Trade Show Lighting Tips


trade show lighting

Trade show lighting makes your booth more visible, sets the tone for your message and helps attract visitors. Lighting can be just as important as design when it comes to creating the overall look you want for your company’s brand and making your booth stand out from the rest. Follow our trade show lighting tips to nail the look of your trade show booth.

Understand the Impact of Lighting

Lighting may seem like an afterthought, but it has a major impact on your booth. General venue lighting isn’t enough to make your booth the standout space you need it to be to attract potential clients. Bring your own lighting and strategically integrate it into your booth design to take control of your display.

attract visitors

Lighting affects many aspects, including:

  • Functional illumination: You want your booth to be light enough to allow visitors to see your information and products. The venue lighting may leave your booth shadowy or dark. When you take control of your lighting, you ensure that your visitors can see everything clearly in any venue.
  • Atmosphere: Lighting helps set the tone for your booth. Whether you want to look bright, bold and modern or have a warm, welcoming glow, the type of lighting you choose can create a particular feeling that supports your branding.
  • Attraction: People often decide within a few seconds whether they want to stop at a particular booth. Looks matter in making an impression that compels someone to stop to and learn about your business. Nailing your lighting makes your booth look professional and helps you differentiate yourself from other vendors. This can help draw in more people who might otherwise pass by your booth.
  • Focused attention: Where do you want people to look when they approach your booth? Lighting helps draw the eye to the elements you want to emphasize, like your signage and products.
  • Comfort: Your lighting levels affect how comfortable your booth feels for people. If it’s too bright and overpowering, people won’t want to spend much time. A booth that’s too dark, on the other hand, can also repel people. Using warm lighting at a balanced level creates a comfortable environment and makes people more likely to stay at your booth.

Choose the Correct Lighting Level

More light isn’t always better. Some companies overload their booths with light in an attempt to wow visitors. An overly bright booth makes you stand out, but not necessarily in a good way. If your booth is too bright, it may be uncomfortable for people to spend much time there.

Unless you present in an unusually dark venue, the existing lighting in the room provides at least some ambient light. If you’re presenting in a new venue, look for photos or video of trade shows that have taken place in that specific room. This will give you an idea of what the lighting is like and help you be more prepared. You should also consider whether the trade show will continue into the evening hours. The room may have plenty of natural light through large windows during the day, but still require supplemental lighting once the sun sets.

When deciding on accent lighting, consider the most important things that you want people to notice. If you use accent lighting to illuminate every little part of your display, all that light becomes overwhelming and counterproductive. With so much light, visitors won’t know where to focus their attention. Instead, choose a few key points that you want to stand out from everything else. Your logo is one important element to highlight, and you may also want to highlight specific products and any informational areas where you want guests to stop.

You can also go the opposite direction with too little light. If your booth is too dark, it can make it difficult for people to see the elements of your display – and end up feeling a bit cave-like.

Set the Tone

Your lighting has the power to set the tone for your booth, so it’s important to know what works for your brand. Do you want a warm, cozy environment that makes people want to sit down for a while? Do you want an edgy, modern look to complement your company’s cutting-edge style? Look at your branding and consider your company as a whole when designing your lighting scheme. Choose lighting elements that complement and highlight that feeling.

trade show mood

Setting the right tone helps you increase your potential for finding new prospects and making sales at the trade show. Start by looking at your ideal client profile. Is your ideal client traditional or progressive? Does your target audience prefer clean and simple or flashy and dramatic? Matching your lighting design to those specifications makes your booth more appealing to your demographic. This will help you meet more prospects that have a higher chance of buying your products or utilizing your services.

Upgrade the Look with Lighting

Lighting doesn’t have to be expensive to give your booth an upgraded, expensive look. Simple clamp-on spotlights give your display an upscale gallery look without requiring a huge investment. Plus, these lights are versatile and easy to maneuver. LED rope lighting is another inexpensive lighting option, and when attached under the edge of your main display table or countertop highlights the shape of the surface and creates a warm glow.

These simple additions of light in your booth produce a finished look that elevates your display. Lighting can emphasize the booth backgrounds and displays you’ve invested in to create a cohesive, professional look.

Use Light to Attract Customers

Lighting helps attract customers by drawing their attention from a distance and making your booth visible in a sea of other exhibitors. Use the right type and levels of lighting, and you’ll lead traffic right into your booth, where you can talk to them about your products or services.

Proper lighting also makes your booth feel approachable. Warm, bright lights help illuminate your display and make your exhibit a place people want to be. Warmer lights are also more flattering for people, while cool-colored lights are not.

Illuminate Your Branding and Design

You want attendees to instantly identify your brand and understand what you do. If someone has to stop and think to figure out what your company does or what they can expect from your booth, they’ll likely keep walking. Use lights to illuminate your company’s logo, so people walking by can see who you are. You should also highlight your products, which provide additional clarification on what your company does.

illuminate logo

Another way to incorporate branding is with colored lights. Using accent lighting in a color you pull from your branding can help you carry the theme. For example, you might highlight the edges of your tables or countertops with lights that are the same color as your logo.

If you use colored lighting in your booth, be aware of the psychology of color, which can have an impact on how people perceive your booth. Warm colors like red, orange and yellow tend to have a stimulating effect on people, while cool blues and greens create a calming effect. Fluorescent lighting can enhance that cool, calming effect.

