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Sam Kimmel duplicates a part for a trade show display Wednesday. He has been with the company for 1 1/2 years.

Exhibit builder advice: Go for ‘relevant wow’

Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Jim Antil, a lead craftsman at Fort Wayne’s Group Delphi, works on building a tool demo Wednesday for a tradeshow.
Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Roger Dawson modifies a bracket with a plasma cutter while at Group Delphi.

If your trade show display is going to blend in with scores of other exhibits, you might as well not waste your money, local experts say.

But that doesn’t mean over-the-top booths are the most effective.

“Trade show marketing used to be so much glitz and so much wow. Not that there’s no glitz now, but it’s a more relevant wow,” said Debbie Parrott, Group Delphi’s vice president of business development.

Group Delphi – formerly known as Icon Exhibits – designs and builds exhibits for museums, corporate events and trade shows. The blue-and-orange reading tower in the children’s section of the Allen County Public Library is an example of the company’s work.

The firm, which employs about 165, has operations in Fort Wayne and Alameda, Calif.

Parrott works with large and small businesses on trade show exhibits.

The primary goal, she said, is compelling clients to place orders, place more orders, refer the firm to others or learn more about the company.

Much of Group Delphi’s focus is on creating lightweight, reusable exhibits that are cost-effective for clients to ship to trade show sites.

Many of the company’s trade show exhibit designs use aluminum modular framing, which allows the client to easily increase or decrease the display’s size. In the wake of the recession, many companies are choosing smaller displays, Parrott said.

“It’s not quantity, it’s quality,” she added.

Once the basics are settled, agencies such as Boyden & Youngblutt Advertising & Marketing advise clients on achieving that extra wow factor.

Andy Boyden recently returned from the International Builders Show in Las Vegas. The Bryan, Ohio, client, Spax, makes screws.

Boyden brought in an artist who creates portraits and other artwork using screws.

Visitors to the booth could register to win an artwork. They could also watch Andrew Myers working on a new piece that used Spax screws to recreate the Spax logo. The demonstration created a buzz at the trade show that drew some visitors back to monitor Myers’s progress throughout the show, Boyden said.

When Boyden & Youngblutt was hired to help Biomet create a trade show booth, the agency advised the Warsaw orthopedic devices-maker to hire Mary Lou Retton to meet with orthopedic surgeons. The Olympic gold-medal-winning gymnast received a Biomet hip replacement in 2005.

Boyden said businesses need to be unique and bold to grab customers’ attention – whether the venue is a website, print ad or trade show.