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Custom Exhibit Displays: Create a True Representation of Your Brand to Stand Out and Attract Leads

The last time you attended a tradeshow, how did your exhibit compare to others around you? Was it haphazard? In need of an update? Was it a headache to assemble and disassemble? Or did it make you stand out in all the right ways? 

With hundreds of businesses vying for attention in a single exhibition space, every advantage matters to attract vital networking opportunities and valuable leads in a tradeshow. Custom exhibit displays transform your exhibit space from a backdrop to a marketing advantage. 

Here’s how to craft a custom display that stands out from the crowd, no matter how big the crowd is. 

What Are Custom Exhibit Displays?

Want to get your brand noticed and cultivate leads during a tradeshow? If so, you need a display that stands out from the rest.

In short, our custom exhibit displays are displays that our team builds to spec, using wood panels and custom wood structures. They give your brand a polished, high-end look without the sky-high price tag you might expect from such craftsmanship. 

At Rockway Exhibits, we offer three different styles of custom exhibits:

  • Inline
  • Island
  • Peninsula

You can browse our full selection here, easily searchable by display size, configuration, special elements, and reconfigurability. From counters and kiosks to towers and presentation areas, we offer a range of different features to tailor your custom exhibit to your needs. 

Benefits of a Custom Exhibit Display

Why invest in a custom exhibit display? It’s all about your tradeshow strategy and maximizing your return on investment

Here are a few reasons why a custom display is the right choice. 

Put Your Best Foot Forward

Branding is crucial to marketing success because it’s basically your company’s personality. It’s how customers recognize you on sight. It’s how customers know who you are. It’s what makes a product or service stick with customers ahead of all the competitors on the market. And, it’s what leads customers to keep coming back. 

In a tradeshow, your job is to draw leads in. But they may not know who you are, and in a huge tradeshow venue, the competition is everywhere. A custom display is what makes your brand memorable in all the right ways, allowing you to nurture leads into paying customers. 


When the display is custom, you hold all the power. You can make your display pretty much anything you want it to be. 

This offers you an incredible branding advantage. No idea is off-limits when you craft custom exhibit displays, so you can go all in for a big statement–or just the right statement to represent who you are as a brand on the tradeshow floor. 

You can use any material in any way you like. There are some basic configurations and types of displays that companies stick with, like certain dimensions, but otherwise, your display is your playground. 

Display Your Individuality

When the whole display is your playground, you get to play with individuality. How will you leverage that power at your next trade show? With the right strategy, your exhibit display can tell your brand story on its own. 

After all, being noticed is the name of the game when it comes to tradeshows. If you look like and act like your competitors, your would-be customers won’t be able to tell you apart, and your best features will get lost in the noise. A custom display allows you to show your creativity and what makes your brand truly unique. 

In other words, they allow you to show your leads why you’re the right fit for their needs. 


A custom exhibit is your display, free for you to do with as you please. You can attend as many tradeshows as often as you like, without the need to coordinate with an external exhibition partner. 

Plus, you can design your display itself to offer convenience to your would-be customers. Take Swiffer, for instance, which designed its tradeshow pallet display with a flexible design to feature fully-assembled Swiffer starter kits, no assembly required. 

The design itself was also flexible enough for the company to use it as an end cap or action alley, making it easy to adapt based on the given tradeshow. Either way, the company was ready to display its product’s best features. 

Provide More Information

One of the primary goals of a tradeshow is to draw in prospective customers. That often means you have to educate customers on what you do, what you offer, and why you’re better at it than anyone else on the market. 

A custom display exhibit allows you to provide information in the right way, often in subtle ways. Think of the Swiffer display–it conveyed an essential piece of information (no assembly required) without hitting customers over the head with it. All they had to do was show the fully assembled starter kit and let their tradeshow team fill in the blanks. 

Tailored to Fit Your Marketing Goals

Last but not least, custom exhibit displays are tailored to fit your unique marketing goals. 

While your overall aim is to nurture leads, companies have a variety of different goals when they go to tradeshows. Some want a certain amount of leads. Some want a certain amount of sales. Some want to test-run a product’s potential profitability. Some want to increase brand awareness. Some want to start conversations with key customers. 

Your custom display is more than just a backdrop. It’s the venue that enables you to achieve your goals. And when you can tailor every last detail, you’re taking essential steps to making your tradeshow visit a success. 