You should also consider how different colors play a role in your industry. If you sell fireplaces, for example, you find that red, orange and yellow hues mimic the colors associated with fire and the warmth associated with fireplaces. These colors may be a better option than cooler blues and greens. Using colors associated with your industry helps establish a specific feeling and create a display that makes sense for your product or service.

If you choose to incorporate colored lights, you’ll want to keep in mind how different colors may affect the look of things in your booth. For example, blue lights can cast an unflattering look on people in your booth.

And if you choose white lights, keep in mind that bulbs come in a range from cool to warm white light. Choosing a neutral or daylight white bulb provides the truest color results in your signage, while warm or cool white lights may change the way the colors in your logo and other displays appear.

Explore Different Types of Trade Show Lights

The lights you choose influence the look of your booth, so understanding the different types of lights is important in selecting your setup. The first thing you’ll need to consider is the purpose of the lighting. Lights are divided into three general categories to define how they work within a space.

booth lighting

Lighting falls into these three categories:

  • Ambient lighting: Ambient lighting refers to the general lighting around your display, and typically includes overhead lights that provide general illumination. These lights create an even overall illumination to make all areas functional and bright. In your trade show lighting setup, this may include the venue’s overhead lighting as well as your own track lighting above your display.
  • Accent lighting: This type of lighting focuses on a particular part of your display to accent or draw attention to it. You might use accent lighting to highlight specific areas of your booth, such as your logo or a product display. For example, you could build recessed lighting into your product displays to make them stand out within your booth. You can also use spotlights to shine directly on different parts of your display.
  • Task lighting: Task lighting illuminates a specific area for a specific purpose. In your trade show booth, you might incorporate task lighting on a high-top table where you want visitors to fill out a contact form or read information about your product. This type of lighting is designed to make a specific task easier.

Using all three types of lighting in your booth creates a layered effect and makes the booth feel professional. It also maximizes illumination and provides functionality for any activities you and your visitors may do in the booth.

Once you decide what types of lighting you need in your booth, you can start planning the specific light fixtures you’ll use to create those effects. You have many options to create the effects you want. Some types of lights to consider include:

  • Spotlights: Spotlights are a type of accent lighting that shine on a specific part of the display. A common option is to direct a spotlight at your logo or key designs on your display. If you use a truss system, you can get spotlights that attach to the trusses. Spotlights are also available with clamps on the base, so you can clip them to anything in your booth. You can also get spotlights with flexible designs, so you can easily  adjust them to point where you want them.
  • Track lighting: Track lighting fixtures provide multiple light sources to cast light throughout your display. This is an option if you want to increase the ambient lighting in your display.
  • Lamps: If you’re going for a warm, inviting look, table lamps can provide the illumination you want and create a comfortable environment. Desk lamps also work well to provide task lighting for areas where people read documents or fill out information cards.
  • String lights: Another option for a festive look is to use string lights in your booth. You can use anything from simple light strands to lights with shaped covers that match a particular theme. String lights provide some functional illumination, but they work more to create the ambiance you want in your booth.
  • Backlighting: Backlighting is a great way to illuminate a panel displaying your company logo or other information. This technique often uses tension fabric with LED lighting strips along the framework that holds the fabric to light it up from behind. The lighting produces an even glow that illuminates the entire panel.

Trade Show Lighting Do’s and Don’ts

Trade show lighting comes down to balance and properly focusing attention on your display. Keep these do’s and don’ts in mind when planning your lighting scheme.

  • Do check on electrical outlet availability and restrictions at the trade show venue. Powering your lighting could be an issue if you don’t find out the options ahead of time. Trade show coordinators often set out specific guidelines on the power and type of lighting you can use, as well as regulations for setting up your lighting.
  • Don’t skimp on lighting because you think it’s too expensive. Light can have a powerful impact on the overall look and appeal of your booth. Investing in lighting is worthwhile because it is reusable at every trade show you attend, so while it can be costly up front, it is a long-term investment.
  • Do choose lighting fixtures that are lightweight and easy to handle, so you can set them up and take them down easily at each show.
  • Don’t use too much flashy lighting with lots of movement. Moving, flashing lights may initially draw attention, but can be too much for some people and distract them from your message.
  • Do position bulbs that get hot, such as halogen bulbs, in spots where people won’t accidentally touch them and get burned. Use hot lights with caution to keep your display safe.
  • Don’t get locked into one lighting configuration. You may need to alter the way you use lights in different venues. If you change design elements in your booth, your lighting configuration should also change to complement the new arrangement.
  • Do test your booth display with lighting before your next trade show, so you can see how well the fixtures illuminate the space. Step back from the display to check out the lighting from different angles. Ask for opinions on the lighting from other people to determine how appealing it is and if you have too much or not enough light.
  • Don’t use too much lighting. More isn’t always better. Strike a balance that makes your booth feel approachable and functional without emitting a blinding light.
  • Do have more than just attractive lights to your display. An appealing lighting scheme can attract potential customers, but your display also needs a cohesive design that makes people want to stay and learn more about your business.
  • Don’t feel like you need to figure everything out yourself. Enlist the help of a company that has experience in designing trade show booth displays, like APG Exhibits.

Are you ready to take your trade show display to the next level? APG Exhibits offers customized signage and trade show exhibit systems at prices that fit your company’s marketing budget. With options like backlit displays and truss systems, you can get the lighting you want to make a statement.

Check out our trade show display options, and start planning your upgraded booth to stand out from the crowd. We make your job easier, so you can focus on your business.


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