In the world of exhibitions, industry expos and trade shows, only the strongest survive

Admittedly, this analogy is somewhat sensationalised…but, if brands choose to pretend that this isn’t the reality of things, then they are setting themselves up to be left behind. 

At exhibitions of all types, there can be any number of competitors all battling against one another for the attention of visitors. So how do exhibitors make sure that the time, money and resources they invest in showcasing their business isn’t wasted? 

The answer to this all-important question can be found in one place – the exhibition stand. 

Having worked as an exhibitor and industry supplier for over three decades, I’ve had countless opportunities to observe which elements of an exhibition stand are most effective at turning heads and sparking conversations. And so, this article represents my reflections on these experiences by listing some of the tricks of the trade I’ve picked up in the last thirty years. 

1. Objectives.

Before designing any kind of exhibition stand, counter or booth it is crucial that you consider what you or your client hopes to achieve from exhibiting.  

  • Is the aim to launch a new product? 

  • Do you want to gain as many new leads as possible?  

  • Are you planning to host industry-specific seminars for large audiences of attendees? 

A clear, communicable understanding of what goal your stand is helping you reach should inform every design decision. Whether it’s in relation to the overall aesthetic of the stand, its layout, seating provisions, reconfigurability, product displays…the list goes on. Goal-orientated designs are best equipped to deliver the desired results when it matters most. 

Plan Within Parameters. 

Sure, we’ve all heard the line “failing to prepare is preparing to fail”. But, experience has shown me that this definitely rings true when it comes to exhibition stands. 

Based on the ultimate objective you’re seeking to achieve by exhibiting, you will be able to specify that your stand has particular features and functionalities. For example, if your business wants to generate new leads by offering one-on-one conversations between your staff and the show’s attendees then it’s essential that you have sufficient space to facilitate these.  

  • Do you need separate, product-specific areas within your stand to deliver more personalised interactions?  

  • Do you want to provide a relaxed seating environment to make visitors feel at ease?  

  • How much money are you willing to spend on your stand?  

Answering these questions will ensure that you plan an exhibition space that is fit for purpose whilst offering cost-effective sales generation. 

Audience. 

Different exhibitions have different audiences, and each of these audiences has different preferences based on the sector in which it works, its age range, its reasons for attending the show and so on. It’s vital to consider what your audience (or, if you’re a trade-user, your client’s audience) will respond to best.  

  • Will they be most likely to engage with a corporate, formal aesthetic or will they be more drawn to a fun, interactive atmosphere? 

  • Are attendees going to want a complementary drink or a place to sit down and rest their feet? 

  • Will bright, vibrant colours catch your audience’s eye or will they be attracted to a more relaxed and elegant design scheme? 

Understanding the preferences of your audience means that you can specify design elements, lighting features, merchandising systems and demonstration areas to suit. 

Type. 

Exhibition stands come in all shapes and sizes…some of which are better suited to particular types of shows. Here are the main formats and the applications in which they are most effective. 

Pop Up Stands 

These perform well at busy trade shows where space and installation time are both limited. Being lightweight, compact and easy to assemble, pop-up stands are one of the simplest yet effective options for exhibitors of all types. They can be transported between events and are an incredibly cost-effective way in which to display branded graphic panels, products and information. 

Modular Stands 

These are formed from a number of separate modular elements that connect together and allow users to build an infinite array of impressive displays. One of the key benefits of modular system is its inherent reconfigurability, a feature which means stands can be re-used at multiple different exhibitions. As well as making them excellent value for money, the fact that they can be re-purposed for any number of applications means that they are an incredibly environmentally-friendly option (a benefit which is enhanced even further when the modular framework is manufactured from aluminium…one of the world’s most readily-recyclable materials)! 

Bespoke Stands 

These are designed, engineered and built according to client-specific requirements. Everything from the shape, size, flooring, storage areas, integrated display systems, lighting, seating, colours, textures…you name it, a bespoke exhibition stand can meet your individual preferences.  

Though they are more costly than off-the-shelf alternatives, bespoke stands are definitely the best way to ‘stand-out’ from the crowd and maximise brand visibility in a busy exhibition hall. With aesthetic flourishes and added functionalities, custom stands are equipped to make an impact on attendees that they will remember long after the exhibition has ended. 

Return on Investment. 

Ultimately, the upfront cost of exhibition equipment is not the most important factor to consider. We learn the true value of a stand when measuring its return on investment. For example… 

  • How many sales leads has it generated? 

  • Can the stand be supported with digital marketing campaigns? 

  • Are you able to repurpose the stand year-on-year at different exhibitions, events or trade shows? 

  • Has it been nominated for (or won) any awards? 

  • Under the UK government’s new scheme, how tax-efficient is your stand? 

Exhibitions may only last for a few days, but your brand exists before, during, and after the main event. It’s therefore crucial that your stand is able to add real value to your business’s long-term growth strategies and sit in harmony with its overall mission and values.