Business exhibitions have long been a great opportunity to showcase your brand and provide prospective new clients an insight into what you offer and how your services can potentially be of benefit to them.
The scope for exhibiting can range from purpose built venues of many thousands of square feet such as London Excel, Olympia and Birmingham’s NEC, right down to your local village hall. Whilst the larger venues are generally aimed at national and international scale businesses, the smaller alternatives give local businesses an opportunity to generate some exposure at a fraction of the price. It’s no surprise that the user experience you get from a top-end trade show is far superior. Afterall, stands are fully bespoke and often cost tens of thousands of pounds to design, hire and install. It can often feel more like you’re walking through an art gallery than a business showcase.
The added cost provides an unfair advantage but does budget restriction excuse the fact that the low-end, local alternatives lack originality and aesthetic appeal? For as long as I can remember, they have always followed the same monotonous format. Each exhibitor with a dirty old fold-down table, laden with merchandise gifts and a static roller banners positioned to one side. Now, I have no problem with roller banners per say, they certainly have their place in business marketing but when you take a step back and observe the whole room, you find that everyone is exhibiting in exactly the same way. Substitute the roller banners for a car and you’ve got yourself a car boot sale. Suddenly that banner that you’ve invested time and money into getting designed and printed has lost its impact amongst a sea of others, fighting for your attention. The regimented layout just causes each stand to blend into the next. There is no originality, and little attempt to make a statement with something different. They all just play it safe with a tried and tested albeit tired method. With all the roller banners standing side by side, it’s more reminiscent of an identity parade.
So what is the answer? Well, customer interaction has room for improvement. Besides, the tangible flyers and brochures that are regularly found on display and the friendly faced, employee poised with a hand shake to explain more and attempt to dig out a lead from you, the stands do not provide a great deal of inspiration. The forward movement of digital technology has improved this as exhibitors sporadically utilise tablets and laptops to display looping videos. But what else can be implemented to set you apart from everyone else in the room?
Firstly, display banners have come a long way since the printed format became a thing. It astounds me that LED displays have seemingly slipped under the radar since their introduction. Purchase is expectedly beyond the budget of a small business owner but rental is a whole different matter and are typically not a great deal more expensive than a couple of the printed alternative. Furthermore, the video content you invest in can be reused, edited or changed altogether to suit the market you are showcasing to. It’s no secret that video is the fastest growing and most effective method of marketing out there so why not go for something that is more likely to get people to stop and take a minute to really absorb themselves into what you offer?
Consider also the floorplan. Naturally, organisers, are looking for the greatest possible profit margin. So it is no surprise that they maximise their return by shoehorning in as many stands as they can. But you don’t often find the car bootsale layout at the top-end expos. How about positioning stands in blocks of four; quadrants that often prove popular for the mid-range pitch? Still conforming to a grid format, it would not require any more floor area than lining them side by side. What one has to consider is the journey visitors take from the moment they set foot in the exhibition hall to the point they leave.
I’ve come away from these smaller scale events many a time hearing exhibitors stating how quiet or slow it has been and deep down, they feel that after all their efforts to prepare and setup, they haven’t got the value for money they were hoping for. Sure, they can’t control the footfall but they are able to influence engagement. I am not expecting a sudden revolution to overhaul the small expo model but whether you are a future exhibitor or exhibition organiser, the next time you’re planning an event, maybe consider thinking outside of the box. You might surprise yourself with the results.