When I am presenting a seminar, I build some pretty huge displays onstage.
No PowerPoint slide presentations for this girl – nope, I prefer to create real-life displays that can be studied and touched by attendees. (I am also terrified that my computer will go kaput mid-presentation....)Sometimes, I structure my seminars so that I can actually be building the displays 'live' during my presentation – but I tend to get out of breath when I do that! Besides, it requires me to do the unthinkable and actually turn my back on a crowd. Not liking that so much! As I did in Denver, often I'll build displays ahead of time and refer to them as I speak.
However, lest anyone get the idea that designing & creating displays is a completely foolproof, flawless process for me (or anyone else, for that matter), let me show you the design evolution of what I created onstage in Denver.
First, I had to form a concept in my mind. This is the Rocky Mountain region, and this was a gift & resort show. Lots of souvenir & resort products, and Western-style clothing, jewelry, accessories, & décor. So obviously the buyers who would be in my seminar didn't need to see a display that was Shabby Chic style. Make sense? So, I decided to create one display that was a bit more 'primitive country' in style, and one that was 'contemporary' in style. Sort of an 'Old West' meets 'New West' thing. Hopefully, these two styles would resonate with the majority of the buyers in my seminars. I made all of these decisions before I even left Seattle.
Next, I had to think about what kind of merchandise I was going to borrow from exhibitors to build these displays. Along the lines of the styles above, I decided to put colored painted furniture and possibly something from bark or barnwood in the rustic display, and black & polished wood furniture in the contemporary one. I never know what I'll be using until I walk the floor, shop the booths & showrooms, and start visually linking things together. But having a guideline helps me save time while I run breathlessly through a show!
On Friday night, we arrived in Denver, checked into the hotel, and headed straight to the DenverMart. Within one hour of walking two floors of showrooms, I had over a dozen of them agreeing to lend me something for my seminar. The next morning, the most excellent Mr. Deb (my hubby) helped me to gather up those products. Then we hit the temporary booths in two halls, and gathered another dozen products. Once we had them all, and the seminar room was available, we loaded everything inside. Then, I started arranging it onstage. Here is a shot of the first way I set it up:
Here's a great tip for displays: set it up, then photograph it. Look at the photo, instead of at the display itself. Somehow, you see it differently. Kind of like looking in a mirror, it changes your perception. You can critique your work and make adjustments.
Once I saw it through the camera's lens, I decided it was out of balance. It isn't always right the first time out, and that's okay. I asked Mr. Deb what he thought, he made a suggestion, and I moved some things. Yup, much better! Take a look:
Simply by rearranging a few pieces, shifting a bit, balance was restored. The eye goes right where I want it to – right smack into the center of each setup - not wandering off to the sides.
One problem with the 'before' was that the black furniture, the black screen and black coat rack in the right side setup were disappearing into the black background. In order to correct this, I needed something light to add contrast. Well, behind the black curtains, we discovered some round tables with wood tops. We set one up on its side so the wood was visible. By placing this behind the black screen, it makes the outline of the screen pop. It also coordinated with the wood table and brown tones in the display.
You'll notice that the displays angle inward. They lead the eye from high to low, and either left-to-right or right-to-left, depending on which one you are looking at. I built them so that they focused attention to center stage - where I was standing. This is a great way to build two window displays on either side of your store door - make the viewer's eye travel through the display, and land right smack on your entrance door.
Another adjustment was to add a bit of nature to the displays. I 'borrowed' silk greenery from the hallway planters (YES, I put it back!), but it could have easily been bare branches or wheat stalks or a tumbleweed.
Every product in those displays was available for purchase at the show.
(Ok, well, I lie. Obviously not the round table. And not the scarf, hat, jewelry, and gloves, which were mine. And the wine glasses and white china were - ahem – borrowed from catering. I think they kept wondering where all the coffee cups were disappearing to...) Using products from exhibitors gave me the opportunity to not only share great ideas, information, & inspiration about display, but to show these buyers some great products and send their business to the exhibitors. A win-win-win for everyone.
And after the seminars, when Mr. Deb and I returned all of the products to exhibitors, we heard rave reviews from everyone – how many people had rushed to their booths & showrooms, saying 'I saw this thing in a seminar and I want to order five of them!' (That stone cross from EagleNest was apparently 'the' hot item. The showroom owner said I created a firestorm!)
Like I always say, show 'em how to make it look stellar, and they'll beat a path to your door!
Next post, I'll focus on one side of the display and point out a few more things….