Take a walk in the shoes of a trade show attendee. Looking up, the first thing you notice is the sea of trade show signage. Map in hand, you look down, scanning quickly for the list of companies you want to visit. Did you come in the East entrance or the West? Numbers blend together as you glance up, again and again, searching for aisle and booth numbers, but everything is lost in a jumble of colors. Then you look up. There it is, like a lighthouse through the fog, the hanging sign you’ve been looking for you. Relief washes over you as you make your way to the exhibit. That sign did its job well — how many did you walk right by that didn’t?
No company exhibits at events to be ignored, so good, effective trade show signage is critical. Yet, all too often, only a handful of signs at any given show will stand out. What did they do right?
Step 1: The Design
When you first decide on signage, work with a graphic designer who specializes in the trade show industry. Trade show graphic designers understand the proper scale, resolution, context, and length of text better than standard graphic designers used to other media. You only have a few moments to capture and hold someone’s attention, and lots of competition vying for those same eyeballs, so you need to make that moment count — start with someone that knows what is typical, and what will make yours pop.
Think about using lightweight easy-to-assemble aluminum hanging sign frames. They are typically an inexpensive investment, with graphics taking up most of the budget. Lightweight aluminum keeps the cost of your material handling, labor, and rigging down. Graphics, especially when they are fabric, can be stored in bags for future reuse when applicable.
Follow the eyes of attendees. When people walk into an exhibition hall, they instinctively look up, scanning for companies they recognize. As exhibitors, you want to be sure your sign stands out at that level, particularly if you are far from the main entrance.
Floor-supported graphics, almost always used in conjunction with hanging signs, can keep your brand visible from multiple angles and aisles. (Keep in mind, they typically require structural certification to ensure stability and proper construction.)
Step 2: The Prep
Once you’ve got your hanging sign assembled and ready to ship, send it ahead to the advance warehouse of your show. Be sure to affix “hanging sign” shipping labels to the proprieties provided by the general contractor in the exhibitor manual. This separates out your hanging sign, guaranteeing it will be at your booth when you arrive. It also ensures it will be hung prior to your first day of booth install or the estimated date and time you have specified.
You will want to estimate the service costs to assemble, hang, take down, and dissemble your hanging sign. Remember, it’s not an inexpensive endeavor. In the US, as a general rule, add $500 to the budget for unanticipated material and hardware costs. If you are inexperienced in this area, the general contractor and their appointed subcontractors can help you build an appropriate order and estimation. Also, make sure to find out if you are required to use the venue’s labor provider or if you can use your partner of choice, so you can budget accordingly.
Step 3: The Installation
If you are planning to supervise the hanging of your sign, ensure all of your hanging sign properties are accounted for at your booth when you arrive. Once confirmed, go to the service desk and tell them you are ready for the assembly labor crew. Don’t forget, once the sign is assembled, you will need to follow the same routine for notifying the rigging crew that you are ready for them.
If you are not able to supervise the hanging of the sign, be sure you have appointed someone from your team to do so. You want to make sure it is at proper height and the branding is facing the main entrance or proper direction depending on your location on the show floor.
You can also simply raise the sign out of your labor crew’s way and wait to do the final installation until other signs have gone up. This way, you can ensure your logo and message will look perfect from the main entrance.
More to the point, your hanging sign won’t be blocked by other hanging signs when your visitors enter the venue, heads tilted up, scanning for your booth. With your new trade show signage beckoning like an ice cream shop on a hot day, your clients will make a bee-line for your booth.