Successful Exhibiting Training Seminars



Grant Smith, who Colin interviews here, is the owner of a large company that designs and builds exhibits.  They are also graphics professionals. 

Grant has many years of solid experience both in Australia and world-wide.  Here are some of his insights.

Best of Show™ assists Exhibitors to attain the highest ROI at trade and consumer shows - anywhere.  Our seminars and educational materials have been developed and are maintained by Colin Green. Colin is a Certified Trade Show Marketer (CTSM).

Information on Best of Show™ seminars, workshops, eBooks, DVDs and CDs are on our website,  

Or telephone Colin in Sydney, Australia (02)9589-2000. 

Our New Zealand telephone (04)570-2000 redirects to Sydney.


Colin:              Good afternoon, Grant. You’re the Managing Director of PrintSmart Graphics in Brisbane, Australia.


Grant:              That’s correct, Colin.


Colin:              Would you tell me briefly what PrintSmart does?


Grant:              PrintSmart Graphics has a number of divisions. We are display systems and exhibition specialists for trade shows. The main thrust of our business is portable modular displays that visually assist people to draw attention at their exhibitions and tradeshows.


Colin:              So you both create the displays and design the graphics for them, Correct?


Grant:              That’s exactly right. We provide the art and graphical interface to make sure that the displays themselves are high quality and doing their job in terms of visually attracting people attending that exhibition.


Colin:              Grant, how long have you and PrintSmart Graphics been doing this?


Grant:              We’ve been doing it over 10 years. We’ve been in graphic design for 15 years and have a great deal of knowledge in tradeshow and exhibition displays. We have a talented team, both in design and product selection, so if people are exhibiting at a display or tradeshow, they’re getting the right display stands that suit their particular type of product or service, and of course their budget.


Colin:              What do you view the role of the display system in terms of success at shows to be? Stand suppliers often say that it IS the magic bullet. Would you say that Where do you place the exhibit stand as a contributor to the success mix?


Grant:              Colin, knowing what you do as a tradeshow consultant, we’re both on the same wavelength as far as the import that STAFF have at a tradeshow in that success. Where the role of the visual display stand comes into play is to actually create a “mood,” if you want, of the stand. It draws the attention visually of passing traffic, as in people attending that exhibition.


And it empowers the staff, who have hopefully had good training and are working for the exhibitor, in that they feel very comfortable in their space.  They’re proud and they also understand the credibility that comes with a well-set-up and well-defined plan in terms of visual displays.


Colin:              Can the stand really stop people in their tracks, thus ensuring that buyer attention is arrested and that they do stop for that particular exhibitor?


Grant:              That would be the ultimate goal of course!  But it tends to be just part of a number of elements to exhibiting. Your location in the exhibition hall can be a factor.  And the size of the stand too – whether you have a three by three-meter booth, a three by six, or an open floor plan. Those aspects can have a significant impact


The types of visual displays you use are important too.


                        For example you could use a pop-up wall display, which has a very large-format printed banner that allows you to use extensive graphics and some text. Visually, in the perfect world, you would have a set of systems and a style of your display that would attract their attention.


As you advocate, staff are a major key and the stand complements them.  It should draw buyers into the orbit of your well-trained, confident staff. In that respect exhibits and displays become a very important and successful medium for them.


Colin:              One of the things we share at Best of Show is what we call the “three big things” to be carefully considered when designing an exhibit stand.


1. State what you OFFER. 

2. Then state what you want people to DO. 

3. Finally who you ARE. 


In THAT order. 


This as opposed to primarily focusing on who you are - as many stands do.  Buyers are primarily self-interested.  They want to know - “what do you have and what’s in it for me”.  THEN they want to know who you are.  Care to comment?


Grant:              Marketing, no matter what the medium is, whether it’s in an exhibition, in print or television is still the same, and that really is the sequence in which it’s presented.  It’s correct as you suggested. It’s about conveying what you offer, what are the benefits to the attendee of that exhibition, or what interest they’d have in your product or service.


                        It really comes down to what you have that would interest them, and then what is your offer? In a perfect world, you would be able to give them something—a material benefit to hopefully enable them to make a commitment or a buying decision at the time of the exhibition.


