During my international experience I have exhibited at trade shows in the USA, Europe, Middle East and Far East. Whilst the cultures and the business environment may differ, I have found the fundamentals of mounting a good display stand remain the same whatever the local situation. In this short article I will literally concentrate on the stand itself and the people who man it.
I believe the main purpose of your stand is to differentiate your company from competitors and attract attention quickly. Regardless of the stand’s size and location, visitors should be able to immediately recognise your company’s name and logo; your company’s products and/or services; how the company can solve their problems.
These are brief messages in appropriate languages. The more product ranges you have the greater the temptation to display all. This will only confuse – concentrate on the main seller or new offering.
Additionally the stand should be information driven through having the right combination of lighting, open space and graphic presentation. The ‘look’ should reflect your key communication message in all promotional & support material. The name of the game is to attract casual passerby’s to your stand. Remember at most international events there are hundreds of exhibitors all trying to attract visitors, many of whom only come for the day.
However before designing and setting up a stand, the most critical element is its location. Every expert will say ‘location, location, location’ You can have designed the best stand but if it is in the wrong site then arguably it will not be worth exhibiting. Technically there are many considerations such as
· Most visitors walk to the right on entering an exhibition hall and miss the front exhibits
· Corner locations draw traffic from two directions
· Visitors miss dead-end aisles
· Spaces near exits, toilets and food areas are high traffic but not necessarily good selling positions
· Spaces by freight/lift doors are usually congested
· Structures such as columns can obstruct the visibility
· Locating near competition is not generally beneficial as they can view who visits your stand
· Locating close to complementary products can encourage cross-selling opportunities
As a newcomer to any show, prime positions will already have been booked so I always invested time to continually consult with the show organisers to seek upgrading my location. For some international shows the requirement was to demonstrate a commitment by contributing to ancillary activities such as the show catalogue, on-site display features or social events. I always made sure that before I left a show at its conclusion I would meet in person with the organisers to negotiate next year’s site.
· Having established the best location available, I considered whether to rent or build a stand. As a first time exhibitor, I rented to gain practical experience of both the show, the type of stand and the dynamics of working with visitors.
If, at later stage, I decided to create a custom-built stand I could be more objective in its design. Critical features to consider will be the adaptability, versatility and suitability of the bespoke stand to different trade environments and its ability to be transported & shipped. You will need to consider the stand’s comfort in terms of working space, storage & display of materials and floor coverings ensuring it is carpeted. Any demonstration area must be able to handle at least two visitors at a time
· Most important of all, the stand must appeal to the target audience by having appropriate displays i.e. for a target of computer technicians they will expect computers running interactive programmes
· As appropriate, attention getting techniques should be employed such as revolving pictures or running signs. I have found that as a general rule 60% of the stand border should be open so allowing easy access
In the early stages of my exhibiting experience we could only afford a comparatively small stand so exposure was limited even in reasonably good locations. I had to make the best of what I had so employed a number of techniques to raise visibility to the passer-by such as:
- Using lighting appropriately as it can increase awareness by up to 40%
- Keeping the displays simple, feature only one to two products
- Using bold colours
- Using fewer but larger graphics
- Using flowchart graphics and designs to depict product solutions
- Being proportionate, reception counters and other non-productive sales items will clutter space
A sometimes overlooked matter id the staffing of the stand – selection of the right personnel and in the right numbers. I recall once visiting a company stand (not my responsibility!) at a European show where it seemed to me the world and his wife was attending. It appeared traditionally all of the company’s country sales employees would attend plus any associated company personnel. It was a mini United Nations, highly chaotic, disorganised and expensive,
· It is recognised that staff will account for 85% of the show’s success, however not all staff are suitable as they will be working a different environment. Key characteristics are for people who are open, warm and friendly; who can talk comfortably to strangers and be good listeners. You certainly need to ensure you include some decision takers. If you know the show will attract buying teams, rather than individuals, ensure your team is staffed with a mix of expertise. A general guide for staffing levels is one per 50 square feet of public exhibit area.
Then finally one of the most overlooked elements of good exhibiting, You may the best stand and location but nobody knows you are there. I spent a good deal of time ensuring existing customers and other interested parties were aware of our presence well in advance of the event. The full list could include existing customers, potential customer, new leads, suppliers, current or potential agents or distributors, media and trade and industry personnel.
There is much planning and thought to be applied if one is to maximise the investment in exhibiting. If one can spare the time walk around the show with a critical eye and rate each exhibit in terms of location, attractiveness and accessibility. You will be no doubt surprised as to how many fail the test.