This article was written by Andy Hickinbotham, Sales Director of Sovereign Exhibitions, a privately owned company in the events industry. The majority of its business is focused on exhibition stand design and build, but it is also heavily involved in museum fit-out, live-events and more. Sovereign is a full member of the Event Supplier & Services Association, The Museums Association and is COI approved.
When it comes to exhibitions, no matter how large or small, there are always concerns that arise when thinking of small businesses. Starting as just a husband and wife team, Sovereign knows all too well the constraints that being a smaller business can involve. It is becoming more and more common that smaller businesses do not have the resources or funds to afford the high spec, custom built designs that create high impact at events.
What should smaller business’ work towards when they first think about taking a stand at an exhibition?
- Having a bold, memorable design
- Using a well-fitted stand, with good detailing
- Incorporating a quality layer of branding and messaging
- Including a layer of technology to enhance the stand
- Taking along a group of motivated, welcoming staff…and not too many mouse-mats.
Five top tips to help SMEs make the most of exhibiting
Better brief, better stand
When you write a brief or discuss your requirements with your stand designer or contractor, it is vital to remain focused on what you need to get out of the event. If it’s a new product launch, you’ll need to ensure its Unique Selling Points are communicated wherever possible. Whereas a more general ‘service-based’ stand should use clear messaging to reinforce the company profile.
Don’t be afraid to push the designer towards big, bold forms to attract people over from a distance. Show Visitors should be able to see your stand from a distance if at all possible, so think about the likely geography around your position to make your statement.
When visitors do get close, don’t let them pass by – good layers of detailing (including physical detailing, messaging, quality full-colour graphics and hospitality layers) – are all signals of a quality approach, and therefore of a quality offer. This ‘last 5 percent’ is often missed, and you’ll never know the true cost of a missed opportunity.
It’s a debatable point, but it’s really best to be relevant. Sometimes a zany Python-esque approach can work well as an attractor, but it’s very easy for a busy visitor to walk past a mad, scary stand that they feel is confusing or irrelevant to them. You do not want to seem unapproachable or desperate. Giveaways can help (if they’re relevant to what you do), but most people can’t carry more than 250 mouse mats around a show, so be careful and try to think outside the box.
Probably the most important point of them all - whatever you create, if your stand is memorable, your post-show follow-up will be easier and more successful. And it’s always nice to hear “Oh yeah…you were the guys with the great coffee.”
Getting a spectacular stand on a budget
Under the current economic constraints, almost every business is now set with a strict budget to adhere to. Due to the increasing pressures to be eco-ethical, there seems to be less of a stigma towards re-use and refurbishment as there was a few years ago.
For the entry level exhibitor, stock items such as furniture, lighting, reception units and bars can be used as a palette of exhibition materials to enhance a stand. Meanwhile, experienced exhibitors may find these useful when stretching their budget and taking a larger stand space than they may usually opt for.
Since these changes in attitude, businesses may want to make use of stock materials to create an entire stand, using refurbishment and re-branding to save money. This offers a true custom build aesthetic using ‘traditional’ materials. By taking this ‘recycled’ route, smaller businesses can be seen as a level above the common modular –aluminium stands that are offering the same function but without the ‘custom’ feel.
Current ‘high impact’ trends within the exhibition stand industry
Looking at the construction side of things, curves are this year’s black and there certainly seems to be a heightened awareness (from both exhibitors and their agencies) of the added value of sustainable materials and re-used components. While this may be related primarily to recession issues, there are plenty of benefits. These can include offering smaller businesses a cost effective way of keeping up with the latest design trends, while appearing socially responsible.
Secondly, technological elements can sometimes seem expansive and unnecessary, but they do have the power to capture attention. This can often mean that their ‘value’ is quite different to their cost. Some of the key interactive content to be aware of for upcoming exhibitions are; interactive floors that react as you travel across them, touch-screen interfaces with relevant content ‘on demand’, and automated Bluetooth technology to send product information to passing show visitors.
Among other things, using modern and ‘clever’ technology can act as a talking point, a way of distributing information and a reminder to visitors that your business is up to date and worth stopping for!