If the bulk of communication is non-verbal and done in the first 7 seconds, then eye-tracking research has the power to give us a lot of useful lessons . It has yielded valuable insight when designing for Point-of sale, Web pages, Publishing and Visual Merchandising. Why not apply the valuable common sense rules of engagement observed through eye-tracking research when designing your next event backdrop, stall, POS display or exhibition stand? What is it? Eye-tracking research has been used to observe human behaviour as we interact with our environment. It has been used to capture the movements, line of sight and length of gaze on a particular object/ display as a person moves through a venue, exhibition or a shop display. In short it can give you a heads up on how your audience steers itself, their default direction, what and how they see along the way, the nature of their attention levels and our ability to be distracted. Here’s a clip on how it works [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YJrTewRNpM[/youtube] Why Use it? You want more sales leads right? Make it easier for your audience to do the following with a glimpse: Comprehend your information Navigate quickly Hold their attention Remember more Feel Satisfied It also teaches us What NOT to do when setting up displays, so helps us remove the obstacles to grabbing someone’s attention. Insights gained from Eye-tracking reinforce what we already know intuitively. When creating a display or exhibit bear in mind the following: Less is More. What is Essential? Is that graphic, object or piece of Text merely Decorative or is it Pointless and would empty space be more effective? Does your Signage clearly say who you are from a distance and is central? Is that graphic actively related to the Content you are presenting or is it just covering space? Keep it simple. Empty Space vs. Clutter . Make it easy for someone to focus. This means avoiding clutter. This is why white spaces in galleries work so well. The void around an object is just as useful as the object or text you are displaying. It allows your eyes to focus readily on one item. Throw too much stuff on show in a small space and nothing gets seen. Make it clear. Line of sight: a more open stand of displays attract more attention. If the structure is not open plan – does it provide relevant cues on what you do when visitors are approaching from different angles. Keep their attention. If presenting Text in your displays, make it is easy to read using short sentences and bullet points with plenty of empty space in between. If setting up a series of visual displays, make sure there is plenty of room, no obstacles and clear cues guiding the visitor from one object or station to another. Make it easy to Scan & Navigate. Connection and Empathy: Does the Graphic or Photo actually matter to your audience? Does the Photo show someone engaging actively with the passer-by? People respond more to informative photos of models, who look approachable, smiling into the camera. Do they look like real users actively doing something that is related to your product or just posing with an object in hand. The Art of Distraction: Make distraction work for you. Place the wacky, irreverent, unexpected, quirky and colourful eye catching object or visual up front and use it to draw your audience to the mundane but more informative & useful presentation inside. Dissonance is memorable. Use simple big text in an unusual space and it might make the passer by do a second take. Placing something in the “Wrong” place captures attention. If something is upside down, overblown, or dislocated we will backtrack and look closer no? 2D attraction: Icons are better than Text. A picture is worth a thousand words. Large text is more attractive & memorable than small text. 3D attraction: Using the 5 senses. We actually pay more attention if the displays and samples are irresistibly tactile, give off an inviting aroma, sound relaxing or appeal to our other non visual senses. Do your samples look easy to access without assistance or are they out of reach and don’t invite interaction? Having fun samples or unusual textures. 4D attraction: Think Motion. Moving active displays will be the first thing people see. Think Lizard Brain and that Tyrannasaurus Rex in Jurassic Park that could only see by movement. Examples include a multi media display on a Flat screen, projection or a moving device. Human Interaction : Do your event staff look approachable, busy, mobile and are they smiling? Do they make it easy for someone to walk up or do they form natural obstacles in themselves by using being static, defensive body language, avoiding eye contact and speaking amongst themselves in a huddle. I knew an exhibitor in a furniture exhibition who would open and close cabinet drawers and doors just to make himself mobile, and his products appear more functional. Know Thyself It would be easy to say most of us know all this intuitively. It reads like perceived wisdom and common sense. The thing is, a successful application of these insights still depends on how well you know your product and customer. Your industry, the environment you are operating in, the other exhibits and displays around you. (No point copying what everyone else is doing), the audience you are addressing (What turns them on), the product or service you are displaying, etc.. all these colour how you apply these valuable lessons. Somehow I doubt it’s an exhaustive list and I am sure as more research takes place, more pointers will be brought to light. What have you learnt about attractive event displays on the ground and have you some sure fire tried and tested techniques in your events? Share your thoughts on what works for you.