Then you would talk about, specifically, your company within that industry. If you were fortunate enough to have a high-profile brand, then the brand would convey immediately that you were Toshiba Medical or a company that had a well-known brand.


Generally, someone who is walking past an exhibition needs to look at that booth and get answers to their questions, “What is it that these people are offering me that I want to buy, adopt or subscribe to? Is it what I want? Do I see these people as a credible supplier of those products or services?” The start of that process happens with a very good visual display.


You will also see that projected by the staff working for that exhibitor, that they understand they’re in an environment they can be proud of and they’re excited about it and motivated. The combination of the visual attraction, getting people into their physical orbit, and having them convert that opportunity into something that ultimately produces a buying decision is where a very good visual display works well.


Colin:              So the visual display stops the people by stating that this particular stand has what they’re interested in and that reveals the buyers.   So the exhibitors are primarily, at that point, dealing with people they want to talk with as opposed to people who are saying, “What exactly do you do?” Would that be fair enough to say?


Grant:              That’s exactly right. That is the way you want to go. The stand is a subtle thing. Qualifying the potential inquiry is as important as drawing the traffic in the first place, especially in a heavily trafficked show environment.


You don’t want your people having their time consumed by those who are asking questions like “Who are you?” and “What do you do?” A great booth reveals people who have decided “I see what that product or service does. I’m interested or I’m not interested,” and they’ve decided as to whether they want to approach the booth and start a conversation.


That combination is a crucial thing because you can clearly get that message across. As people are walking by, they scan and assess, and within a period of a few seconds, they will make decisions as to whether they go forward or enter into the space where they’ll engage in communication.


Colin:              Do you have any tips as to what makes a successful stand? What are successful graphics?


Grant:              It is very much driven by where you’re exhibiting and the type of product or service you have, because in a perfect world, you’re trying to aim for the interface between a really good image that clearly states what you’re offering to potential buyers, and also a limited amount of text which supports that image.


                        It may be a roll-up, retractable banner.  Let’s say you have four or five products.  You may have a series of retractable banners carefully positioned. Then you may have an underlying theme. If you’re in the pool or spa business, you would have a large pop-up wall unit which had an image of a spa or pool with people splashing and laughing and holding a baby up in the air.


In that example the graphic projects fun with your product and a happy family doing something. Then within those supporting graphic displays, you would have such things as pool covers, pumps, and summer peripheral equipment as well so all of those visual images that capture the idea that you’re a complete supplier.


In this case you are ultimately offering them what they really want—a happy, fun outcome that can be done professionally with people who are credible. You have limited text. Buyers can quickly decide for themselves “I want a pool or I don’t,” “I want a spa or I don’t.”


“Yes, I like the idea of how happy I’d be if I bought from the right people.” Then the questions as to size, money, or whatever is when the transaction starts and the staff just close it from there.


Colin:              At that point, it’s beyond just the graphics in that you’re talking about having a product on the stand so people can touch it, feel it, smell it, taste it.  Correct?


Grant:              It depends on what it is. Clearly, if it’s a swimming pool you can’t manage that. In a lot of situations, you don’t have that luxury. It depends on what your spend is in terms of the size and scale of your exhibit, but the vast majority of people are exhibiting on a scale where they need to visually portray their product or service with specific text.


                        Many simply use a logo in the middle of a banner with some description of the company like, “We’ve been in business 15 years.” That really is not helpful. As you made the point, you have to convey what the offering is and then it has to be relevant to those people. It has to state what the benefit is to them.


                        In the situation where you can have an item, where it is supported by the graphics, and they can physically touch it, turn it or whatever, that’s excellent. In a lot of service industries, for example, that’s not doable so you are often trying to use the graphics to convey the successful outcome of the purchase decision of that product or service.


Colin:              Of course. That can come down to products or also to services like, for example, insurance. You can’t touch it but you can see the outcome, from misery to someone who is particularly happy, or whatever the story might be.


Grant:              That’s right. It could be credibility or anything.


Colin:              Do you have any other tips, bearing in mind that not everybody has got a ton of money to be spending on customized graphics?


Grant:              I’ve traveled overseas and attended a lot of exhibitions around the world. In your material, you constantly refer to how well people have a specific goal in mind. We often see people at exhibitions that have no idea nor plan as to what to do.


