I wrestled with a high-impact but lightweight and portable design for the booth we’ll take to upcoming trade shows, until I realized that each of the expos we’ll attend this year are drive-to events.

So I don’t have to worry about squeezing items into an overhead bin, or lowering my shipping costs.  Since I’ll be driving to each convention, I can carry as much with me as I can cram into a vehicle.

And while that doesn’t mean we’ll be crafting ironwork for our setup – it still needs to be easy to carry and setup – I’m not as concerned about breaking everything down to 24″ pieces.

When I first started sketching this new, unrestricted design, I produced some pretty wild drawings that I’m embarrassed to share here.

So I took a break and wrote down my actual requirements.  Here’s what our booth needed:

– Highlight on fabric choices
– Signage describing our three model choices (BASIC, DELUXE, ULTRA)
– Cot or cot-like device to demonstrate product
– Storage space for sample covers
– Hidden storage place for empty boxes, supplies, etc.
– Room to invite visitors into the booth

But I also need to figure out what’s worked before, so I went back to pictures of our last two booths and evaluated them to see if anything we’ve already done would work again.

This is the booth from the IFDF Convention last June:

The display for covers is okay, but the fabrics don’t work together and the framework is not “strong” enough, visually, to provide an appropriate backdrop.  Also, I should have covered their carpet here, as it’s a bit distracting.

Here’s the booth for the national convention:

Once again, the framework isn’t strong enough, visually.  But the pictures are a nice touch, if only they were bigger.  Still no description of the different models and the covers are draped on a table or piled on the floor.  And since I couldn’t take a cot with me (wouldn’t fit in the overhead compartment) I made a cot-shaped table out of PVC pipe.

The first booth really showcased the fabrics well and the second featured a nice big sign announcing the product and pictures which “demonstrated” the product.  The PVC “cot” is also a good design.

So I need signage that readily identifies the product.  If I combine the utilitarian storage needed for sample covers with a display of fabrics, I can eliminate one requirement.

What I need are signs and shelves.

And while I could build PVC shelves that can be broken down to very small units for easy shipping, I’ve got the luxury of driving to these next conventions.

I’m considering these shelves:

18 In. 5-Shelf Storage Organizer

I need signs, so I’m getting some printed, in nice big letters with simple photos of our covers on cots. 

Here’s a preliminary design:

The two large white boxes at the front will be made from PVC and covered with fabric.  I can store empty boxes and other supplies under them.  They’ll be used to demonstrate the covers, so they’ll stand in for cots.  Or I’ll make one like this a bring an actual cot with me.  I haven’t decided yet.

The two purchased shelving units will be surrounded by signage to help explain the product.  The top signage will have the product name and some pictures.

But this design still has one major drawback:  there’s little room for a lot of guests.

So while it will work for the IFDF convention and the Kentucky convention, we’ll need more space for the NFDA in October.

To solve this, I contacted Julie Stanhope at NFDA to discuss option.  I was hoping to get a corner booth on the main aisle, but those have already sold out.  Luckily, Julie had a solution.

For just $300 more than a corner, I can get a penninsula booth, which gives us access on three sides.  It would look like this:

This would let us stand in the middle and gather folks around both demonstration tables.  Twice as many people, a better location and more chances to sell product.

Even better, the 2008 NFDA Convention will feature a new general session location.  To further integrate the Expo, the organizers have put the general session in the middle of the expo floor.  A large open space, with a stage in the middle, surrounded by chairs (called “Theatre-in-the-round”) will fill the center of the expo.  Our booth, which I’ve already reserved, is on the permiter of this general session area, the big gray area on the left in this drawing:

The large space in front of our booth is DORIC Products.  On the right side of the booth is a big aisle, with rows and rows of booths going off of it.

I’ll upload a finished 3D schematic of the entire convention floor later, but in the meantime, check out the interactive expo map provided by the NFDA.

I’ve also decided on a slightly different design for the booth, which I’ll share tomorrow.