Making the Most of Your Booth Space

It’s amazing what you can achieve within an 8′ by 10′ space which is often the minimum size of a trade show booth. Make the most it of it with proper signage of your brand’s logo” a carefully displayed rack of your collectionoften on at least two sides of the booth area, a portfolio with any media you’ve been in from magazines or online magazines, and leave-behind material for either buyers glancing in your direction or media that may pass by. Given that both buyers and media often have to carry loads of information, creating a large marketing kit is not a good idea. Most people in media especially will only carry a postcard or 1-page marketing piece and will check out your website later. So take the time to tell your story and illustrate the top designs in your collection in the limited space of a postcard or 1-page marketing kit (one that folds is always a good idea so that you can have 4 surfaces on which to tell your story). Include visuals, your contact information, including URL.

If you’re at the point of showing your collection at a trade show, it’s vital that your website be up and running because this is where the follow-up will happen if buyers or media are interested. You don’t have to have every piece of your collection onlineit’s good to create a sense of mysterybut make sure you refer people to your site even if they are just walking by.

Secondly, try standing more than sitting in your booth and be ready to talk or answer questions to people who are curious enough to look in your direction.

Often if you hand something out, people will stop and take it. If you’re sitting in your booth and not engaging with people walking by, then you may be missing a big opportunity. It can be exhausting to try and talk with people all day long, but there’s a reason you’re at the trade show, spending money:

to talk to people and do business. Buyers and media want to see your passion.

So get out there and talk to people and look people in the eye. After years of covering shows, many times the only reason I actually stopped at a particular booth was because of the person or people in it, who somehow got me curious enough to venture in. Then once I was in the booth, I ended up going through their entire collection.

Because some shows such as Project for example, tend to have the same type of booth formats which don’t allow for that much creativity, it’s therefore up to the people in the booth to make the difference and get people engaged.

Unfortunately, many up-and-coming brands may have an incredible design team, but the designers are not all that outgoing. So the brand’s amazing designs are never actually seen because the people in the booth are not the type of people that engage others. If you’re the creator behind your brand but not the most outgoing personality, then bring your friend with you that is outgoing and pay them a day rate or buy them their meals and give them some of your clothing, because you need someone who can give you a shout-out.

It should go without saying that you should be wearing the product that you’re representing and you should look presentable. It shows you believe in the brand and have a sense of professionalism. Unfortunately, we’ve seen many new brands actually wearing other brands that are considered “cool” in their own booth, rather than their own which immediately begs the question of whether or not you truly believe in your own brand.

Modular Sitting Arrangements: Inside your booth, make sure it’s inviting for people to actually come in and look around. If it’s only an 8-by-10, then you’ll probably just have room for a table and two chairs on one side and a chair on the other for yourself to be used when writing orders. But if you do have space, modular blocks for seating that are comfortable are a good idea for getting people to sit down and check it out, but they can also be quickly moved around and re-arranged.

Show off your collection based on themes or how you think a buyer may present it in their store (or how you would like it presented in their store). Be creative with this and it will show your brand’s personality.

If you’re creating your booth for the first time, make sure you read the exhibitors manual to see what the restrictions are and how best to arrange or create your booth. Shows like MAGIC include union workers and therefore, the costs can increase tremendously if you require furniture or large displays to be moved into your space. Even if you and your co-worker can carry everything needed, they union workers won’t allow it and therefore you have to hire them for a certain number of hours to move your pieces into your space. The best way to have a creative and effective booth is if the pieces are modularcan be moved around, re-arranged depending on how many people are in your area, and can easily be assembled and disassembled by yourself or a few others.

Colored throw-rugs often help differentiate a space. Sometimes it’s the rug’s splash of color that ends up being the differentiating aspect of your booth because so many look the same. We’re not saying you need to build a floor larger brands do this mostly at shows such as MAGIC. This is very costly. It’s not so bad simply having the concrete flooring underneath your booth (even though trade show booth builders will try and convince you to build a floor) because it provides an urban loft type of vibe. But a splash of color easily achieved by an interesting rug or series of rugs can make your space more memorable.

