If you've ever had responsibility for your organisation's exhibition stand or exhibition programme, the chances are you'll have felt the pain and the pleasure in equal measure.
Pain? In fact I should say Pains! Here's a few old chestnuts;
- The challenge of designing an exhibition stand that actually makes an impact in a packed exhibition hall full of thousands of delegates?
- Persuading the maximum number of visitors on to your stand and keeping them there?
- The pressure and uncertainty of how the space works on the day and how your visitors will react?
- How to communicate your key messages and how to capture that all important contact data after the visitors have left?
- Making sure the plasmas and iPads work correctly?
- Not to mention keeping the carpet vacuumed or the floor clean or stocking up the tea and coffee bar?
... the list goes on and on.
And what about the pleasure? Well, here's some positive thoughts to be going on with;
- Seeing the order book grow as a result of your efforts.
- Making new contacts and getting that 'buzz' from a really important new prospect.
- Seeing your competitors eyeing your stand and thinking how much better it is than theres.
- Knowing you've delivered a fantastic result and made your budget work as hard as possible.
- Finishing the show with a sense of victory and achievement.
Does this all sound familiar?
I've been involved in exhibition stand designs and builds for over twenty years now, and in my experience, this scenario has never changed.
Over the last two decades, I've come to the conclusion that the only way to negate any of the 'pain' is to approach your exhibition stand project with enthusiasm, optimism and above all else professionalism. And like most things in life, there's a right way and a wrong way to go about things.
So, here's my 5 simple steps to how I think the process works and what you can expect to get from doing the job properly.
1. Choose your stand size carefully because it's expensive.
Stand space - whether it be open space (island) or shell scheme, every metre is hugely expensive. We all know that. It is so important to work out what square meterage you really need and to allocate the correct portion of your budget to this part of your investment. A clever stand design on a 6m x 6m square space can work far more effectively as a poor design on a much larger stand.
At Image Group, we've developed a custom exhibition stand design service using state of the art 3D software to help resolve this tricky question. We can model original ideas and place the renders in to a rotating movie file which allows us to see the finished stand from every angle, drawn to scale. This allows us to check our own design process before we press the button on the final build. We usually include these designs as part of the cost of our projects.
2. Partner with a contractor that does as much as possible under one roof.
There are a number of individual processes in any successful exhibition stand project.
A. Project management.
Use a contractor that will allocate one account manager to do all the 'looking after'. One point of contact that deals with all the issues including logistics, risk assessments, method statements, electrics, services, internet provision, last minute details, transport, storage and logistics.
Use a contractor that will work tirelessly to get your stand design just right before you approve a purchase order. If you're not quite happy with the first proposal, don't be afraid to say so. It doesn't always follow that it should be perfect at the first attempt. Sometimes it's necessary to collaborate and it's important to leave time in the project plan for this to happen.
C. Joinery, steelwork and painting.
We all understand how necessary sub contracting is. In my experience, it's hard to offer every conceivable service under the sun. However, a top class exhibition contractor should ideally have an in house service for these three cornerstones of the process.
Joinery - an established trade for sure. Good joiners are never short of work which means they're hard to come by. We've done well over the years on this front. Our team are a happy bunch of time served warriors with the miles on the clock to prove it. No question of just talking the talk. We walk the walk. If it can be made from wood... we can make it.
Steelwork - A specialist trade in the exhibition sector and a skill we've added in the last three years. The main reason we expanded into this area was quality control and flexibility to respond to challenging briefs. We make all our own double decker stands in house which is increasingly rare these days.
Professional Painting and Decorating - An absolute must on any great looking exhibition stand. Our own skilled decorators to prep our stands before they leave for site. And the same team on the build to add the finishing touches before we hand the stand over for sign off.
3. Don't settle for ordinary graphics or lack lustre signs. Insist on the 'WOW' factor.
Good quality graphics and professionally manufactured signage can and should make all the difference to how well your stand performs against the competition. You can insist that this part of the final stand is the best in show. Why not? Graphics and signs that are well thought out carry maximum scale and impact can leave visitors thinking 'wow'.
We carry masses of sample materials from printed fabrics and polyesters right through to luxurious sub surface acrylic and polycarbonate. Budget constraints should not act as a barrier to this vital component. Take your time to look at the options and ask for examples of smart ideas. Clever shapes and the right material choices can make all the difference.
In other words, only the best should be good enough.
4. Make a plan and stick to it even if it ruffles a few feathers.
Good outcomes usually happen as a result of perfect planning. If you like football, as I do, you'll appreciate that no one ever won the Premier League by chance. If you don't approach it with a strategy and a carefully prepared plan, you've got no chance from day one. Fact.
It's the same principle with exhibiting and preparing your stand. Start with a blank piece of paper. Work out what your outcomes should be and trace your way back to the start.
Establish your critical path and establish key dates and milestones early on.
Important things like what you need from whom and when you need it for.
This planning process eliminates chance and rules out the perennial problem of being too busy to 'get things' done.
5. Enjoy the journey because it's costing you a fortune.
We all know from experience that exhibiting is expensive.
But, if you get it right it's worth very penny.
That's why it's so important to be positive, optimistic and determined to make your project a big success. I've seen clients approach their exhibition project with a heavy heart for loads of different reasons. No criticism intended. Just an observation over many years. I've also seen the opposite. Clients that are enthused and inspired. Organised and efficient. Energised and focused.
This second group share one thing in common in my experience.
They walk away from the event with satisfaction and the knowledge that the budget has been well spent. They have engaged their audience and communicated their message. And with huge expectations of a positive impact on the future success of their own business.
Exactly what exhibitions were designed to deliver in the first place.
If you're feeling inspired to be the best in 2014 and want some more detailed advice and help, you can call us on 0800 389 9898 and draw on a huge wealth of experience from our accomplished exhibition team. We consult for free so there's no obligation, and that could be your first step to avoiding those old fashioned exhibition pains.