Creating an Exhibition Stand

Ideal Home Show Set Up 2Following my experience of exhibiting at the Ideal Home Show at the SECC Glasgow recently, I now can officially say that exhibiting is not that easy. From the dramas of squeezing everything into a vehicle the night before, taking time away from your place of work, organising staff or helpers and remembering the velcro (or not in our case), to sorting out everything on the home front before you take off, you are guaranteed to be exhausted even before the show starts.

So much time and energy goes into the initial decision making, the planning, the financing, product development, the execution and then the running. What, on the surface, is 4 days, is actually 6 months in the planning.

Plan

Stand 5

Staging your stand has to be eye catching, interesting & relevant. Like any presentation, knowing your audience is key. Are you trying to educate, inform, inspire or sell?  Understanding your goals and deciding on an approach beforehand should maximise the opportunity for success.

Theming your stand might be a good way to develop the overall concept. For example, do you have a set product line you are wanting to promote? Staging it around a theme that relates and can tell a story to those passing by is one way. Deciding on a colour theme, an era or a style is another. Whatever the theme, does it support your message? In this case, our theme related to the Ideal Home Show… What is your ideal home? We wanted to present the HOME of HARMONY to reinforce our branding awareness. This is why we utilised our company colours. We didn’t want to produce any one particular home interior style, as we wanted to encourage people to chat to us about what they particularly like and want in their ideal home.

Acknowledging your business or company branding is also a very good way to ensure that your audience knows who they are dealing with. If you utilise your logo and business branding, then check that it is consistent in font, style, colour & wording. It will reflect you and this needs to be in a positive way. It is very easy for us all, who are close to the business, to overlook errors, so a good tip is to have someone check & edit anything and everything that is getting printed.

Flyer

Supporting promotional material, such as flyers, business cards and give-a-ways, should be considered carefully. Again, what is your message, what are the benefits, what is your budget and how much do you think you need? Trying to work out that magic number, so there isn’t wastage or that don’t you run out, is never easy. Keeping your material generic so it can be used again in the future, is probably the most cost effective decision. Sometimes, you have a very specific message or promotion being showcased at the exhibition. In this case, you will just have to accept that there may be wastage at the end so budget accordingly.  In our case, we created a specific flyer, which followed our marketing theme of two ads preceding the show.  The Yellow Door was to create recognition. We felt that if someone saw one of the ads, then saw our stand, they would recognise us and perhaps engage.  We also advertised in the Show Guide, using the Yellow Door as a way for people to spot us on their way around the show.

Did all this effort have the desired affect?  It certainly drew attention on the day. It provided continuity in our marketing strategy.  It’s the type of thing that is not easily measured immediately.  Only time will tell.  However, our message wasn’t diluted in any way. We were promoting ourselves as a bespoke design service that was there to chat about design & colour solutions.

Stand 6

Standing out is probably the reason you are exhibiting in the first instance. To make your business stand out, ask yourself what do you need to do? If it is the first time exhibiting then perhaps having a very unique look is one way to be noticed. Colours and the way you actually display product can draw attention to the stand but then you have to back it up with something of substance. Perhaps the product sells itself, so support the look to showcase the product at its best. If you exhibit regularly and you rely on your audience to find you through familiarity & loyalty, then consider something a little interesting and different each time to spark renewed interest, whilst keeping the core look consistent.

Making your stand understood at a glance has its pros & cons. If they already know everything, then why do they need to stop? Having a point of interest where a question comes to mind, might just encourage engagement. However, if it is too complicated and too difficult for people to quickly understand, they may just pass by because they feel they would have to engage for too long to gather an explanation.

TOP TIPS:

  • Sometimes the simple ideas are the best.
  • Decide on whether it is a stand that you build from scratch or a shell scheme. This will depend upon your budget and what you are exhibiting.
  • Create a floor plan of the stand space and allocate where your stand items will fit. Then design the back drop to work in and around. No point covering up your back drop and something important with furniture.
  • Think about lighting and make sure you have enough to spot light the areas you wish people to notice. This is usually an add on and can be expensive, so budget for it.  Ask for the power box to be installed in a discreet area (usually at the front opening) where it will not interfere with your stand panels or walls.
  • Think about ambient lighting to create an atmosphere if needed.
  • Consider the colours you’re using and ensure they are of the same tonal family and complement the product or service you are promoting.
  • What flooring will look best for your stand & display of product?  Does it need to be dressed up?  If not installing bespoke flooring, perhaps a rug will add the necessary finishing touch and create the right look over the top of the general carpeting supplied to all.
  • If you’re hanging product or signage that you want people to be able to see, then don’t hang it too high.  If you want people to come onto the stand and interact, there needs to be room to do so.
  • How will you hang your items or affix them to the wall?  Create a method & plan before you get to set up stage. Know your shell scheme & how it is works, so you can use it to support your staging.
  • Anything you can do ahead of time and just implement to the stand on the day of set up makes life a lot easier.
  • Allocate enough time to pack your vehicle ahead of the event to ensure you can run through and check you have all that you need. We couldn’t fit a piece of furniture in, so we had 3 choices – do without, hire a bigger vehicle last minute or obtain the item at the other end. We purchased the additional piece in Glasgow and hired a bigger vehicle for the return trip at the end.
  • Look at vehicle suitability. Will it delivery everything you need? Do you need to hire someone to help? Having a trolley or ways of transporting your things from the vehicle to the hall is very helpful, as you may have to carry items some distance.
  • Pack boxes in a logical way that helps you set up. You don’t have much room to move around it when everyone is there at the same time and around you the common walkways are still being carpeted etc.
  • Have a tool kit with pliers, hammer, screwdriver, velcro (both sides), scissors, string, hooks, masking tape, packing tape, blue tack, thumb tacks & batteries…  You might need some portable steps!
  • Pack a snack & water bottle to keep your energy up!
  • Try to book accommodation close by. The days are long and eliminating the need to travel is well worth the added expense. You will be able to front up to the next day fresh and with energy.
  • Ensure you have back up help to run the stand. You will need a comfort break at the very least.
  • Allocate some time to take a look around the exhibition and introduce yourself to the other exhibitors. It’s a great opportunity to network.
  • Check all your documentation from the exhibition organisers to ensure that all the details they have are correct and you have met all your obligations.  If you have any problems, look for the organiser’s office for them to help rectify any issues.

Stand 4Now, you have your concept. Your stand is constructed. You have all your supporting material. You have helpers. You have a clear strategy of what you hope to achieve. You just need the people.

They arrive and they are on their own agenda. All you can now do is step out of the stand, smile, introduce yourself, hand out materials and engage. What will be will be! Follow up on any promises or leads as soon possible after the show, is the final tip.

Exhibiting is not for every business or person. It is not always going to benefit you and it can be expensive. If you commit to an exhibition, then take the time to plan well and decide on what it is you are trying to say.  GOOD LUCK!

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