The visual aids that we provide through our portable modular displays are really part of the whole mix. We suggest to people that if you have multiple offerings, you may have a series of different banners that will have a different heading, offer or graphic, to see whether you’re pushing the buttons at the time.


Colin:              So you would test these as you go. You might change these through different shows?


Grant:              Absolutely. Stand back and observe people and how they interact at shows.  It depends on the type of show and whether buyers are business people or the general public - there are slightly different demographics there. We’re starting to suggest to people to use, from our range of products, a type of flag or an expanding pole.


                        We have a flag that projects an image up above their stand. We see attendees scanning a room first, and then if they see certain hanging images or flags protruding up they head to those first because it’s visual.


Colin:              Grant, that is a very, very clever!  One of the things I have observed at shows is that while banners can stand out, the issue comes with getting a cherry picker to put those up—it’s hellishly expensive. So you’re saying why not use a flagpole and banner to draw people that way?


Grant:              Yes. This can work indoors or outdoors. We have a pole that just pops up and it’s got a base on it. The flag turns around and reveals your message.  We use bright images to catch the eye.  It works really well!

We use vinyl banners too that extend from the left and right wall of a display and subtly reproduce the logo over and over again. So when we repeat that visually, it’s reinforcing.  Firstly what they do, linking their brand or company and it has a bright, clean, professional aspect to it.


Colin:              When a customer comes to you and says they want you to assist them to design a stand or graphics, what sort of things should they have ready to share with you so that you can be clear, prompt, and give them exactly what they want?


Grant:              Primarily we want to know what they want to achieve.  What are their Objectives and who is their Target Market.  What are the products/services and what is special and unique about the exhibitor and their message.  We take time to consult with them.


Half of all of our displays are supplied art. These come from corporate businesses or the larger businesses that have graphic designers and the decision is made before it comes to us. Even then, we do offer our thoughts. And we talk to them about the types of stands they may use too as some are quite special.


For example, we did the banners for the Queensland Olympic Council and their CEO asked me, “Leading up to the Olympics we have a series of athletes with us and we’re plan to exhibit at shopping centers and public places. We want to put our logo on a half dozen retractable banners.”


                        I said, “That’s great, but we can do a lot more for you. You have powerful images of successful athletes like Kathy Freeman and successful cyclists. If you have those images sent to us, our graphic artists will do a layout for you.”


                        People will see those and will correlate between that particular Queensland branch of the Olympics and those very successful athletes. So he gave us free reign and we came up with a series of designs.  Go to our website and you’ll see the praise that he heaped upon us for it.


In that situation, we really have the opportunity to talk to people about the product or service they provide. What materials or resources do they have that we can use to help convey their message? We ask them many questions about who they are, what they are, what their offering is, and the demographics of the people who will be attending, and how we can turn that into a successful display.


Colin:              It sounds to me like this is the basis for a very interesting discussion as to how to develop the whole persona of a stand. I’d like to do that at a later date. What systems are available for exhibiting, such as pop-ups and retractable banners?


Grant:              There are the roll-down, retractable banners, there’s the pop-up wall display—a couple variations of that. We do a printed fabric display. There’s a series of magnetic panels. They’re all printed at very high resolution. There are promotional counters, which are a different type of product where you’ve actually got a table to work from and the banner is on the front.


                        There are hanging banners which can be hung or attached on walls. There are snap poster frames for wall posters. Then there are the products that I mentioned earlier, which are portable flag poles which allow exhibitors to exhibit above the top.  You can actually get hanging lanterns if you have the funds and the inclination to hang them from the ceiling.


                        Also, there are products like brochure stands and there’s also a series of mini stands, for the situations such as being in a shopping center environment where you’re limited by height. There’s a vast array of graphical services which are all portable, modular, lightweight and can be carried into any environment.


Colin:              Tremendous! It seems to me that there’s a lot more we can cover, and we will come back to those. Grant, thank you very much for your assistance. What are your contact details?


Grant:              Colin, it’sgreat chatting with you. I’m the Managing Director of PrintSmart Graphics and our office number is 1300 556 589.  Our website is at Just click on “Display Systems.”


Colin:              You provide a consultancy, graphic artists and a complete range of portable displays, correct?


Grant:              That’s absolutely right. Everything from start to finish!




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