

Be aware that your ideals might not necessarily be working to evoke the emotions you are hoping to achieve. If they’re not, don’t freak it. It’s seriously OK! A lot of people have a light globe moment when they do this exercise. It might seem a bit flippy and wishy washy but understanding the psychology of visitors at trade shows can go a long way to improving your outcomes. You have to know where you’re driving before turning the ignition. It all comes back to starting with the end in mind and knowing after that there’s a process to follow!

If you’re planning for your next run of shows and want to take your attendance to the next level, reach out. We love a good think tank!