A barista pouring a drink at Shepard's Expo! Expo! coffee bar

Brewing Up Connections Through Experiential Design at Expo! Expo!

While we’re still buzzing from all the excitement of this year’s Expo! Expo!, we thought we’d take this opportunity to spill some post-show insights. In this article we take a look at what worked and why, and how it all aligns with the principles of solid experiential design. 

The International Association of Exhibitions and Events’ annual Expo! Expo! is a chance for event industry professionals to gather, share insights, see what’s new, and make connections. For us it was an opportunity to showcase some crowd pleasers from our event production toolkit.  

Taking a page from our past wins with shows like ServiceTitan’s Pantheon and ONS Congress, our booth at Expo! Expo! booth demonstrated our knack for thinking outside the box and making an impact, even within the confines of a 20×20 space. 

We also wanted folks to enjoy themselves and have a meaningful experience, so we provided espresso drinks along with a fun activation geared toward giving back. Here are a few key takeaways from the experience. 

Provide a Sensory Experience to Brew Up Connections 

One way we drew attendees into our booth was by anchoring our networking space with a coffee bar and the promise of a caffeinated brew. Framed by flora and attended by a barista in a laid back Hawaiian shirt, the coffee bar design played into our booth theme, Another Day In Paradise. The maple bourbon lattes and peppermint mochas we served in Shepard-branded cups not only delighted our guests but also stirred up engaging conversations. Because nothing sparks a dialogue like a well-brewed caffeinated beverage.

Bring Space to Life with Greenery and Textures 

The entrance to the booth with an LED display in the center

Our use of greenery served as an organic, textural complement to our digital displays, encouraging visitors to pause, slow down, and enjoy the experience. Visitors could enter the booth through a green archway, lush with vegetation and proudly displaying the Shepard logo backlit by LED lights, or pose for a photo against a green wall backdrop. Along the booth’s edges, strategically placed potted plants defined the space with a natural flourish. 

Speaking of textures, we used a mix of textures to create a warm, complementary look and feel. The blond wood grains of the pergola — another subtle nod to the beachy theme — the flooring, and wicker lamp shades added warm touches. These elements blended harmoniously with the smooth white structural walls of the arch and the greenery. 

A dog petting activation in the Zen Den section of ONS Congress 2023

Exploring Further

In 2023 we embraced greenery both for its aesthetic value as texture and for its utility as a way to define a space in an approachable way. Earlier this year we saw greenery put to great use at ONS Congress’s Zen Den, a space for relaxation and rejuvenation. Explore Revitalizing ONS, a case study in wellness-minded conference design, to learn more.

Capture Shareable Moments with a Photo Opp Backdrop 

We’ve seen photo backdrops drive a lot of brand engagement at the shows we’ve produced this year, so we had to try it ourselves. Once again, we leveraged greenery to pull this off. A lush green wall at the back of the booth provided a backdrop for a visually appealing and social-media friendly photo opportunity. For those inclined to associate their Expo! Expo! experience with our brand, we placed an LED-lit Shepard logo and our theme messaging above head height.

A green wall photo backdrop with the booth theme ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE and the company logo above it

Minimalist Design: Less Can Still Be More

Compelling design need not be cluttered to be inviting, visually appealing, and filled with engagement opportunities. Our booth eschewed conventional walls, opting for an open layout that subtly defined the space without imposing hard barriers. Take the pergola, for instance—on-theme, textured, and crafted with horizontal wooden slats, it provided definition while preserving the airy ambiance.

Product Plaza at ServiceTitan's Pantheon 2023
Product Plaza at ServiceTitan’s Pantheon 2023

Exploring Further

We took a similar approach at ServiceTitan’s Pantheon, where an industrial, modern, and minimalist aesthetic prevailed. Showfloor structures made of repurposed metal grid components arranged at angles evocative of mountain peaks replaced traditional fabric walls. The result? Universal acclaim, with exhibitors requesting the same treatment, leading to a 100% custom-built show floor. For more details, see BizBash’s coverage of the show here.

Fuse Fun and Purpose with a Give Back Activation 

This year we offered an activation where visitors could scratch off branded scratch-off tickets to reveal a dollar value. These ‘winnings’ were then donated to five nonprofits selected by our associates. 

The scratch-off activation perfectly blended the fun of chance games with the sense of purpose that comes with contributing to worthy causes. Through this activation, we raised $ for the Wounded Warrior Project, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Make-a-Wish Foundation, Best Friends Animal Society, and St Jude

An attendee scratching off a branded scratch-off game for charity

Deliver Content and Learning Opportunities with Digital Kiosks 

We used digital kiosks and LED walls to showcase our services and educate attendees in a dynamic way that wouldn’t have been possible using printed banners and signs.  

With LED kiosks flanking the booth, we were able to share more content than just one static image, and visitors could choose what they wanted to learn more about or engage with. At the heart of the booth we installed a large LED wall that played a sizzle reel on a loop. At then entrance/exit, a smaller LED display invited visitors to scan a QR code to find us on LinkedIn, and keep the connections going after the show. 

In our experience, the benefits to using interactive digital displays extends to deeper engagement and an expanded repertoire of ways to engage and educate, from gamification to surveys and more. 

The entrance to the booth with an LED display in the center
An LED display at Shepard's Expo! Expo! booth showing the company's logo and "Experience more with Shepard"
Expo! Expo! booth entrance

In-Booth Educational Opportunities 

When you think of educational opportunities at trade shows and conferences, chances are you think of podium presentations and the like. Industry studies actually show that a high percentage of attendees are interested in in-booth learning opportunities too. We used LED walls to encourage visitors to learn more about our company. We’ve seen exhibitors have success with more interactive content as well. 

Put Yourself in the Shoes of Your Attendee 

In the world of experiential design, empathy and anticipating the visitor’s experience is the guiding force that shapes every decision, from the choice of colors and textures to the arrangement of elements. It’s about creating an environment that not only appeals to the visual sense but resonates with the whole person—a place that invites play and a sense of community. 

So, as you’re planning your next booth experience, be sure to ask yourself a simple question: ‘Would I be drawn to the experience I am creating?’ If the answer is yes, there’s a good chance others will enjoy it too. 

Final Thoughts 

Our presence at Expo! Expo! wasn’t just a place for us to tout our services; it was an embodiment of strategic engagement through experiential design. From the coffee bar to the scratch-off activation, each feature played a part in making our booth a vibrant hub of industry chatter and, dare we say, a dash of coffee-fueled fun. 

Shepard associates posing under the green arch at the Expo! Expo! booth

Shepard is a full-service event production company. We design, develop and manage trade shows, corporate and other events throughout the U.S.