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10 Step Checklist: Get Ready to Take “Center Stage”

Errol Ahearn is Vice President, Exec Admin - Design & Creative at GES...

For my Wife and I's next date night, I'm planning to take her to a play. Chances are I’ll be thinking a little bit about work (sorry honey!). Why? Because live theater and exhibiting have obvious parallels. For starters, a theater’s stage is strategically lit and filled with props and actors to perform in front of a live audience (just like your exhibit). It’s the nitty-gritty parallels that I find most interesting. You don’t need to be an experienced thespian to know what I’m talking about. Take a minute and think about the most memorable live performance you’ve ever seen. What made it so interesting? The whole experience or a small detail?

The best performances require lots of planning, a great script and clever physical solutions to make it extraordinary. Think of your exhibit in reference to the topics below. What areas of your performance could use improvement?

  1. Actors – Is your exhibit staff well rehearsed and do they know their lines? Did they repeatedly “hit their mark” for that day’s performance? Never underestimate the power of pre-show staff training.
  2. Wardrobe - Is your staff’s apparel unified or is it a free for all? Can visitors quickly identify who’s working your booth and who’s an attendee?
  3. Props - What tools does your staff use to heighten their performance? What “props” need to be redesigned to work better?
  4. Backstage - Does your storage and meeting space contribute to or deter from the show?
  5. Stage - Is your set design a comedy or tragedy? Is your exhibit inviting? What grabs the attendees’ attention enough for them to leave the aisle and enter your space? Can they find you? Remember the rules for creating a visual hierarchy.
  6. Script – Is there a beginning, middle and end to the attendee experience? What’s your pull-thru strategy? What key messages are you relaying through graphics and multimedia?
  7. Debut- Are you putting your company’s newest products and services in the limelight? Does your audience need a visual cue to find it?
  8. The Big Reveal – First, you must engage the attendee then impress them! What pre-show marketing have you done to generate attendance? What in-booth presentations, demonstrations or hands-on activities do you have planned? Check out how Bell Helicopter used marketing to set the stage for their big reveal.
  9. Intermission- Are you using in-booth hospitality to get your audience talking about your performance?
  10. Standing Ovation or Lay an Egg– What measurements are in place to determine outstanding results or attendee feedback?


How many of these steps are you ready to check off at your next show? Copy and paste this checklist in a document that you share with your design and sales team. You never know who sees each piece of the performance in a different light. Let your creative brains shine through and earn the rave reviews you’ve always wanted!

How do you think your next exhibit will measure up to this list? Share any challenges here and I’ll give you suggestions!


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