Tabletop displays are the Yorkshire Terriers of the trade show industry. Like Yorkies, who are just as attractive (if not more so) as their canine counterparts, tabletop displays are nimble, lightweight, and practically small enough to slip into your pocket. And since they weigh merely 10 to 60 pounds on average, you can take these cute little guys with you just about anywhere, from trade shows and events to offices and showrooms.
But similar to their fluffy equivalents, tabletops have a few identity issues. When they're stuck amid a pack of Saint Bernard-sized booths that have enough kibble behind them to bark up some serious attention. To fetch more than a sideways glance in this dog-eat-dog world, tabletop trade show displays need to be carefully groomed, perfectly positioned, and expertly handled by someone with more than novice-level knowledge of the breed. Here is 10 tips to get the most out of your tabletop trade show display.
Tip #1: Choose One BIG Image
At their core, tabletop trade show displays are little more than a series of graphics panels, which means designing those graphics is your first step in creating a successful trade show display. We suggest you start the design process by selecting one – and only one – large image.
On a trade show floor filled with parading attendees who usually only offer an exhibit a two-second glance, you need a single impactful image that communicates the essence of who you are and what you do. Think billboard, not brochure. If you pepper your graphics with a bunch of text and images, your tabletop display will look more like an eighth-grade science-fair project than a professional marketing medium.
Tip #2: Omit All Unnecessary Text
Once you've identified an image, your next step is to determine what text will accompany it. Remember the goal isn't trying to find enough text to fill the space; it's making sure you have reduced your text to the bare minimum that will still communicate your message.
The only thing your tabletop graphics should do is effectively communicate your brand or offering, and provide one or two benefit-related messages in bullet-point form. Adding anything more than that, and you're swimming upstream. Graphics need to say just enough to make people look, stop, and then listen to the rest of your story. Your booth staff, an iPad, TV or marketing literature should tell your story, not your graphics.
We suggest that your tabletop graphics should feature roughly 10 words along with your company's name and/or logo, assuming one or both aren't already present in your image. The words should also identify a benefit your product offers attendees. Don't waste your word allotment on detailed product specs; tell people how your product saves them time, earns them money, and increases effectiveness.
Tip #3: Forget The Artsy Fonts
If fonts, colors, and the level of contrast prevent attendees from reading your text, you're giving them a mishmash of letters – not a message. And adding artsy fonts to your tabletop trade show display is like putting a service dog in a pink tutu. It's unnecessary, distracting, and kind of embarrassing.
Select a simple, readable font – such as a san serif option like Arial, Helvetica, or Futura – and stay away from script or fancy looking fonts. Ensure that the text is large enough to be read from the position you intend to place it within your exhibit. To give you some context regarding size, we suggest that a good rule of thumb for a 10x10 booth is that your headline must be 4 inches tall to be seen from the aisle, and body text should be 2 inches tall. So adapt either your tabletop display's position or its text size to ensure readability.
When it comes to the color of your text versus the graphics background, it's time to dust off and roll out the old color wheel to identify the hues with the highest contrast for best readability. Colors that are close to each other on the color wheel have low contrast, and those opposite each other have high contrast. Opt for high-contrast combos – or neutral colors such as black or white on a high-contrast background – as opposed to low-contrast colors, which are side by side on the wheel.
Tip #4: Stay Current With Tech
In today's high-tech world, electronic communication mediums are more pervasive than ticks on a Coonhound. So incorporate some technology and tell your story in a manner that is appropriate for today's attendees.
iPads and tablets are inexpensive, small, and portable – and they offer seemingly unlimited capabilities. They are the perfect addition to just about any trade show booth. They allow you to show videos of your service in action and pics of your product in the field. And they can function as lead-retrieval systems, offer online product info, and even provide lead-fulfillment and lead-management capabilities. But best of all, they fit in your briefcase and take up less space in your exhibit than a stack of brochures.
Tip #5: Incorporate a Custom Table Cover
One of the best ways to increase your tabletop display's effectiveness is to add a custom printed table cover. Attendees can tell in a second when you've used the show-provided table skirt, and doing so doesn't say much about your company's attention to detail or the effort you've put into the show.
A custom printed table cover, perhaps in a solid color that matches your display or with your logo across the front, can create the illusion of a much bigger exhibit and increase your impact. Keep in mind, however, that table covers aren't reliable message-delivery mediums. Since all text, logos, and images on a table skirt are below eye level, even one person standing in your space can completely block your table skirt's message from view. The role of a table cover is merely to create a polished look and the illusion of a larger display.
Tip #6: Remove the Clutter
You only get one chance to make a first impression, and you don't want attendees to think you're offering landfill services. So eliminate anything that's not absolutely necessary in your booth space, keep the top of your table spotless, and store ancillary items neatly under the table.
This means that your tabletop should only include some kind of takeaway with your contact information (e.g., business cards or literature) and perhaps a stand to hold these items, along with a lead-collection system – the latter of which is most effectively offered via a tablet, which as previously mentioned has a plethora of other benefits. So get rid of the coffee cups, cellphones, show-services forms, etc. Your booth reflects the way in which your company does business, especially in a tabletop booth, every item should have its place.
Tip #7: Utilize Lighting
Whether you're talking about tabletop, 10x10 trade show displays or 20x20 trade show booths, exhibit lighting is an absolute must unless you have to go commando, i.e., without electricity in your space.
A well-lit tabletop display is a great way to attract roving eyeballs on the show floor. That's because the convention center's overhead lighting is typically cool in nature and not especially inviting, which means that warm, illuminated graphics catch people's eyes and make the space more exciting and inviting.
We recommend two 100 or 200-watt lights spaced 2 to 3 feet apart, and with the fixture placed roughly 2 feet out from the graphic. While most tabletop LED lights simply clip on to the top of your display, you should also look into "uplighting." A few small uplighting LED lights placed on your table or floor, and pointed upward at your tabletop display can create a truly unique, eye-catching effect.
Tip #8: Promote your Booth
While tabletop displays may be small, they can pack just as much promotional punch as exhibits 10 times their size. That's because nobody knows how big (or small) your booth is unless they actually visit it on the trade show floor. So you, too, can generate show-wide awareness and worldwide press through press conferences, hospitality events, sponsorships, etc. And of course, don't forget about pre-show mailers. An effective mailer can draw hundreds of attendees to your space no matter what size trade show exhibit you're using. But be sure you have enough booth staff on hand to effectively handle the potential onslaught.
Just because you have a small booth space doesn't mean attendees have to walk away empty-handed. Consider giveaways that are appropriate to your target audience, or incorporate a tiered program where high-dollar items go to VIP clients, and lower-dollar gifts go to the masses. The point is, a West Highland White Terrier deserves just as much promotion as an Irish Wolfhound.