4 Common Challenges to Effective Trade Show Displays: A Conversation with Joe Bottone of CDS Part 1

In late July, our team at MEET launched an exciting series: Coffee and Conversation, periodic live-stream interviews with experts and veterans in the trade show, event, and staffing industries.

Our goal with these conversations is to share the wisdom that comes from work on the ground and to identify common challenges and simple solutions.

Trade Show DisplaysOn November 20th we spoke with Joe Bottone, President of CDS Displays on the topic: Making a Kick-Ass Exhibit: Everything You Need to Know About Developing an Effective Booth.

Before a single conversation ever takes place, trade show displays are the first form of communication with a potential customer. This makes their effectiveness a critical determinant of ROI.

We started our conversation with Joe by asking about his path to leading and growing CDS.

Joe started his career with CDS as a graphic designer, then moved around the company and eventually bought it ten years ago. With services that include design and fabrication for new displays and complete event management services, CDS services top brands like Pepsi, P&G, and Subway.

As an expert in the field of trade show displays and exhibits, we asked Joe to reflect on the greatest challenges he sees from a display perspective.

Challenge #1: Poor Visual Branding

The first challenge Joe identified is when exhibitors fail to properly brand their booth. “You know it’s a problem when you stand right in front of the booth and you’re not sure what the company name is.”

Exhibitors tend to overcrowd their branding with product lines, sub-brand names, and licensed logos. As Joe says, “you shouldn’t have to ask, you should be able to see it down the aisle.”

Challenge #2: Vague Communications

Slightly different from challenge #1, Joe identified when exhibitors fail to provide a clear description of their product or service in their trade show displays.

“Companies have a tendency to feature esoteric statements like “Delivering the highest quality on time” or “Serving the industry since 1902” and you’re just left thinking: Delivering what? Which industry?”

With a small exception to shows that are narrowly focused, exhibitors need to make sure they are defining their industry and their product or service in their display messaging.

Challenge #3: Poorly Trained Staff

Joe identified poorly trained booth staff as the next key challenge, specifically when booth staff fail to leverage the positive response their booth display is receiving to engage in more conversations.

“It’s very common to have more people waiting to speak with someone in the booth than booth staff who are able to serve them. I find it really frustrating when I’m standing in front of a booth that I want to engage with and all the staff members are engaged in other conversations and fail to recognize that I’m standing there.”

Pro tip!

If Joe is engaged with a prospect and sees someone waiting in the booth, he’ll introduce the person who is waiting to the person he is speaking with and incorporate them into the conversation. Servicing two people at once may help audience members build connections and lead to richer conversation.

Challenge #4: Over-crowded Display

Trade Show DisplaysWe asked Joe about his thoughts on overcrowding in trade show displays—i.e. too many messages and too many booth giveaway distractions—and his feelings on the old billboard adage that no more than 7 words are needed to effectively reach your customer. Here’s what he had to say:

“A lot is predicated on the size of the booth. If you have a suite of products that are speaking to different personas/audience members, you want to separate your messaging. Color coding is a good technique to separate them out.”

In summarizing the greatest challenges to effective trade show displays, Joe says:

“The graphics on your display should not do all your selling. You don’t want someone to look at your display, read it and decide that they already know everything about it.  What they should do is pique some interest.”

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our interview with Joe Bottone, President at CDS Displays, to learn more about developing an effective trade show display.


MEET (meetroi.com) helps B2B growth companies and pavilion hosts effectively leverage at trade shows and in-person events. MEET’s trade show consultation strategies help its clients ramp-up sales quickly and maintain a steady stream of high-quality prospects going forward. Contact Bill Kenney at MEET today for a free trade show participation assessment bill@meetroi.com or +1 (860) 573-4821.

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