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exhibit lighting
ILLUSTRATION: MARK FISHER
Q.
Marketing experts claim that exhibit lighting is critical to effective design. But what specific benefits does lighting offer the average exhibitor?

A.
Even if you've developed a killer pre-show promotion and your salespeople have done a whiz-bang job of scheduling in-booth appointments, the majority of trade show attendees simply wander the aisles, perusing whatever strikes their fancy. In effect, then, attendees are judging every exhibit by its cover, so to speak. They're inadvertently looking for something that's visually stimulating enough to make them stop, pause, and ponder your offerings. If your exhibit blends into the backdrop, it's more than likely that showgoers will just walk on by.

One of the most powerful ways to ensure that your booth pops and offers enough visual interest to lure attendees is to incorporate lighting into every exhibit design. Whether you have a tabletop display, a pop-up structure, or a sprawling 9,000-square-foot exhibit, effective lighting is vital. Without it, you can have the most cutting-edge product or service on the entire planet, yet attendees will saunter by in search of greener pastures – or rather, better-lit exhibits that stand out amid the dark show-floor shadows.

But simply attracting attention is only one of the benefits lighting can offer. In fact, it provides a whole host of deliverables that help exhibitors not only stand out, but also direct traffic, highlight products, and more. So to help you better understand the powerful role lighting plays in effective exhibit design, here are four of its most common benefits.

➤  Attracting Visitors: When attendees are judging a booth by its cover, you want your cover to "pop" against the competition. This doesn't mean you need to create a full-on light show complete with gyrating spots or cast the Batman symbol on the ceiling above your booth. A little lighting goes a long way. The simplest arm lights separate your booth from the aisles of 10-by-10s around it, while some well-placed LED tape light draws attendees' eyes to your back-wall graphics. Along these same lines, dramatic "uplights" accent your entire booth design, and just a couple of moving gobos can literally stop people in their tracks. So at their core, exhibit light fixtures are true traffic builders, capable of catching visitors' eyes and ultimately directing their feet into your space.
➤  Highlighting Products or Messages: Let's say you have a 20-by-20-foot booth, including kiosks, headers, demonstration areas, products, pens, lead forms, reception desks, literature stands, conference rooms, garbage cans, and more. What do you want attendees to focus on? If you don't have effective lighting directing their attention to your key products, messages, and displays, you're effectively telling them that your garbage cans deserve as much attention as your new products. Effective exhibit lighting, however, can draw attendees' attention to elements that you don't want your booth visitors to miss.
➤  Directing Traffic: If your booth is anything other than a tabletop or in-line exhibit, more likely than not you've designed a preferred route of travel within your space. For example, you might want attendees to stop at your reception desk, view a product display, attend a live demo, and then download a digital brochure of your offerings. Well-executed exhibit lighting allows you to subtly direct movement. By catching the eye here, then directing it over there, and finally moving it way over yonder, you literally make people maneuver in the direction and perhaps even the sequential order you desire.
➤  Creating a Sense of Permanence: Which creates a greater feeling of permanence, value, and trust: a street vendor selling hot dogs or a brick-and-mortar restaurant with a full menu? Clearly the latter is the better option in this case, yet many show floors create the equivalent of a food-truck carnival. And if you're not careful, this lack of permanence can reflect poorly on not only your exhibit's performance but also your brand. Lighting, however, goes a long way toward generating a permanent, prominent, and positive vibe. Layered ambient, accent, and task lighting create the sense that your trade show exhibit is as permanent as any home or retail store, thus fueling a level of trust among booth visitors.

As you can see, lighting performs critical functions over and above simply eliminating the dark. In fact, when wielded carefully and thoughtfully, this tool can mean the difference between a busy booth filled with hot leads and a dark, empty void that prime prospects rarely enter.


— Chris Johnson, president & CEO, Pegasus Lighting, Beaver Falls, PA
Help Wanted
Send your tough questions about exhibiting to Linda Armstrong, larmstrong@exhibitormagazine.com.

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