TV monitors: While many brands, particularly action sports inspired brands, have TV monitors outside the booth showcasing their team riders or latest videos that they’ve sponsored, this can attract people to stop and watch, but it doesn’t necessarily get people into your booth. If you’re going to have a TV monitor, put it inside your booth, not on the edge. And if you’re going to play a video, make sure it’s custom for your brand. Fashion runway shows of your collection are considered rather boring now, so make sure it’s something more interesting than thatsuch as the music video of a band you sponsor with your apparel, or a custom-made video that tells your story. You want to attract people who are curious and doing business, or media that are interested in a story. Playing videos sometimes just gets bored people engaged, but not necessarily busy people.

Mannequins or Models: Having your clothing on a display either with a mannequin body just on the outside of your booth, or on a person can provide an excellent visual to your collection. But make sure that the model looks like the type of person who may wear your clothing. Models or carefully dressed mannequins, including accessories, etc. to complete the entire style you’re trying to achieve, also provide media and photographers with something to shoot. While many brands don’t necessarily want their entire collection shot, having one distinct look can generate buzz so make it easy for people to see it and/or shoot.

Promoting Your Booth Outside of Your Booth: One of the best marketing displays I’ve ever seen was from the brand Hemp Hoodlamb out of Amsterdam during the Bread & Butter Barcelona trade show in July, ’07. As a hemp brand, they’re intention is to help save the world, and they wanted to get the message out that the world is sick. So they had a large blow-up globe placed in a wheelchair, and had two ladies dressed as nurses and 1 guy dressed as a doctor who used a stethoscope to try and hear the globe’s heartbeat. They wheeled this globe all over the show, with the doctor taking the world’s “pulse” and the two nurses with clipboards “taking notes” but really they were passing out information about Hemp Hoodland and the location of the booth. People everywhere stopped to take a picture of the nurses, doctor and sick globe.

And it drove traffic to the booth. Once in the booth, the theme continued:

Instead of giving out business cards after a line review, the people wrote out fake “prescriptions” with information about their brand, contact, website information, and a “doctor” recommendation of when you should wear the brand, the best timeframe, and the selection of materials you can order the brand in such as Hemp, Bamboo, and Soy.

If you have enough postcards and an extra person, it’s a good idea to cruise the show and hand out the information to get people to come by. Also, leave a few pieces in places where people congregate such as lounges or food locations. Don’t waste all of your marketing pieces there, but a few strategic placements can encourage people to come by.

Displays: Even in a small space, you can create a display that’s eye-catching or tells the story. Presentation is key and may attract someone completely new that wasn’t necessarily looking for your brand but stopped by because something caught their attention. For example, if your brand is based on the designs of a graffiti or street artist, having nice framed photos of the artist at work or the graffiti in the streets will help explain the brand’s story. Other interesting displays can be something as simple as shelving or a CD rack with various collectibles that represent the passion of the brand such as urban vinyl toys, sneakers, a can of markers, spray paint cans, or as Mishka NYC co-founder has, a complete collection of Mr. T cabbage-patch-type dolls. On-site artists also attract attentionif you have a large enough space and that’s the vibe of our brandas well as hosting competitions such as create your own artwork that gets posted on a “community” board in your booth and the winner gets a T-shirt. This can also attract people to give you their business card from which you can start your own database for post-show follow- up.

Of course if you have the funding, large displays are most memorable. For example, Famous Stars & Straps are known for having a cool lowrider car within their booth that takes up most of the space (not their clothing). People know that the car means Famous Stars & Straps and the brand has a strong connection to car culture (and music with Travis Barker from Blink 182 as the founder). A Japanese denim brand utilized their small space and created a temple where buyers and media could go in, sit on a tutami mat and review a few key pieces of the collection in a very zen-like atmosphere complete with a small, plug-in running water fountain and bamboo plants and paper lanterns. The brand passed out fortunes as you left.

B-boy or B-girl troupes: Common at MAGIC in the South Hall are roving troupes of dancers that bust-out into performances in front of specific booths. While most emerging streetwear brands may not have the funds to pay for a b-boy or b- girl dance troupe, including a person carrying the music and temporary floor, pooling together funds with sister or brother brands to have such roving entertainment in front of your booth can be a good idea. It attracts people of all kinds, including media. Make sure the troupe does a shout-out to your brand however after the performance.

Stay tuned next week for Part 3 of Trade Show Prep covering Marketing Materials, Lead Generation, Effective Trade Show Follow-up.