Designing a Trade Show Demo

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Many of us have experienced the giddy anticipation or the foreboding dread of having to do a presentation. No matter which side of the spectrum you fall on, it is still imperative that your presentation looks good and speaks for itself. As Digilent attends a number of trade shows and conferences every year, such as NI Week, I decided to take a look at and share how we at Digilent prepare our own demos for an engaging experience.

I am personally of the belief that aesthetics is key to any presentation. Although this may seem shallow, it has been my experience that clean, eye-catching, and well put together displays are far more likely to interest a person to take a second look than a presentation with content but no finesse.

So what makes something eye-catching? There are two things that I have noticed: moving objects and colorful objects. Superficial as this is, how many times do we catch ourselves glancing at a TV when we are in conversation with somebody else? This is an effect that we would like to achieve – being so awesome that people cannot help but just come over to check out what we have available.

Showing off the Jousting Robots demo in the Aademic Forum at NI Week 2015. Courtesy of the Digilent Instagram.

Take the Jousting Robots as an example. The two champions are squaring off on either side of their synthetic green battlefield raised up on a PVC platform, just waiting for the opportunity to rush forward and skewer their opponent’s force sensor with their lance. Personally, I am already familiar with this particular demo, yet after reading the description I wrote, I find myself inclined to take a second look (so to speak) and learn some more about these knights. By displaying a variety of colors and setting it off to the side from the main table so that it is not in line, both visually and physically, with other demonstrations on the booths lining the show floor, this inevitably offers a point of contrast which draws people’s eyes and attention.

The Snake Game at Digilent’s booth in the Academic Forum at NI Week 2015. Courtesy of the Digilent Facebook page.

Or perhaps the Snake Game. This particular demo has seen quite a bit of use from a variety of audiences including ECEDHA, Maker Faire, NI Week, and of course, co-workers here at Digilent. The impressive 900 LED array causes it to literally stand out, even among our own demonstrations, and “self invite” people to come and play the game.

But just having eye-catching or otherwise enticing parts of your presentation isn’t enough. In the end, everything needs to tie back to the main reason why you are presenting in the first place. Knowing how each of the projects work, both eye-catching and the ones with a more subtle beauty, and how they integrate and promote your mission. For Digilent this year, that was “Learn, Make, and Teach Electronics”.

Learn, make, and teach electronics. Courtesy of the Digilent Facebook page.

Do you have any tricks that you like to use when preparing for a presentation?

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About James Colvin

The biggest thing that I enjoy is learning new things. Especially things involving some type of technology; computer components, fun gadgets, games, coding techniques, etc. I love spending time with my wife and our two sons and hanging out with our friends. During my normal work day, I manage the Digilent Forum and the North American Support team.

View all posts by James Colvin →

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