Design Ideas for Trade Show Stands #1

Welcome to the first of our Design Ideas for Trade Show Stands series. If you’re a new exhibitor looking for inspiration and basic tips, then this is for you. In this post we’ll cover how you can create “kerb-appeal” and reach your corporate branding goals as an exhibitor.

To start with, here are a few examples of trade show stands from the hospitality sector in 2012/13. Do you think the brand/product message was successfully communicated via the exhibition stand?

1. Coco Collection: luxury resorts and hotels

Coco Collection image

Coco Collection’s trade show stand


2. Makkah Clock Tower Hotel (Fairmont Group): an exhibition stand design for the prestigious hotel in Saudi Arabia

Makkah  Clock Tower 2

Makkah Clock Tower’s trade show stand

Makkah Clock Tower - ATM 2013

3. The Leela: a luxury group of hotels in India

Leela 2

The Leela’s trade show stand

Leela Hotels Custom Built Exhibition Stand

4. Kempinski: global hotel group


Kempinski’s trade show stand

Kempinski Hotels - ATM 2013

5. Claridge’s Hotel (Maybourne Group) London

Claridges image

Maybourne Group’s trade show stand

Maybourne Hotel Group - ILTM Asia 2013

6. Ritz Carlton Reserve

Ritz Carlton Reserve 1

Ritz Carlton Reserve’s trade show stand


*All above stands were designed and installed by Elevations Exhibition Design & Management Ltd.

So, where to start? Assuming that your company already has a clear identity in its 2D campaigns (magazine advertisements, website, brochures etc) your real task is to translate that into a 3D marketing campaign.

  • Pull out your brand colours and create a mood board from images in your existing 2D campaigns.
  • Once you have your floor plan, draw how you would ideally like to use the space.
  • When choosing materials, consider opting for lightweight materials and furniture, which will reduce transportation costs and labour time.
  • Consider using recyclable materials and be innovative – your stand shouldn’t look the same as all other stands – so seek out materials which will be unique at that trade show.
  • Inspiration often comes from things seen at an art gallery, installation, historic site or in nature,  so get out of the office and keep your eyes open for shapes, materials and effects that will work perfectly on your stand.

Finding inspiration

umberella installation

Umbrella installation in Portugal


Design by Ippolito Fleitz Group GmbH

We talked about finding inspiration at art galleries or installations. This stand won the 2012 Edge Award for its innovation and drama. A floating cloud of chairs allowed visitors to see Brunner GmbH’s products from a variety of angles. Suspended from a truss with 40 spotlights highlighting them. Nearly 30,000 mirror-like polystyrene shingles covering the walls and ceiling made the 759-square-foot booth seem bigger from the inside than out.


It doesn’t matter how attractive a stand is – if it isn’t practical and doesn’t meet the brief of the exhibiting team – then it’s a a waste of time and money. Here are a few basics to consider:

  • concealed power sockets in appropriate places for laptops
  • ipads on bounce holders that draw a visitor onto the stand or keep them occupied in a waiting area
  • fixed feed broadband, rather than wifi, if a more robust connection is required
  • more than one reception desk for medium to large stands
  • concealed storage
  • slim-line audio-visual components ONLY if they add value


  • consider a mixture of high and low furniture for meetings and waiting and catering areas
  • lightweight furniture with a small footprint to optimise space and reduce transportation costs
  • a free-flow of movement around the stand

Minor Aesthetics

  • floral which doesn’t take up extra space (consider placing in recesses within reception desks, or in wall alcoves)
  • floral which doesn’t have an overwhelming smell or hold pollen
  • 3D logos on walls/reception desks are more high-end that 2D logos
  • a coffee/drinks service at the rear of the stand is inviting

What gives a stand “kerb appeal”?

Ask 10 different people and you’ll get 10 different answers. Here are some of our thoughts on what attracts visitors to stands:

  • approachable, friendly delegates
  • innovative and effective use of technology
  • high quality graphics
  • interesting product/service demonstration
  • a sense that there is more to see within the stand – designated zones and layers of interest to draw people in
  • catering service for meeting areas

How to Measure Success

How you measure great results is up to you, but our clients typically measure exhibition results in terms of existing client retention, new client acquisition and projection of the company message and brand to their target audience.

With these goals in mind, try our Four Steps to Stand Success:

 1. Use the 50 metre test

A visitor is looking at your stand from 50 metres:

• What will they think?

• What assumptions will they make?

• What will they want to talk to you about?

• Are they likely to want to visit you?

This sounds simple, but the answers may well surprise you. Try it next time you visit a trade show, or you are looking at your own stand.

Next, ask yourself (and your stand designer) how your stand would look with your competitor’s logo on it.

Does it really represent your company, or is it equally applicable to anyone else in your industry?

 2. Make your visitors feel comfortable visiting your stand

Walk around any trade show or exhibition and you will see some stands that attract you more than others. There are a lot of factors involved in making your stand feel comfortable to visitors including staffing, layout, seating and design:

• Get staff levels right. Don’t have 10 staff waiting to pounce! Use a lead person to welcome and filter to others (more on this below).

• Visitors don’t want to be trapped on your stand. Give them the security of an exit route.

• Don’t use low sofas or chairs, use stools that keep the visitors heads at eye level – it’s far less intimidating.

Position yourself in front of your stand and ask yourself how comfortable you would feel visiting this stand for the first time.

 3. Run a filtration system

Not all the visitors to your stand are equally important to you and so need to be dealt with in different ways. Have a lead person greet and filter visitors so that:

• Customers are handed onto account managers

• Prospects are introduced to relevant sales people

• Technical enquiries are routed to a technician

• VIPs are immediately identified and dealt with accordingly

• Students are offered information off to one side

4. Have something new

Make your stand eye-catching, people will gravitate towards something new or unusual. And as more people see your stand they will tell their associates, word will spread. Curiosity draws in many potential customers and new ideas earmark you as a trend setter and make you stand out from the crowd.

Customers will form a judgement about your product when they see your stand. Make it a good one! Examples:

• New product release

• New product branding

• New information

• New forms of presentation

• New look stand

… and so on

Your goal is to apply your best resources to your most valuable visitors. You can also hold a list of customers & VIPs that you know will be visiting the show with the name of the person in your company to deal with them.

A lot of thought needs to go into a trade stand design and set up to ensure that it not only looks good, but that visitors are willing to visit and engage with staff on the stand.

Elevations have been helping clients get exhibition stand design right for the last 23 years. Please feel free to contact us for further advice.

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