Committing to an exhibition can prove demanding on resources, finances and time, with planning likely to begin at least six months in advance due to the possible requirements for new literature, hospitality, product launches, staffing arrangements, etc. Needless to say, efficient preparation is as vital to success as the stand design itself.
In their article 'Planning for Your Exhibition Stands Post COVID', specialist construction industry stand designers, Holdsworth Designs, draw on their experience of constructing stands for many leading building product suppliers to lay out their thoughts on successful preparation. The comprehensive guide provides information on areas such as identifying your marketing goals, selecting the best location, staffing, and how to select the right designer/contractor. Separately, Holdsworth Designs' blog post entitled 'Finishing Touches on an Exhibition Stand – how important are they for you?' urges exhibitors to think as much about the finishing touches as about the design itself. Careful attention to areas such as cabling, storage, AV, graphics positioning, floor trims, etc., are all likely to contribute to the overall effectiveness of the stand.
Needless to say, when undertaken correctly, exhibiting can prove highly effective in reaching specifiers, consultants and contractors. In their article entitled '5 Reasons Why Exhibitions Are Great For Businesses', specialist stand designers ISOframe point out that "...trade shows provide the perfect opportunity for smaller companies to show they can match the expertise of their larger competitors by placing them in the same room..."
Visiting trade shows is a very useful way to gain ideas and tips. Rick Osman of the agency Highwire has undertaken a number of exhibition ‘walkabouts’ at selected construction trade events to help current and potential exhibitors make the most of exhibiting at trade shows by thinking about pertinent issues such as:
- The different opportunities available from either shell scheme or space only accommodation.
- Ideas for differentiating your stand from another and designing out the ‘shell scheme-ness’ of a stand.
- The use of moving exhibits and interactive media to attract attention.
- How stand design can help invite people on and how it can also create a ‘fortress’ effect that could have the opposite effect.
- How to make sure the sign messages are totally clear: is the company name instantly visible?
- Is the product or service easy to see and understand quickly?
- The clear use of text on posters and signs – how big should it be? Can it be seen from the aisle? Will it grab visitor’s attention? Will they grasp the message in the time they take to pass by? How high up and how low down should poster/banner text be? How can back-lit images help?
- Collecting random business cards - is this worthwhile? Are most of the visitors to a specific exhibition going to be potential clients, or are they too general to be useful? Can a prize draw help?
- The importance and accessibility of brochures and leaflets and the need to monitor stock levels throughout an event.
- Facilities for, and management of, stand staff: policies for eating and drinking, the benefits of designing-in storage facilities for bags and coats.
- The use of videos and Powerpoint type presentations – how long should they be? Should they be audible? Where on the stand should they be placed? Will its position be blocked by staff or visitors?
- The importance of a stand’s location within an exhibition.
Once the decision to exhibit has been made, designing and constructing the stand will require equal care and attention.
As stated above, committing to an exhibition can prove demanding on resources, finances and time, and careful planning and consideration is required if a successful return on the investment is to be achieved. In their blog article entitled 'Calculating the ROI of Construction Trade Shows', SpecifiedBy provides some food for thought by attempting to clarify what defines successful exhibiting. This is a personal take based on their own attendances and exhibiting experiences and it includes a basic formula designed to calculate the cost of lead generation in order that comparisons can be made with other promotional activities.
Further support and information on getting the most from exhibiting is available from the specialist agency Facetime, which is an initiative created by the Association of Exhibition Organisers to provide marketers with guides, training and expert help in achieving the most from exhibiting. Their website provides many free guides, research, webinars and videos.
For companies considering international exhibitions, a useful resource is the article published by the US magazine, Exhibitor, entitled ‘Four Steps to Foreign Exhibiting’. This covers subjects such as travelling, shipping, currencies, stand-building, and staffing, and includes a checklist at the end of the article.
Note: Construct UK has also compiled a list of specialist exhibition stand designers and contractors which can be viewed here, whilst our updated index of 280+ UK Construction Industry Exhibitions is available here.