5 Tips for designing a successful service based trade show booth

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professional organizer trade show booth

I’ve always found preparing for trade shows challenging, both when I was a professional organizer, and now as a web designer. How can someone with a service-based business make their trade show booth as interesting as someone who has products to display? I asked Mike Weimar of Iconic Displays for advice, and I’m happy to share it with you today.


Designing the best trade show booth can be difficult because there are so many images and colors that you can use, but you have to make sure that it perfectly works with your business message. There are many service-based businesses that visit trade shows. In fact, some trade shows are primarily visited by service-based businesses. If you’re having a hard time making the perfect booth for your business, then here are a few design tips to help you out.

Bring Samples

Businesspeople who sell products will often bring small samples of their items to give away for free. This allows people to try the product, and it also gives them a lot of attention. Service-based businesspeople should do the same thing.

Bring some samples to show people what you can do. While the samples have nothing to do with the design, they are important for keeping visitors interested. A portfolio of before-and-after photos, for instance, serves as excellent proof of your skills and expertise in service-based fields.

Consider the Customer

Consider the customer’s needs when choosing or making graphics. What type of feelings do you want the customer to experience when using your service, or what drives most of your customers? For example, include an image of a client enjoying her new organized, functional space. People use services because they have a need for them. Be sure to keep that need in mind when adding graphics.

You should also add a few images of your services so that people know what you offer. Before-and-after photos are useful in this regard, as well as images of organizing products you use to help your clients make better use of their space or time. One helpful example might be a stack of disorganized papers and folders in a haphazard pile, compared to an attractive bin with dividers, color-coded folders and all documents neatly organized and easy-to-find, or an example of a time-management system you’ve implemented for a client. This takes advantage of the customer’s need for your service while also displaying your business.

Be sure to focus on your main demographic. The majority of services are often for a niche audience to some degree. While there are some generic services, the majority are aimed for a certain type of person. Keep this in mind when designing your trade show booth.

Emphasize Simplicity

People also use services because they are simple. It’s much easier to have someone else tackle a disorganized work space or living area, offering expert suggestions for making the existing space more functional as well as tips for keeping things organized after you’ve addressed the task at hand. Dedicate part of your trade show booth to how simple your service is and how easy you’ll make the process of getting organized.

If you have a five-step process, then illustrate the five steps to show customers what they need to do to enlist your services.

It’s also a good idea to emphasize your professionalism at the same time. Show people why your service is better than your competitor’s and why it’s better than doing it at home. This will show people why you’re the right person to help them regain control over their time or space.


Lighting is often overlooked because most people are worried about graphics and colors. While lighting doesn’t require as much time or concentration as other design elements, it’s just as essential as everything else. Inadequate lighting will make your booth appear shadowy or dreary in conventional halls. You can expect your booth to be ignored if you don’t have enough lighting.

Add some overhead lighting to really illuminate your graphics. If you’re going to a small convention and you only have a limited amount of room, then you may not need lighting.

Prepare Demonstrations

Much like giving away products, most people who sell products demonstrate them at trade shows. You have to do the same thing with your booth. Show people exactly why your service is necessary. Telling people might get them interested, but showing them will build excitement.

Incorporate this into your booth. For example, have a table or projector to help with your demonstration. This ensures that you can adequately show people why they need your service.


Designing a successful trade show booth for a service-based business is nearly the same as for a business that sells products. The only difference is that you’ll display your services instead of a product. Be sure to consider the customer’s needs, have a demonstration ready and use graphics that show the heart of your business.

Photo courtesy of Pam Bowers, Chaos Pros

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Mike Weimar is the CEO of Iconic Displays. Mike is enthusiastic about trade show displays and booths for small and large businesses. Contact Mike to learn what Ionic Displays can do for you!

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  1. Avatar Seana Turner on January 30, 2014 at 10:24 am

    Great article, Janet. NAPO-CT is just coming off of having been a part of a Home Show. It was our first time, so we learned as we went. My major take-away: many booths had bowls of candy to garner attention. BUT, as the day wore on, I found people had more of a craving for salt! So next time, in addition to samples, hand-outs, lighting and a catchy setup, I’m bringing bags of chips:)

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on January 30, 2014 at 11:02 am

      Food is always a good draw! Someone told me last week about a job fair where one of the employers had a gelato machine. It had nothing to do with their company, but everyone wanted a taste of the freshly made gelato, so their booth got a lot of attention!

  2. Avatar Karen Murdock on January 31, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    Great Tips, very true if you are selling services a lot of thought has to go in to the design of your booth. I would suggest having a display at different eye levels, instead of all at one level. I use little boxes to vary heights of items. Try and group in threes, yes that is the same tip as decorating. My husband also sells services and he often has a contest happening and something for people to do. Last year he had an Xbox setup, that they could win and people loved to come over and play with it, allowing him to speak to someone about his services. I also love inexpensive give a ways. Pens are popular, but there are also other items: grocery lists, measuring tapes, etc with your logo and contact information.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on February 1, 2014 at 6:56 am

      Oh yes – who doesn’t love free stuff, whether it’s something they can eat right then and there, tuck in their bag to take home, or just the possibility of winning something.

      I mentioned some other ideas in a post I wrote for another blog last year: How to Prepare for a Trade Show

  3. Avatar Kevin Davis on June 16, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Great tips. I hadn’t thought about the lighting. Glad you mentioned the customer though. I’ve seen a lot of businesses that have an excellent product but fail because they struggle to understand the customer.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on June 17, 2014 at 6:13 am

      I certainly wouldn’t have thought about lighting, yet at events I’ve attended, the exhibitors who go that extra mile really stand out.

  4. Avatar Alice on January 28, 2015 at 5:02 am

    Janet, great post! Understanding your customers needs and wants at a trade show specifically, should be the forefront to how you design and display your stand. Although, the hardest part I think is attracting people to your stand. Once you have reeled them in, your promotions, communications, give away’s, technology platforms should all play a role in increasing your objectives. Whether it’s increasing lead generation, on the day sales, sign ups and enquiries after a trade show. Also, we have to remember, as Karen pointed out – how pen’s could one want to take in a day? Effective give away’s such as an accessory to the service or product you are exhibiting could entice your audience more than you can imagine!

  5. Avatar Amanda Gomez on February 3, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    I agree with you Janet, being able to demonstrate the benefits that your product will bring to consumers is an important part of a trade show.
    Thanks for sharing!

  6. Avatar Darell Christensen on May 6, 2016 at 2:08 am

    Great tips and advice! As a designer in the exhibit world, I always try to incorporate this in our work. You definitely have to take advantage of all the available platforms for getting your name out there and tracking ROI. Thanks!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on May 6, 2016 at 6:54 am

      I’m glad you mentioned tracking ROI, Darell. We often neglect to do that so we only have a general sense of how successful a trade show or other marketing tool has been for us.

  7. Avatar larissa on July 25, 2016 at 11:25 am

    Wonderful advice! I’ve been looking all over the web to find more ways to make an exhibit truly glow and shine in the light of competition and it has been hard to find relevant information-until now! Thanks so much for sharing all of your tips, they are sure to make an display into something special and eye catching! Thanks so much for sharing!

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