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How to Get a Great Display in a Small Space
Don't Discount on Size
You often see people talking about how to have a great event when you’re off to a large exhibition centre like the NEC or Excel for your industry's flagship show, but in reality there are actually far more people attending small conference events that are dotted around the country in hotel meeting rooms, local event halls and function rooms. These could be Wedding Fairs, Recruitment Drives, Networking Meetings or Institutional Conferences. The trouble is that the magnificent, all singing, all dancing display that you have seen on a website or used previously just doesn't fit into the space.
So what do you do? Take a couple of panels off the end of the pop up you have and hope it squeezes in? Or maybe just buy a few standard roller banners, with generic messaging so that you can use them elsewhere? For me neither of those really cuts it, but why do I think that?
Why Choose Small Events
The great thing about these smaller events is that they attract a narrower and more specific audience and give you a great opportunity to speak to people who have a need for your services. At a local networking event you will often find people who like to do business locally if they can. As a photographer at a wedding fair you know that the people in attendance are in the market for your services. This makes what you display there vitally important as you probably want to speak to lots of the attendees so that you can make a lot of really valuable connections and identify a large number of potential clients.
So what can you do if all you have is a space a couple of metres wide sat behind a trestle table that takes up most of the space? I'm not certain I have all the answers but below are some pointers to consider when planning what to take.
Getting the Most from the Space
The Table: Dress it up or get rid of it
I'm not a huge fan of tables at the front of stands but they do have their place for some displays and at some events you have to have them whether you want them or not. So if you do have to have a table then do something with it. That doesn't have to be a custom printed tablecloth, although that is certainly one option, you could just buy a cloth in a colour that compliments your company imagery and utilise that instead. It would certainly set you apart from the people who opted for the standard covering and wouldn't break the bank. While you are at it put something under that wobbly leg too, it might not be your table but you don't want to come back with a batch of illegible email addresses because there was no steady surface to write on. Also bear in mind that if you do get rid of the table you will probably still need something that you can use to lean and write on at some point which you will have to provide.
Select your backdrop carefully
Before you go to the event think about what you want to get across to people and how often you might want to change that message or image. Some people opt for generic branding to utilise the same kit for a number of different types of events but I think that is false economy. Generic branding leads to generic results, perhaps if you have a big enough name or presence in the industry you can get away with it but so few people are as recognisable as McDonalds or Tesco. You will get better results if you make the message specific to the audience that you are seeing. For some people that might be a couple of roller banners, one generic and one specific working together, perhaps a wider cassette banner that allows you to change the message easily for each event, or maybe you are a photographer who wants to always show off your latest up to date work, for those you might just be better off with some fabric covered boards that you can place different images on each time.
Design with care
There are a few aspects to take into account here, firstly the advice I'd give for any show would be to make sure that your message is clear. Let people know what it is that you do but try to do it visually and keep words to a minimum. I would suggest that if you are putting words on there at all it is either a question about the problem that you solve or a succinct statement, maybe up to 10 words long, about your values or how you work, something that your potential client can identify with quickly and easily. The other aspect is the table, generally I'd advise leaving pertinent information away from the bottom of any printed display anyway but if you have a table in front I wouldn't put anything except background images in the area below 900mm off the floor, it just won’t get seen.
I often see it at small exhibitions, give someone a table and immediately they want to fill it. The principle here though is the same as it is for designing the graphic, less is more. How your space looks reflects who you are as a company and the level and type of service that you are able to give. If someone comes along and sees a disorganised mess full of every single image, product or brochure that you have then the impression they will get won’t reflect who you really are.
I saw two stands at a wedding fair once, both for photography services. The first one had a fabric covered board at the back which was full of images stuck on with Velcro and had tiny captions underneath every one that were barely legible. Their trestle table in front had more images spread all over it and stacks of leaflets that told you all of the photography services they offered, and the colours of the images on that didn't work with the company colours. To me it said "we are messy and disorganised and don't understand design", not someone I'd want to trust something as important as wedding photos to. By contrast the other display I saw had a simple roller banner at the back; it must have been about 1200mm wide, which simply had the photographers name, company logo, a short strap line and a beautiful portrait image of a happy couple who looked like real people and not a stock photo. Their table was elegant, a plain white table cloth with three albums laid out and space to open them too. They also had some pebbles that had the company name and logo printed onto them, and a business card holder that just held a single card. This well presented display had relatively little on it, in fact only one image that you could see but it was visually engaging and made you want to see more which gave the owner the chance to discuss their services with you.
Take a step back
In conclusion I’d say that the best thing to do once you are at the event is to take a step back, try to look at your stand through the eyes and feet of your customers. Think about what they will be seeing, hearing, and feeling as they go around the event, if they know nothing about you what will they see as they walk past.