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5 Problems that Distract from your Exhibition Message

Updated on September 15, 2015

And More Importantly How to Solve Them!

I'm a curious person. It is in my nature, if I am interested in something I will dive in with question upon question to try and discover as much as I can about the subject. Exhibitions and events are one of the things that spark my curiosity and I enjoy getting the perspective of people I know after they have been to a show as an attendee.

I ask all sorts of questions about what they enjoyed, what they wanted more of, and how many bags full of meaningless freebies they came home with. But the two most important ones I ask are "Which stand stood out to you?", and "What one thing stopped you from going on stands?”

The first is usually pretty easy for people to identify with and answer, sometimes it is the big, flashy all singing, all dancing custom built display from the massive brand, but sometimes you get people talking really enthusiastically about small stands and the experience they had there. In both cases it is the clear messaging about who they are and what they do that really spoke to the people in attendance.

The second is tougher though, after all what do you really remember about the stand that you didn't go and speak to. For most people there is just a feeling that it isn't quite right, something looks out of place, and the message doesn’t seem congruent with how the stand appears. I think that there are 5 mistakes that people make with their equipment and stand space that contribute to this:

  1. Poor quality hardware
  2. Poor quality materials
  3. Poor choice of stand space
  4. Poor choice of equipment
  5. Poor solution for the space

1) Poor Hardware

Problem: Equipment doesn't stand up straight or even fit together properly

One of the key things that your display equipment should do is reflect who you are as a company and what your values are too. Often this is remembered in the designs people create to go on their equipment but they don't take into account the hardware that they are buying or the quality of the materials that their supplier is producing their wonderful graphics on.

Solution: Simple, buy on quality and not just price.

I'm not saying price isn't an important factor, I'm just saying that it shouldn't be a higher priority than the quality of your equipment. Saving a few hundred pounds here and there tends to mean that you will end up buying the kit again in 6 months to a year but it could also mean a world of difference when the big prospect you have been nurturing visits you to see half your messaging hanging in a different place to the rest. It hardly says that either attention to detail or commitment to quality are amongst your strong suits.

2) Poor Materials

Problem: Graphics that don’t align, hang straight or fit equipment properly

The end result is a stand that looks in bad shape after maybe one or two uses, where words no longer line up properly or the thin lightweight material has creased, torn or bent out of shape and now won't go back.

Solution: Ask to see sample materials first

Check the material specification matches your desired use.

2) Poor Stand Space

Problem: Buying as much space as your budget allows with nothing left for a display

It is tempting when an organiser is filling your head with dreams about how wonderful it would be to have your company at their event and how great your stand could look in the exhibition hall to agree with them too much and end up with a space that you don’t know what to do with. It eats up most of your budget and you don’t understand what the terms, space only, and Island site mean or the implications that they have.

Solution: Remember that bigger isn’t always better and, if possible, get someone involved to help you through

Remember that whilst a big space can be an asset, you also have to fill the space that you have and if most of your budget goes on the space itself you are going to start running over budget with the stand to fill it. Also consider that if you opt for space only stands you will have to provide solid walls, carpet, and lighting. As for getting someone to help, this could be an agency specialising in events, an individual consultant who deals with trade fairs, or someone who creates hardware solutions and is willing to help out. Perhaps there is someone you know who has done a number of events before and you can pick their brains over coffee.

3) Poor Selection of Equipment

Problem: A stand that is cluttered and full of equipment, or one that is too sparse. Sometimes just the wrong equipment for the message you portray.

I see this a lot too, people either under or overestimate the space that they have and then end up with a stand full of stuff everywhere or one that is 16sq m and only has 3 things on it. They also don't consider the message. For instance I once saw a stand that was 4m x 3 m and open on 3 sides whose message was about their innovative high end software solutions for marketers but their stand comprised of two 800mm budget roller banners and a flat screen running their software demo. The solution didn't scream innovation to me.

Solution: Lay out the space that you have in an office or meeting room to familiarise yourself with it. Look at the equipment you have or the design and ask whether that ties into the message as well.

I find physically laying out the space a great thing to raise awareness of how much room you have to work with, if you have the equipment that you will be using you can even plan where you will put it for best effect, 3m x 2m is a smaller space than you might think. When you are looking at what you are going to use make sure you consider the message again. In the example above they needed to do one of two things, either add something innovative or something high end to their display. iPads running the demo whilst beaming it to the screen would have been a good start, even the use of a large pop up or cladding system for the shell scheme instead of budget banners would have helped. Alternatively they could have modified the message, maybe their solution streamlines the problem and they could have said that it was minimalist. That would have helped what people saw fit what they were saying.

4) Poor Solution for the Space

Problem: A stand made from basic equipment in amongst large purpose built solutions or a small stand where the hardware takes up most of the space. Perhaps a message that has to change regularly but you have to buy new kit each time to do that.

Another common issue is not getting the right kind of solution in the space that you have and who can blame you when you have a list of options like this:

  • Small, medium or large stand
  • Shell scheme or space only
  • Open 1, 2 or 3 sides or an island site
  • Portable, Modular or Custom stands
    • Banners, pop ups, shell covering
    • Connecting banners, architectural pop ups, aluminium structures
    • Wood built, purpose built
  • Floor graphics
  • TV Screens
  • iPads
  • Stand-off graphics
  • 3D letters/logos
  • Hanging banners

And that is a very small selection, how are you possibly going to know what will work best if you don’t already have experience, or even if you do?

Solution: Speak to a professional

If you are like me then with certain purchases you like to get some expert advice on what the best solution for your requirements and budget are. If I was going to buy a new laptop for example I would make sure I talked to someone about what I wanted to do with it. I might have a good idea about what I think is best but they might bring different insights and suggestions to the table. There are such a range of variables and factors to consider before you even look at the options on the equipment to use, find someone who will ask you the right questions in order to create the best solution for your goals and budget.


So if you want your prospects to be able to focus on your message at the event there are a few things you should do to avoid them getting distracted:

  • Buy for quality rather than price. Look for value for money, not just the cheapest solution.
  • Bigger isn’t always better, but it is always more expensive. Find the balance of stand size and your budget that still allows you to stick to your message.
  • Lay out the space so you know what you have and how you will utilise it
  • Look at the equipment and design and make sure it is congruent with your message
  • Speak to an expert to help guide you through the choices and come up with new suggestions for you


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