Purchasing a new exhibition stand can be one of the single biggest marketing expenses a business needs to make. Add to this the fact that they are typically not a long term investment, with returns needing to be clearly seen and you have one very important decision to make.
While it would be fantastic to have the biggest and best stand with every bell and whistle available, the reality is that exhibition stands are expensive, making the need to invest money wisely paramount.
We see time and time again what happens when marketing and business goals, expo floor space requirements and exhibition stand design are not discussed together from the very initial stages of planning.
Budgets are blown out, sales are not impacted as required and overall goals not achieved, making many businesses review their investment when in-fact they should be reviewing their planning.
Below is a list of 5 questions you should be asking in the initial planning meeting. This will set the scope for future decisions while providing a logical path to exhibiting success.
1. What is the main objective from attending this event?
This seems like a amazingly obvious question to ask but it is important to do so with some specific context around the answers. I always try to answer this question with one of the below options as a starting point. Secondary reasons are almost always present and are important to identify, however it is essential these reasons are ranked according to importance if possible.
- Promote a new product or service to the market or suppliers
- Directly make sales from the event through retail activity
- Generate leads for future sales activity
- Entertain and engage with existing clients and / or suppliers
It is important to remember to get input from the different sections of the business. This ensures everyone is on the same page and planning to achieve the same goals.
By taking the time to answer this question correctly you will have identified the general type of exhibition stand you will require.
Networking stands are open and minimal while retail stands are more like a pop up shop and so forth.
As a very general rule the more of the above points you have identified, the larger the space you will need, as the more flexible your exhibition stand has to be.
2. What stage of brand / business promotion are we in?
This can seem like a silly question at first glance and often draws a blank expression when asked for the first time. Basically this question is asking you to take a metaphorical step back to evaluate where the business / brand is within its life cycle.
To keep things simple, try to answer from one of the four options below.
- New to the industry looking to get attention
- Established player within the industry looking for growth
- Established player within the industry with a solid reputation
- Perceived industry leader with great reputation
By answering this question you have identified what elements and characteristics the exhibition standneeds to have. The higher up this list you are the more you need to focus on attention grabbing elements, while the lower you are on the list the more you need to focus on the overall quality and feel of the stand.
There are far more options available to reduce costs and still stand out and grab peoples attention than there are to create a high end stand with a high quality fit and finish.
This will also help you to allocate the portion of the budget you spend on the floor space vs the stand itself. It can be very worthwhile reducing the floor space to increase the quality of the design and build while the same can be said for the opposite.
Bigger is not always better and expensive does not always mean the best.
3. What is the real budget?
Once you have your overall budget it is important to allocate and remove a portion of the overall total for all the incidentals required for participation at the exhibition or trade show.
Examples of things to factor in and remove from the budget amount are;
- Marketing and sales collateral
- Staff travel expenses to attend the exhibition
- Marketing campaign costs to promote attendance at expo
- Post show costs including storage, transport etc (if applicable)
- 5% as insurance in case anything changes and printing / graphics need to be redone last minute
If done correctly this will leave you with the real budget total you have to spend on floor space and the exhibition stand for the event.
4. What do we actually NEED to exhibit?
Most businesses will have a range of products and / or services that make up their overall value proposition, however depending on the date, location or event some will be relevant and others will not be.
It is essential to identify exactly what NEEDS to be exhibited and what would you LIKE to be exhibited.
Due to the space limitations within exhibition stands you really dont want anything extra than the absolute essentials. Reasons for this are;
- Stands can quickly become cluttered and uninviting
- Having unecessary items on display take the focus off the hero items you are there to promote
- If you have every single thing on the stand then sales reps dont have the easy follow up call to discuss your other products
- The more you want to display, the more limited the design possibilities for the stand
This can seem quite counterintuitive however it is an integral step in ensuring you leave as many design options on the table as possible.
5. What are our competitors doing?
Depending on where you are positioned within your industry, what your competitors are and have been doing can be very important once you get to the exhibition stand design process.
If you're a industry leader or disrupter and like to always have a point of different between you and your competition, then it is essential you know what your competition has done in the past so you can ensure there is no crossover.
Likewise, if you are a more conservative organisation and you like to follow trends then you need to know what has been working for others within your industry.
The same information can be used in very different ways, so it is essential you equip yourself with this knowledge prior to commencing the design process.
By sitting down and discussing the above 5 questions you will end up with a clear idea on the style of stand you require, what you need to have on the stand, how big the stand needs to be, what it does or does not need to look like and how much you have to spend on it.
You now have a quantifiable list of objectives and guidelines to begin the exhibition stand design process with.