Creating tradeshow displays is one of the toughest challenges that creative firms face. But if done right, they can be showstoppers. Here's why they are so tough—and what you can do to make them work.

Tradeshows are mazes. People come in, get lost, spin around and (with a little luck) find what they are looking for (mostly, cool free stuff!).

A bird's-eye view of a tradeshow looks a lot like a grocery store, except instead of shelves and cereal boxes there are aisles and tradeshow displays. Your goal is to get the right people to stop and look at your "cereal box."

Think about the last show you attended. How many of the displays stick in your mind? How many stopped you, or at least slowed you down? Not many? OK, follow these rules and make it happen.

Rule #1: Tradeshow Displays Don't Sell Stuff

A common misconception is that tradeshow displays sell stuff. They don't. The job of the display is to make people stop so that you can sell stuff. If you're counting on the display to do your job, you're asking it to do the wrong thing.

No big explanation here. Just remember that the only job of the display is to be a stop sign, or at least a speed bump.

Rule #2: Sucker Punches Work

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Jared McCarthy is the proprietor of McCarthy Creative. For more information, visit