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Cutting through the clutter

Barry Siskind


TIn 1970 the rock group, Five Man Electrical band, had a hit called "Can’t you read the signs." You probably remember the refrain which went like this:

“Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs,
Blockin the scenery, breaking my mind ”

While this song was written to protest an over regulated society, the issue of too much information on signs is just as applicable in a trade show scenario.

From the moment a visitor walks through the front door they are inundated with information on signs:

Registration area,
Line up begins here
Today’s events
Do not park,
Keep the lines moving
The daily menu
Aisle numbers, and
A hundred exhibitors with product information.

For these weary visitors all these signs are, “Breakin their minds.”

For sure, some signs are necessary. They help keep traffic moving in the right direction and eliminate confusion. But on the show floor this is where exhibitors can do something to minimize the confusion. Here are five things to consider when you are adding words to your exhibit.

Informational versus showstopper

Show stoppers are the large signs with a catchy phrase that captures the visitor’s attention quickly. Showstoppers should be no more than seven words and are strategically placed so the visitor doesn’t have to hunt for the information.

Informational signs are generally used to support a verbal presentation. They can be smaller in size and should contain 3-4 bullet points. When your staffer is presenting product information they can say to the visitor, “We have four separate solutions to this problem.” Then pointing to the informational sign and letting their finger follow point by point as they reinforce the presentation with a visual reminder.


Choosing the right font is a matter of style, taste and clarity. If you have chosen a specific font in your marketing materials then it is appropriate to use the same on your display. The right font can support the experience that you are attempting to share with your visitors. With thousands of fonts to choose from, select carefully and remember to avoid any font that is confusing or distracting.


The issue of colour relates to how well the sign integrates with your overall display. The colour you choose for your display will help create a theme and mood and the choice of colour for your signs needs to be one that blends in and stands out at the same time. The use of a colour wheel where you look for complimentary or contrasting colors is a great tool that will help you select wisely.

Tell them what’s important

Your signs do not replace literature or information that can be read elsewhere. You do not want to sign to tell them everything, which only reduces the opportunity of engagement. To create signs that are impactful you need to focus on the audience of the show you are exhibiting in, and then ask yourself, “What information will be most impactful. The trick here is to highlight the information on the needs of your visitors rather than on you and your corporation. Then rather than listing everything use your sign as a teaser that will stimulate one-on-one discussions.

Integrate words with other display components.

This last suggestion will force you to think of your written information as part of your overall display. Examine each component of your display and look for places where a word or two will enhance its ability to relate to your audience. Words can be integrated into graphics, products displays or on the corporate clothing your staff is wearing. Once again, just don’t try to tell your audience everything. Leave something for a one-on-one conversation.

Well-thought-out signs will not only support your display they will decrease the marketing clutter your visitors face when they walk a show.