With most things in life, poor planning can lead to less than desirable outcomes. That goes for attendance at exhibitions. It’s not a simple case of signing up and turning up. There’s so much more to think about.
Amongst other factors (such as choosing the right exhibition contractor!), the key to a successful event is dependent on the decisions that are made in the run up to opening morning.
Of course, every exhibitor will need to consider different things depending on their own industries, but generally, these are the points to be mindful of.
Before you even think about what your stand is going to look like or what contractor you are going to get to build it, you need to set some goals and have a clear vision – a reason why you’ve decided to take the plunge and book your space.
Why are you attending? What sales figures are you aiming to achieve? How will you measure your success? These questions need to be answered and everyone involved in the project needs to be on the same page. With a clear vision, there will be no stopping you.
Unfortunately, this is an area of business that is heavily reliant on deadlines so if you’re not super organised, you’re going to need to make checklists and timelines your new best friends. With or without you, the show will go on so it’s imperative you don’t hold up the process.
Early on, you’ll need to establish an exhibition stand timeline. This will be a fluid document that sets out all the dates, lead times, deadlines and milestones. If you refer to this regularly and keep on track, things will run far more smoothly and you won’t have to endure any last-minute meltdowns.
Every event will require a bespoke timeline document but most will include: when drawings need to be finalised when artwork needs to be signed off by, when construction must commence and when installation needs to begin.
Other submission deadlines should be included too, such as the cut-off points for risk assessments, method statements and health and safety documents. Some exhibition contractors, MxL included, will submit these documents on your behalf. This will help to ease the load so when you’re scouting for a partner, ask what extras they can offer aside from designing and building.
Your social media and wider marketing plans, along with budget spreadsheets, will run alongside this exhibition stand timeline document. Keep a close eye on them all to ensure a comprehensive and coherent campaign. And don’t forget that your timeline won’t stop once the exhibition stand has been dismantled. You’ll need to allow time for your sales team to follow-up on any leads they made at the show. Because after all, that’s why you booked the space in the first place.
Don’t leave anything to chance. Do you require access to the Internet on your stand? If so, make sure your order form is submitted on time to avoid disappointment or even worse, disaster.
What about electrical supplies? Again, get your forms in on time. You don’t want to be without power to your plug sockets on opening morning.
If you choose a decent exhibition contractor, they will be on top of all this and submit the necessary paperwork on your behalf but it’s something to be aware of.
Work backwards. You’ll know the show dates and when the venue opens for installation, so work closely with your exhibition contractor to set up a schedule and do your best to stick to it. A good and experienced exhibition contractor will be all too familiar with these dreaded deadlines and will advise accordingly, working with you every step of the way to make sure everything runs smoothly, dates are adhered to and the schedule is followed. It’s something we pride ourselves on and it’s one of the reasons our customers come back to us time and time again.
It’s really worth putting this time in at the start of the project. It will help to keep you on track and give you peace of mind along the way.
Once all of the deadlines are well and truly cemented in your brain, you can start to have fun with the more creative requirements of signing up to attend an exhibition.
In this instance, size really does matter. It’s an obvious one, but something that needs critical consideration. It’s not just about what space you can or can’t afford. It’s about providing an environment that reflects your offering. It’s no good accepting a fantastic deal on a 10m x 10m stand if you can’t fill it. You want to muster excitement, not disappointment.
Likewise, if you’re launching a vast range of products that you want to show off, a small 3m x 3m stand could be detrimental to your brand. Cramped stands are not a good look. Either scale back what you’re going to display so the stand is comfortably kitted out or hold out for more space. Attending a certain show could mean big business for your company/client but if you pickle your proportions, it could damage your reputation. If you’re unsure, seek the advice of your exhibition stand contractor. They will be able to gauge an appropriate size, based on what you intend to showcase.
This is where you can get really creative and it’s what some might consider the ‘fun’ part of the planning process.
You’ve purchased the space…you know what you’ll be presenting…now it’s time focus on exhibition stand designs.
Your vision must be clear and most importantly, the look and feel of the stand must reflect the brand and the product you are selling. Will it be rustic? Will it be ultra modern? Will you opt for interactive touch-screen computers on every wall? The options really are endless (see blog post ‘Exhibition Trends for 2018’) but don’t ever lose sight of the company’s brand guidelines. You may have a penchant for dark colours and industrial chic settings but if it doesn’t complement the brand then I’m afraid you’ll have to re-think your aesthetic. Side note: always send your company’s brand guidelines to your contractors so they can adhere to them.
From the very start, you may have your own vision. You may even have designed the stand yourself or with the help of an in-house designer. In which case, you just need an exhibition contractor to bring these plans to life. We transform all plans into 3D full working drawings so that our clients can get a true feel for what the stand is going to look like. This will allow them to make any changes before it’s too late. Our clients can even walk around their stand before it has been built using virtual reality headsets!
If you’re lacking inspiration, you may need to work with a designer to come up with something totally unique. A good designer will be able to take your brief, however woolly it may be, and give you a number of different options to choose from. You’ll probably find they’ve thought of things you haven’t so it can be an invaluable exercise.
Put your practical thinking cap on. Your exhibition stand layout needs careful consideration.
Without going all ‘Zen’, the aim is to create a good flow of energy. You want the exhibition stand layout to be inviting and enticing and you want it to show off your product or service in all its glory. The space should allow visitors to move around effortlessly, without any obstacles.
Firstly, think about the purpose of your exhibition stand. What will you be using it for? Do you need a meeting area? If so, does it need to be private or will a semi-secluded space suffice? Do you need storage so that you can keep clutter out of sight? Will you be serving refreshments? If so, will you need a coffee counter or a drinks fridge?
Have you got literature or promotional giveaways to hand out? How will you store them so that they are easily accessible?
Will you be showing a video or offering iPad interaction? If you are, then make sure they are in a prime position for your visitors.
These are all basic considerations for an exhibition stand layout, but ones that are often forgotten.
If you’re working with a designer to dream up a stand, make sure all of the above is in your brief. They will take all of these things into consideration when coming up with a scheme because a great stand isn’t just pleasing to the eye; it works on a practical level too. Aesthetics must always be combined with practicality.
Of course, we do and have catered many times in the past to last minute ‘panic’ requests. It happens – last minute deals on space can often be too good to turn down - and we will always do our best to ensure nobody knows your stand was designed less than a week before it was erected.
However, as a rule of thumb, planning is paramount and a well thought out event is far more likely to reap rewards. It’s also likely to be less stressful. So please, do yourself a favour and plan adequately because you know what they say…”By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”