Trade Show Displays – How to Design For Longevity

Trade Show Displays – How to Design For Longevity
by Chris Cleek / September 18, 2023

Did you know that a whopping 92% of trade show attendees are there to explore new and exciting products and services? Or that more than 80% of trade show participants have the authority to make purchasing decisions?

Despite a seismic shift toward digital marketing, trade shows remain an effective way for many brands to reach new and existing customers, and exhibiting at these industry events offers myriad secondary benefits as well – they are an opportunity to check out your competition, deepen your team’s product knowledge, and create social media buzz. 

Still, the cost to participate in trade shows can be substantial, accounting for a significant percentage of many companies’ marketing budgets. As such, it makes sense to put some serious thought into how to best design trade show displays for long-term use and maximum impact, ease of transport and storage, and eventually disposal or recycling. Below, we’ll walk you through how to strategically approach trade show displays so that you are getting the most longevity out of the product and the most bang for your buck.

Rethinking Trade Show Displays

Given the prevalence and impact of trade shows for brands, it’s surprising that most trade show displays just look like cookie-cutter replicas of each other. Instead of capitalizing on an opportunity to create a rich, immersive experience, most brands don’t dare to think outside the box (in this case, literally) and capture attention by getting more creative with their display design. If you are committing resources to a new trade show display, why not take the time to make it unforgettable?

Further, in the interest of longevity and fully maximizing your investment, repurposing, updating, and re-use can and should be part of your design strategy from the very beginning. Planning for the need to update messaging, replace fixtures, and repair technological elements ensures that your project is primed for long-term service. Choosing lightweight (but durable) materials reduces transport costs and eases installation while opting for recyclable materials not only lessens your environmental impact but will also be less expensive to dispose of when it’s no longer in use. 

Another way to increase your trade show display’s versatility? Design the components in a modular fashion. If your 10x30 display can also be set up beautifully as a 10x10, you will get more mileage out of your investment. Is this rocket science? Absolutely not. But without a thoughtful strategic approach, you’ll miss the opportunity to really make the most of your investment.


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How Often Should Trade Show Displays Be Updated?

Although there is no universal answer to this question, generally a trade show display should be updated when the messaging or aesthetics become dated or when, because of heavy use, you need a fresh look. For most brands, this is within 3-5 years but sometimes it is much more frequent if the business exhibits heavily at trade shows, or needs to introduce new products. For these companies, it is particularly relevant to design booths to be easily updated and reimagined without requiring total disposal of the existing display. 

What should you consider before investing in a trade show booth redesign? For starters, it’s essential to consider the specific venues and audiences you’ll be interacting with in the coming months and years, and what kind of experience you want to provide. Will you be demonstrating a new product or process? Will you be booking meetings? How much space do you need? Has your branding or messaging changed? How can your display stand out and be memorable? Perhaps most importantly, how can it better serve customers and prospects and be less about the brand?

What to do With Outdated Trade Show Displays 

Eventually, even the most well-designed displays are ready for retirement. But what do you do with a massive trade show booth when that time comes? Repurposing is a good option if the structure itself is still stable. Many basic booths are wrapped in fabric and often these outer layers can just be replaced. 

Donating the display to a non-profit or educational institution is another way to extend the life of your booth and help out another organization simultaneously. Finally, at least some components of most trade show displays are recyclable. Recycling what you can helps reduce disposal fees and keeps unnecessary waste out of landfills. 

The Future of Trade Show Displays

Since digital marketing, a global pandemic, and technology like augmented and virtual reality haven’t upended the popularity (and effectiveness) of in-person trade shows, we’d venture to guess they aren’t going anywhere. 

But how trade show displays are conceived, designed, and fabricated can and should evolve with time. Giving thought to the total lifespan of each trade show display and how to make the experience more immersive and distinct can ensure you are maximizing your marketing dollars and paving the way for more intelligent, more efficient updates to your project in the future.

At Bridgewater, we approach every project with an eye toward strategy and design, well before we launch into production. To find out how a full-service design and digital fabrication company can create a one-of-a-kind trade show experience for your brand, book a no-obligation introduction to Bridgewater Studio today.



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