Make Your Booth Pop with a Great Trade Show Backdrop!

Custom Exhibits | Exhibit Design
August 9, 2021

From a bird’s-eye view, your trade show backdrop is made of two main elements: words and design. The words, obviously, communicate information like your brand’s name or why people should buy it. The design 1) catches people’s eyes and 2) directs their eyes somewhere.

That somewhere is often those words. Whatever phrase you choose should almost always be five words or less. People are already in motion by the time they lay eyes on your backdrop. They must be able to read and understand all of it before they slow down.

Thus, the design element of your trade show backdrop has two more jobs: make the text 1) easy to find and 2) easy to read quickly.

Your trade show backdrop is the foundation of the rest of your booth. Getting it right is often the difference between a packed booth or an empty one.  

What is a Tradeshow Booth Backdrop?

How often have you heard the phrase, “First impressions matter”? On the trade show floor, telling your story quickly and succinctly is critical to engaging attendees. They need to understand what you do and how it solves their problem in a visually appealing graphic. Think of it as the anchor graphic for the entire booth space. It may be the only graphic in a 10 ft. booth or just one of many graphics in an island all designed to support your main message. 

Planning Your Trade Show Backdrop

First of all, you don’t have to default to your brand’s slogan for your trade show backdrop. It can be anything as long as it supports your overall branding and goals. Many exhibitors adapt their backdrop to a specific show rather than relying on a generic graphic for every event. 

For example,’s slogan is “Fly. Sleep. Drive. Cheap.” But as we’ll see below, they don’t let that stop them from choosing other phrases for their trade show backdrops to drive particular points home to attendees. In fact, what they came up with for the example below might even be more effective at making someone want to use Hotwire’s travel services than their regular slogan.

You can start with utilitarian words like the name of your company and your website. Then create a very targeted message for your trade show backdrop, one that doesn’t necessarily appeal to everyone on the show floor but to your specific audience. Remember, you’re not trying to attract everyone. Just customers who need your product or service. 

Challenge yourself to five words or less (excluding your company name and contact information). Then add additional words one by one, but only if they significantly strengthen or clarify your message. Brevity is key since attendees, who are already distracted and often tired, must see and internalize your backdrop message in as little as 3 seconds or less.  

Learn About Virtual Exhibits

If you are planning a virtual exhibit to support your physical trade show program, then you’re in luck. The same principles apply for both. In most cases, your audience will experience your virtual booth via the web. However, simply because they navigate to and interact with your booth on their computer that doesn’t mean your booth show be designed like a traditional website. 

Your message must be just as targeted and succinct as on a physical display at an actual trade show. Fortunately, virtual exhibits allow for greater depth and a more immersive experience since it’s not confined to a 20 x 20 or 30 x 30 footprint. Virtual exhibits allow you to incorporate audio, video, and AR in a self-directed but controlled environment.

Learn About Virtual Exhibits

In the digital era, it’s important to adapt and embrace new technologies. Learn about how virtual trade shows can help you reach and engage new customers.

Trade Show Backdrop Design

Your trade show backdrop’s design is meant to 1) catch an attendee’s eye and 2) direct it somewhere. What should attendees remember most about your booth?

Tip: An attendee should know what your company does after passing by it the first time, even if they don’t stop to chat. Remember that when you’re deciding on what five-or-fewer-word phrase to use.

For example, a lighting company could put one bright, interesting-looking light on display against their backdrop, and make it illuminate their short, clear message which has been printed onto their backdrop. Of course, if the company’s name doesn’t have “Lighting” in it, the illuminated/ing message should leave no doubt as to the nature of their business.

Another way to direct a viewer’s eye is to simply let it do what it naturally does if it reads English–start in the top-left, move right, and work its way down. Thus, the top-left of your trade show backdrop is often the best place to put your eye-catcher. This is called “visual hierarchy.”

A Bad Backdrop Example:

trade show backdrop mistakes

This tall, narrow banner is perfect for bullet-point-style information with the most important bullet point at the top. But instead, it looks like the fictitious company using it, tossed little blurbs over their corporate shoulder, and some of the blurbs stuck to this banner.

The first item on the banner is the company’s age. What? Someone walking by at full speed doesn’t even know what company this is–they really don’t care how old it is.

Next, we see the company’s phone number–even though they haven’t provided any reason to want to call them. Most people would look away at this point and never remember this booth because there’s nothing to remember. “I guess that booth was for people who are already ‘in’ with that company or something.”

