Why Trade Show Furniture Should Be More than Just an Afterthought


Quick Reader Poll:  How do you rank the importance of trade show furniture as compared to your graphics and signage — less important, equally important, or more important? If you said less important, Bill Whidden would politely disagree with you.

In a recent article in Exhibitor magazine, 10 marketing executives, including Mr. Whidden, were asked their thoughts on the importance of trade show furniture. Here’s what a few of them had to say:

“Furniture is starting to become front and center, serving as a traffic builder and an alternative to signage.”
– Bill Whidden, owner, Totally Mod Trade Show Furnishings

“The right furnishings help create selling environments that appeal to clients.”
– Kevin Dana, director of marketing and product development, trade show and event furnishings, CORT, a Berkshire Hathaway Co.

“[…] furniture is no longer an afterthought, but a vital consideration in the exhibit concept design.”
– Tommy Lei, social media, marketing, and public relations director, FormDecor Inc.

Regardless of whether you rent or buy, it’s clear that trade show furniture has become the new go-to essential for high-performance exhibits. And while graphics and signage provide necessary brand reinforcement and key messaging, it’s the tables and chairs that subtly invite attendees to come in, sit down, and really try your brand on for size.

Photo courtesy of AFR Event Furnishings

Form Follows Function

Before you run out and order all new show furnishings, consider the interaction that you’re trying to induce on the part of your prospects as well as the functionality of the furniture to support that interaction.

For example, you might envision prospective customers in your booth sitting down to:

  • Watch a digital presentation
  • Engage in a taste test or hands-on sample demo
  • Confer with sales staff regarding product options, availability, or pricing

Of course, each of the above scenarios will likely require different types of seating and counter space. For example, booth attendees would prefer to watch a digital presentation on a comfy, overstuffed couch or lounge chair, whereas a bar height table and chair set would be a better choice for people involved in a taste test or product demo.

In some cases, your trade show furniture can even help you to capitalize on an urgent need that trade show attendees often have — i.e., the need to charge up their cellphones. A New York-based company called goCharge offers brandable mobile device charging stations for use at conferences, trade shows, and events.

Photo courtesy of

Location, Location, Location

Even if you’re lucky enough to have an island or peninsula exhibit, you can still inadvertently dissuade passersby from entering your display if your layout isn’t set up correctly. In an article published in Entrepreneur magazine, Amy Wenslow, CEO of Products to Profits, advised against placing a rectangular table across the front of your booth. “That’s basically saying, ‘I don’t care if you come in,'” said Wenslow.

Another key bit of advice from Ms. Wenslow: To avoid overcrowding your booth, try mapping it out ahead of time in your office using tape on the floor. You want to ensure that booth visitors have ample space to roam around and converse comfortably with your sales team without getting jostled by others while inside your booth.

Branded Furniture vs. Furniture that’s On Brand

The furnishings that you select to adorn your trade show exhibit are a reflection of your company’s brand, image, and style. If your business has a very casual, laidback, West Coast-style image, a set of logo-emblazoned director’s chairs might be the perfect seating accessory for your booth.

On the other hand, if your brand is known for world-class luxury or top-of-the-line quality, it’s less important to have furniture that displays your logo and more important to invest in trade show furniture that reflects your good taste.

Photo courtesy of AFR Event Furnishings

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