The Essence of a Great Display

So, what makes a great exhibit display? 

The truth is, there is no pat answer. Every company has different goals for tradeshows, and every brand has a unique personality. A successful display for one company may be a flop for another. 

That said, most great displays have a few baseline features in common. Here are some of the big hitters we see in most successful custom displays. 

Capture Brand Essence in the Available Space

Your custom display is your brand playground, but you don’t have the entire expo floor to make a statement. Instead, you have to capture your brand essence in the available space, and you have to do it as effectively as possible. 

For one thing, this means your display has to look like your brand. Every brand has a unique personality–you can see it on your website, your social media, and your marketing packaging. Your display should be the same way–it should have all the hallmarks that make your brand immediately recognizable. 

It also has to have the right flow. While it’s easy to think of your display as a static space, it’s more like a 3-D story. In order to draw in customers, your display has to tell your story the right way. 

Focus on Branding, Not Just Words

This is an area where many brands stumble. They think that telling their story is all about finding the right words. Which means that many companies try to cram words into their display. 

Think of bad infographics (trust us, there are some real gems out there). These little displays are supposed to show you essential information in a quick, easily digestible format. Bad infographics render the information unrecognizable at best and insensitive or misleading at worst. Many of them falter by including too many words–or too many of the wrong words. 

Conversely, going too minimalist doesn’t help you either. Customers need to know who you are, and if all they see is a word and negative space, they’ll have more questions than answers. 

Focus on branding, not words. The right branding will make use of words to tell just enough of the story, allowing customers to fill in what they need to fill in while providing enough information to keep them interested and engaged. It will make them curious to engage further. It will give them a clear idea of who you are so that they’re excited to talk to you further. 

Graphics and Layout Balance

In many cases, this involves finding the right balance of graphics and layout. 

Balance in graphic design is what makes a design aesthetically pleasing. Humans crave symmetry and balance, and if something is visually imbalanced, it tends to irritate and tire us. This is especially important in a 3-D marketing display like a custom exhibit, where every element is part of the story you use to draw customers in. 

The best way to think about this is to consider what you want to prioritize. You don’t need graphics to inform viewers of every footnote in your brand’s history, but rather the right graphics to tell the relevant story for your tradeshow goal. Layout contributes to that. 

Another way to think about it is the old writing adage: show, don’t tell. Demonstrate key points to your customers rather than telling them–again, think of the Swiffer product kit display showing fully assembled products. 

Show Your Value Proposition and Differentiators

Another way to think about your priorities (and display them in your custom exhibit) is to figure out your value proposition and differentiators so that you can forefront them in your display. 

Keep in mind that this may not be the same thing as your company mission statement. If you’re focused on rolling out a specific product, for instance, your value proposition should be related to the value proposition behind that product. From there, you can focus on what makes the product better than other offerings on the market. 

Leverage Video

Many brands fall into the same pattern of thinking, believing that their displays are static. Flip the script and start incorporating video into your custom exhibit displays. 

Video is one of the most versatile (and profitable) forms of marketing. Online video, for example, is 600% more effective than print and direct mail combined. 

For your tradeshow exhibit, video is a vital educational tool allowing you to show instead of tell. Playing a video that shows how your product works can catch the customer’s eye and draw in someone who might not have otherwise paused at your booth, giving your tradeshow team a chance to fill in the blanks. 

And in a crowded tradeshow venue? That pause is essential. 

Feeling and Vibe That Match Your Branding

You know who you are as a brand. Tradeshow visitors may not know who you are. This is why it’s so important for your custom tradeshow exhibit to look and feel like you. 

Think of it as your first impression. Branding is what makes you stick with customers within those crucial first few moments of interaction. If you give one impression only to show a completely different face, customers will walk away from the interaction feeling annoyed. 

For example, are you fun, young, and offbeat? Are you irreverent? Are you energetic and engaging? Are you buttoned-up and to-the-point? Are you old-school and traditional? Each of these descriptors conveys a completely unique brand personality, and knowing which one fits you will make it easier to stay true to who you are. 

That way, you can focus on attracting the right customer for your business. 

Know Your Customer

This leads into the last point: know your customer. This is true of any form of marketing, but it’s especially important in custom exhibit displays. Unfortunately, it’s also often overlooked. 

Your customer is the heart of everything you do. They motivate your objectives when attending a tradeshow. That means they should drive every aspect of your display design too. 

