It’s hard to overstate the importance of exhibit lighting. Make the right lighting decisions, and you’ll pull in more trade show traffic and give yourself a better chance of scoring lucrative leads. On the other hand, a drab, poorly lit exhibit can discourage visitors and tank your ROI. The question is, what kinds of tradeshow light will make your exhibit pop?
Why Trade Show Exhibit Lighting Matters
Planning and preparing for trade shows is a time-consuming business. As a result, many people don’t give certain exhibit elements the attention they deserve. Lighting is one element that’s often neglected, with booth-owners making hasty decisions about what kinds of lighting they need and where to deploy that lighting in the trade show display. But lighting is an element of booth design that’s most effective when it’s carefully considered and planned.
Why does trade show exhibit lighting matter? Consider that it can do the following:
Attract attention – When you exhibit at a show, you must compete for attention in a space that’s visually chaotic. Lighting gives you another way of making your booth distinct from the rest.
Set a mood – Lighting helps set a mood in your booth to reflect your brand, a new product you’re demoing, or something else. It can help put people at ease, keep them focused, or engage their emotions.
Highlight what’s most important – Your booth visitors are busy, and they won’t waste time hunting all over your booth for information. If they feel like they’re spending too long looking with no result, they’re likely to leave. You can help prevent this by using lighting to highlight key products and marketing messages.
What Are Your Trade Show Exhibit Lighting Options?
There are four main types of tradeshow light that come into play in your booth:
Each of them has a distinct purpose, and specific types of lights are often best used in each category. There are some areas of overlap. For instance, digital signage can fall into both the high-activity, display, and accent categories, depending on how it’s used.
Pro Tip: Light can also be categorized as hard or soft. Knowing the difference between the two is key because each kind of light is best for specific functions.
Hard lighting is bright and high-contrast light that produces sharply outlined shadows and provides dramatic impact. It’s ideal for highlighting objects because it makes them stand out from their surroundings and illuminates fine details and print. However, hard light is unflattering to human skin. It tends to make people appear washed-out, tired, and even unhealthy.
When illuminating objects, go for cool-toned LED lights. These provide the high-contrast light you need to allow people to pick out details, and they’re bright enough to draw the eye from a distance.
Soft lighting is low-contrast diffuse light that produces blurry shadows. It’s much more flattering to human skin, which makes it perfect for spots where people interact. Use soft lighting:
- At your welcome desk or information kiosk
- In your meeting or interview area
- In other spaces where your team interacts with visitors
Warm-toned halogen lights are best for these spaces. They give off soft, gentle light that helps to create a comfortable, relaxing, and welcoming feel.
In general, your tradeshow light layout will use soft lighting across much of your exhibit space. You can then use spotlights and other hard lights to focus high-contrast white light where it’s needed.
1. Ambient Light
This is the “all-over” lighting that gives your booth its baseline level of illumination. At trade shows, your default ambient light is whatever light is used in the exhibit hall. That light is typically emitted overhead by fixtures that may be as high as 30 feet. This means you can’t rely on the ambient light in the exhibit hall to illuminate your booth. If you do, your exhibit may end up looking dark and unwelcoming, which is likely to discourage visitors.
Instead of making do with this ambient light, design a trade show lighting plan that gives your booth its own ambience. This not only improves the look of your display, it can boost your visitor count and help you get your message across effectively.
2. High-Activity Light
Grab and focus attention with high-activity lighting. This kind of exhibit lighting is used to encourage visitors by making your booth visually distinct and interesting. It’s also used to provide spots of bright light for booth activities that you want people to focus on. Some options include:
- Overhead digital signage with a strong backlight can help your booth stand out, even at a distance. For instance, you might have a static display of your company name and logo, or use computerized lighting tech to create a looping light show that flashes your logo, along with other information.
- Highlight your booth’s entry points with warm yellow light to give them a welcoming feel. This can be particularly effective if you have an enclosed booth with a single point of entry.
- Use spotlighting to focus attention on your product demonstration area when you’re actively demonstrating a product. When you’re not doing a demo, switch off the spotlights so that they don’t detract from other important parts of the booth.
3. Display Light
This kind of lighting is used to direct attention to key products and information. Install it wherever you want to accentuate something, such as shelves, cabinets, or pedestals. It’s best to choose white lighting for display lights. This ensures that the light won’t alter the perceived colors of products, logos, and other important details.
- LED spotlights provide bright, hard light that’s ideal for highlighting key products. There are wall, floor, and ceiling-mounted options. When choosing spotlights, think about where shadows from these lights will fall, and how that might affect the display.
- Backlighting is popular for cabinet displays. LED backlights can be used to highlight a product or illuminate a visual message, such as a logo or brand slogan.
- Strip and track lighting can provide a consistent level of light across an entire shelving unit or wall display.
- Recessed lighting is another effective way to highlight wall-mounted shelves and displays.
4. Accent Light
More of a supporting actor than the star, accent light is used to complement your overall tradeshow light plan. Once you’ve decided on how you’ll use ambient, activity, and display lighting, use accent lighting to provide light anywhere else it’s needed.
Accent lighting is more important in large booths than in smaller ones. The larger the booth, the more likely it is that some areas aren’t illuminated by other kinds of lighting. Once you’ve decided where to place high-activity and display lighting, check your plan for spots without added light, or areas where heavy shadows fall. Use soft lights to brighten up these areas.
The Right Exhibit Lighting Can Make the Difference
Hoping for lots of traffic and leads at your next trade show appearance? You can use tradeshow light to not only grab the attention of passersby but focus their attention on your key products and marketing messages. A good lighting plan can be a huge asset to your tradeshow booth and help you achieve your goals for the show.