A Good Backdrop Example:

trade show backdrop

On the other hand, this simple trade show backdrop follows everything we talked about above. The most important words are huge and easy to read and in the most important place – the upper-left. Working our way naturally down, we see a bright screen that’s probably going to show marketing information during exhibit hours. Of course, all these principles apply to whatever content ends up on that screen.

Finally, we see a very cool picture of the product. Recognizing that everyone already knows what Gatorade is, they didn’t even need to include any words on this backdrop besides the name of the brand.

There are three elements on this trade show backdrop and the eye never feels lost. It knows to start in the top-left, glance at the screen, and finish on the bottle.

Fun Trade Show Backdrop Ideas

How many ways can you use visual hierarchy to direct someone’s eye? How short can you make your messaging without losing its meaning? How easy can you make it for someone to understand and remember your booth just by walking by it? To help you visualize your future trade show backdrop – check out more examples here.

Fun Trade Show Backdrop Idea #1: The G Series

trade show backdrop example

As it turns out, the really effective Gatorade example above was only half of a bigger, even more effective trade show backdrop. After our eye finishes with the first half, the half we just discussed, it finds an interesting trail to follow, to a mural-sized image of what drinking Gatorade makes you: a champion.

Notably, the second screen helps the eye along that trail. Together, the two screens make a sort of Start/Finish. The first one is at the trailhead if you will, and the second is right at the end, in the middle of the reward we get for our brief attention.

Fun Trade Show Backdrop Idea #2

trade show backdrops

In this trade show backdrop, Hotwire offered us a daydream and put their name and a message on it. The name is in the all-important upper-left but it’s also out of the way of the daydream. The message, “Wake up in the Caribbean.”, is right in the middle with a bright, white font. This quickly and successfully gets their point across and grabs the reader’s attention.

Now that you’ve seen some examples and thought about trade show backdrops in detail let’s see how to get started!

Trade Show Backdrop Process

There are three steps to the trade show backdrop process. 

1. First – Define your message and goal for the show or event. Who’s your audience and what’s the purpose of exhibiting at this show. Then decide if there’s a specific theme. It doesn’t have to have a theme but themes can be an appealing way to attracted attendees to your space. 

2. Next – Work with a graphic designer with a history of 3D design. You may already know a talented graphic designer but that doesn’t mean they have experience working with large format graphics on a physical structure like a trade show display or backdrop. Experience is critical and a good 3D graphic designer has already stubbed his or her toe in the past so they’ve learned what works (and what doesn’t).

3. Finally – Choosing the right printer. Not all printers are experts at large format graphics for a trade show backdrop. Many backdrops are printed on tension fabric with a silicone welting sewn to the perimeter. That takes specific equipment and expertise. In addition, backlighting has become very popular at trade shows and events. Experienced 3D designers and printers know to maximize the impact of colors and are familiar with lighting options.    

Finalizing Your Trade Show Booth Backdrop

It’s scary when you don’t know what you don’t know. Exhibiting in a trade show – especially one that’s out of town–has so many moving pieces and variables to it, the first or even second or third go-around can be overwhelming.

Luckily, Exhibits NW has been guiding businesses of all sizes and experience levels through the process for over 25 years. If you have a business, yes, it belongs in a trade show. Exhibits NW is here to make the process smooth and rewarding, financially and otherwise.

If nothing else, just take this with you. Your trade show backdrop has words and visual design. Besides your company name, website, etc., your backdrop should (almost always) have five or fewer words. The design should make those words easy to find and easy to read quickly. The design should also catch people’s eyes and direct people’s eyes somewhere. Maybe to your words.

Once you’ve chewed on that for long enough, it might be time to start putting together your super impressive, highly profitable trade show backdrop, or even the whole booth. Give us a call at 866-473-7511 to talk about all the trade show essentials–lead management, giveaways, travel details, you name it. Seriously, name everything that makes you nervous about your next trade show and we will figure it all out together.

Schedule a Call

If you’re ready to take your trade show exhibits to new heights, fill out the form below and we’ll contact you shortly.

Schedule a Call

If you’re ready to take your trade show exhibits to new heights, fill out this form, and we’ll contact you shortly.

Schedule a Call
If you’re ready to take your trade show exhibits to new heights, fill out this form and we’ll contact you shortly.