This begins with knowing your customer. Think of it like crafting a buyer persona–a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data. You should know who your ideal customer is so thoroughly that you could pick them out of a crowd. 

What are They Looking For?

Among other things, this involves thinking about what your ideal customer is looking for. 

When they turn to you, what are they looking to find? What problem are they trying to solve? What are they looking for in a solution? What makes an ideal solution, based on their logic? And what can you do to provide it for them, more successfully than any of your competitors?

In other words, stop thinking about just your product. Instead, think about what your ideal customer wants from your product. Once you know that, it’s easier to tell them a story that shows your product as the ideal solution to their problem. 

What Do They Want to Feel?

Similarly, think about what your ideal customer wants to feel when they turn to companies like you for a solution. 

It’s important to know your ideal customer in extraordinary detail because this helps you understand what they want. What does their ideal solution partner look like? What kind of vibe do they want from a company? What would make a company stick in their mind?

This is unique to every person and marketing category. If you know what your ideal customer wants, it’s that much easier to present yourself as everything they want. 

Tips for Designing Your Custom Display

Once you have your guiding principles, you’re ready to think about designing your custom exhibit display. This is all about marrying practical design features with your tradeshow strategy. That way, you know what you’re trying to achieve and how each individual design element will help you achieve it. 

Not sure where to begin? Here are a few tips to help you get started. 

Start with a Grand Plan

Before you meet with a single exhibit designer, you need to have a plan. There are a lot of people who will have opinions, but your exhibit or marketing manager’s opinion is the one that matters most. They’re the ones that have the final say on your exhibit goals. That’s not to say other opinions shouldn’t be heard–there are plenty of great ideas to be found. 

Ultimately, though, your exhibit manager will be the one to tie everything together based on a few tactical needs: 

  • Overall goals
  • Brand identity
  • Marketing needs
  • Functionality
  • Demonstration capabilities
  • Budget concerns

As such, your plan should give you a clear idea of the purpose and objectives of the exhibit, outlines your marketing benchmarks, demonstrates how to avoid previous problems, gathers your design criteria, and names the roles and responsibilities of key team members. 

Know Your Function

The ideal design display is one that marries your marketing objectives with three-dimensional functionality. In other words, it presents the message with a clear understanding of how people interact with it to ensure they reach the desired conclusion from that message. 

This is often limited by budget. As such, you should be clear on what your biggest priorities are so that you know which lesser priorities can fall by the wayside if necessary. Your exhibit design company will help you figure out what you can achieve based on your available budget. 

Also, you’ll have to think about the venue. The amount of space you have available and your placement within the venue will dramatically alter your options for a final design. 

Know Your Budget

While your budget should not be the sole deciding factor in your custom display, it’s usually one of the most significant limiting factors. What it costs is exclusive to its design and function. 

Because custom displays are designed to the unique specifications of the buyer, it’s hard to give a cost estimate without knowing your desired design specifications. Generally, the industry standard per square foot is $140 for a good exhibit, $150 for a better exhibit, and $200 for the best. 

That said, you can get a lot of mileage if you make smart use of your budget and partner with the right design company, so don’t be afraid to shop around and get crystal clear on what you want to achieve. 

Know Your Design Options

With that in mind, you can turn an eye to your design options. There are five design elements of any custom design that you should pay attention to: 

  1. Graphics
  2. Lighting
  3. Flooring
  4. Storage
  5. Technology/media

Graphics, for example, are usually the first design element your prospects see. It’s your chance to make a first impression. To that end, keep your copy concise and your designs streamlined. 

Lighting is more than just a tool so your customers can see–it’s a way to highlight what matters in your exhibit. Use lighting strategically. Many brands approach this by using lighting to highlight a key product or feature in their booth. 

Perhaps the most underappreciated design elements are flooring and storage. Think of it this way: you’re setting the stage for your leads to learn more about your brand. If your flooring is neglected, or your storage is impractical, it shows poor attention to detail. 

Your Partner in Tradeshow Success

We know the power of custom exhibit displays. We also know that finding the right exhibition design partner can make all the difference between an ordinary exhibit and a showstopper. That’s why we do more than just create custom exhibit displays: we create experiences. 

If you’re ready to set your brand up for success at your next tradeshow, schedule a call today to tell us about how we can help your project come alive. 

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