As an exhibition organiser, I spent a fair amount of time discussing with colleagues and supply partners about the “arrival experience.”
This meant focusing on what visitors would see and be inspired by, when they arrived at our event.
Especially important when organising consumer events. A “wow factor” adds to visitor excitement and interest and it helps to set the tone for the show.
As an exhibitor, it’s worth thinking about the arrival experience that visitors receive when approaching your stand. What first impression will your business, present to them?
Branding: It’s an ambassador for your brand and, your business
When you exhibit, your stand and your team will be for most visitors, the very first touch point they have with your business.
That’s why you need and want that impression to be positive. When planning, it really does help to think of both your stand and the team as ambassadors for your brand.
What will visitors see?
When you plan, picture yourself as a visitor in the hall walking towards your stand, walking around your stand, being on your stand. Imagine what visitors will see in each scenario. Then decide what you want them to see in each of these places or views.
Ideally, you would start thinking about these views before you confirm your site booking.
How you choose to layout your stand, might affect your choice of position and configuration. It might affect where you will place your exhibits, your graphics and your stand team. Ideal sites will vary depending on what suits your business.
For some exhibitors, this will be a stand with one open side. Perhaps a perimeter position. This layout is favoured by some because a longer, thinner stand works better for their display.
Other exhibitors will choose stands with two or three open sides or island sites (open on four sides and unattached to other stands). Floor layouts like these, are sought because visitors can view and access a stand from more than one direction and usually, from more than one aisle.
Whatever the size of your stand or its layout, think about what a visitor is going to see as they approach. Then think about how you could make your stand more visible and attractive to them. Is there is a “wow factor” that you can create?
With this in mind here are some ideas for creating a greater arrival experience.
Trade show impact – add height to your stand
Adding height to your display helps to make your stand more visible and more easily found. This can be important in a large show if you have invited visitors to your stand.
Sometimes the aisle numbering system in a show can be confusing. This is especially true where there are lots of custom-built displays. Custom stands rarely display numbers and this can be frustrating for a visitor seeking a particular exhibitor.
And when someone can’t find you easily there’s always the danger they could be sidetracked by another stand while searching for yours.
Shell scheme stands
If you are exhibiting on a small stand or within a shell scheme, you can’t make your stand wider but you can make it taller. Ask the show’s contractor to quote for a banner structure above your stand. They will normally have a kit for this. Ensure that the banner is angled for best visibility.
Fly a flag
Flags or signs that jut out into the aisles are also a good option for shell scheme exhibitors. Talk to the show contractor about your options. Alternatively, talk to one of the leading flag suppliers. If you are exhibiting at ExCeL London talk to the EVS (ExCel Venue Services) team.
Suspend a banner above your stand
Banners above stands, suspended from the ceiling (if the organisers of the show permit banners) can highlight your stand position from a long way off making it easier for visitors to find you in a big show.
Depending on your budget and design they can also be very colourful (your brand guidelines allowing) and shaped – two elements which can add visual impact and a bit of “wow.”
Great examples in one display
The award-winning example above, from Skyline Exhibits was designed for Milliken & Company who were exhibiting at The International Plastics Showcase in Orlando. The stand which has very little construction (most of the elements are modular) utilises height, lighting, and colour to attract visitors. It certainly creates impact and does a great job in advertising the Milliken brand.
The tall lightbox signs also provide brief bullet point information that a visitor can read while waiting to talk to someone. Exhibit displays are well spaced so there is plenty of room to walk around and see what is being displayed.
Add height to your stand cont’d
Put your name in lights above your stand using LED lighting. Simple but highly effective and eye-catching to visitors. Coffee is a magnet to me…..
These allow you to display multiple messages and video. You can alter content on the hoof, show text messages, video or a mixture of both. Digital banners will be more expensive than printed banners. Apart from the hire of the screen, you will need to allow for rigging costs and for the supply of data to your screen. The alternative to rigging a digital screen is to have one included as part of the structure of your stand.
Digital screens around your stand can be used to play videos about your products or services, display messages and RSS feeds. Colour displays add visual warmth and attractiveness. Moving images catch the attention of the eye more effectively than static ones. More on digital screens in future issues.
Height and light
Trees – Trees are beautiful things and apart from being great for the ozone layer they can look great as part of display at a trade show. They soften the hard materials used in stand construction which increases attractiveness to the eye. Hire a tree and make it a feature of your stand. They don’t have to be very tall to be effective. Most exhibition floral suppliers can supply.
Be colourful – This applies more to shell scheme stand exhibitors as custom built stands will have a designer applying their skills to the project. If you are exhibiting within a shell scheme consider changing the colour of some or all of those white or grey shell scheme walls to colours that match your corporate identity. Adding colour will make your stand more appealing and if your stand is between others, then adding colour to the panels closest to the aisle will help make you more visible to the eye of a visitor as they approach. You can also colour the fascia above your stand to match and use a jutting aisle sign and or banner above your stand as already mentioned.
Be bright – Good lighting can transform the look of a stand and get you noticed.
Lighting isn’t just about the lights that you hang from the ceiling although they can have massive impact. Light boxes on corners can be very striking as seen in the Skyline/Milliken image above.
Coloured lighting within elements of your stand can also be very attractive to the eye and can enhance the walk-up experience. Whole walls can be a lit. Printed fabric banners stretched over a frame containing LED lighting make very striking displays like the one below at World Travel Market
High vis works
One of the easiest and least costly ways to create a great arrival experience is to make your staff highly visible on your stand.
You can achieve this with an informal look using branded T-Shirts and Sweatshirts or more formally with suits of one colour and shirts and ties to match. Simple but, highly effective and apart from the visual impact it makes really clear who visitors can talk to on your stand.
Greetings earthlings! – Successful exhibitors have always highlighted to me the importance of greeting visitors to their stands with a smile and a friendly “Hello” or “Good Morning.” They don’t leave this to chance. They see this simple step as a key part of making the right first impression with show visitors. Some of these exhibitors also offer tea, coffee or something stronger as part of their meeting and greeting strategy.
“Busy stands are attractive to visitors and I’ve seen enterprising exhibitors offer visitors the chance to play video games, learn to salsa dance or answer simple survey questions in return for a reward (sweets or chocolate). All activities are designed to stop visitors in the aisles and move them onto stands.”
Your exhibits as attraction tools
Last but by no means least for this article is thinking about using your exhibits as a means to making your stand more visually enticing. Car and boat shows have these natural props as a given but with other products you sometimes have to get more creative.
This stand designed by Shaw & Underwood for plumbing specialists McAlpine & Co. was built for ISH in Frankfurt and it is a great example of products being used creatively (and great, prominent graphics too). The design proved so successful that it will be used again at the next show in 2017.
On smaller stands, think about positioning your product display in the space that is going to be most in the line of sight of visitors approaching your stand. Ensure that your graphics or products are clearly viewable at eye level and above.
Sources of inspiration for great walk-up experiences can be found all around us. When we go shopping, arrive at airports, check-in to hotels, visit historical buildings, go to theme parks, enter leading trade and consumer shows and of course when we see other people’s stands. Note ideas that could be adapted in some way for your stands and elements that could help you achieve a memorable arrival experience for visitors at your next show.
And now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go as I have a salsa class to attend.
PS. I know I haven’t touched on Graphics in this article…
Good graphics can really create impact. It’s such an important subject that it warrants a dedicated article. Look out for this in a future issue of Exhibitors Only.