On any given year at the SXSW Trade Show, you might see everything from giant robotic arms to stroopwafel-making demonstrations to virtual fish tanks. The show brings together more than 250 exhibitors from a huge swath of industries every March. So every exhibitor has some stiff competition, which means that it takes a lot of hard work and planning to stand out from the pack.

The same rule holds true for any conference where you exhibit: a dedication to quality presentation delivers quality results. A booth that offers up strong visuals, multiple ways to interact with your brand, and useful take-home information will generate far more leads than something you just threw together.

I'm writing this article a few days into this year's annual SXSW Trade Show, and it's bigger and better than ever. So in the spirit of the season, I'd like to share types of conference collateral that will make your booth engaging, exciting, and memorable.

A Custom-Designed Booth

This one may seem to go without saying, but you wouldn't believe how many booths I've seen with backdrops or signage that wasn't properly sized for the space, or with limited ways to learn about the exhibiting company. The collateral you design for your booth should not only be custom-made for the space you have -- it should transform that space into something that makes people want to stop and say hello.

To plan your design, ask yourself what your elevator pitch will be, and how your booth can represent that pitch visually. Your booth should visually communicate who you are and what you do without viewers having to read a word. Humans process visuals much faster than text: our eyes register an astounding 36,000 visual messages per hour. Compare that to reading speed: we can only read an average of about 250 words per minute, totaling 15,000 words per hour -- and one picture contains a lot more information than one word.

In short, you'll catch their attention much more easily with great visuals than with a text-based sign explaining what you do. So focus on a powerful, visually driven design for your booth first and foremost.

Videos and Motion Graphics

Many visitors to your booth may want to browse first before talking to a representative from your company. And that makes sense -- how can they know if they want to talk to you when they don't even know what your business has to offer yet?

That's why you need to give them multiple ways to learn more about you. A video or motion graphic is a great option. Have an explainer video that gets to the fundamentals of what your company does -- and shows off some of your best work -- running on a loop.

Just remember, in a loud trade show hall, they won't be able to hear a voiceover very well, if at all. So ensure that your video or motion graphic shows all the information you need them to know on-screen -- without being text-heavy.

There are a few ways to achieve this. If you have great live-action video footage, consider overlaying animation, graphs, and labels onto this video to provide supplemental information. If your brand doesn't lend itself well to live-action video, you can opt for a fully animated motion graphic. Animation can deliver metaphorical or abstract representation of complex topics, or visualize things that are difficult to film, like distant galaxies or particle collisions.  

Interactive Stations

Help visitors learn more about what your company can do for them by setting up a screen with an interactive questionnaire where they can learn which of your products is best for them. Augmented reality interactions, too, are a great option. Make it possible for visitors to overlay information, stats, and graphs related to your company onto parts of your booth using just their smartphone cameras. It's sure to be a memorable interaction.

Virtual-reality headsets offer a way for visitors to experience your offerings firsthand. If you're a travel company, share your most popular destinations. If you're a retailer, empower them to interact with your products inside the VR space.

Handouts and Swag

Finally, don't discount the power of print materials and handouts. These will leave visitors with a way to remember your company.

You can opt for a well-designed brochure or postcard. Or you can go for something more unusual -- kits with specially designed toys, office supplies, and more. Just remember, everything you hand out should be well made and visually impressive. This may be the most lasting impression you'll make.

Opt for these four essential types of conference collateral, and you're sure to see a boost in leads at your next trade show.