How do you create an exhibition stand that will attract the right delegates? Of course there isn’t one standard answer to that question.
The nature of live events means it’s easy for the focus to become simply getting as many people to flock to your stand as possible. After all, the more people that stop, the better, right? Not necessarily.
There’s no denying that stand attractors like free giveaways (pens, bags, chocolates etc.) will increase the number of people who come to your stand - everyone loves a giveaway or a bit of fanfare. And stand attractors certainly can play a role, but they need to be in synergy with your brand and wider strategy. If the stand attractor is the only reason people are stopping, your perceived success is likely to be no more than an illusion. If delegates are only coming to grab a giveaway and go, what have you really achieved?
While attractors like games, music and freebies may draw people in, in reality they can actually be detractors, serving only to diminish and undermine your true objectives. The truth is, if you define your aims and take a strategic approach, you’re likely to find you don’t need all the gimmicks. Here’s how to ditch the distractions and instead use clarity of purpose and the power of design to draw people in...
Give delegates a reason to visit your stand: pre-event communication
Your event doesn’t begin and end on the day it takes place. To optimise engagement and build anticipation for the live event, you need to communicate with your audience months in advance - and keep the conversation going long after it’s ended.
Handled correctly, pre-event communication can make a huge difference to the number of visitors you receive on the day - and, most crucially - the quality of those visits. If people have decided to visit your exhibition stand before the event, there’s a reason, so they come with purpose. It’s a sign that you’ve actively engaged them and piqued their interest - something infinitely more valuable than a random visitor stopping to see what all the noise is about.
Carefully curated emails, teaser videos and social media posts all serve to give your audience a taste of what they can expect on the day, which ultimately increases engagement with your brand as well as the chances of target delegates coming to your stand.
This type of pre-event communication helps to create a sense of anticipation and that all important FOMO - fear of missing out. It means delegates will not only plan to visit your stand but may even be genuinely excited about it; something you can’t create with a free fridge magnet.
Your exhibition stand is part of an ongoing conversation
Your exhibition stand should be the visual and physical realisation of whatever you’re trying to communicate or achieve. It shouldn’t be a vanity project or something which is seen as separate to the rest of your marketing strategy. For it to be most effective, it needs to be thought of as part of an ongoing conversation with your audience. In other words, it needs to make sense.
"It’s vital that the design and features of your stand fit with your brand image and overall objectives."
It’s vital that the design and features of your stand, including any stand attractors, fit with your brand image and overall objectives. If you are giving something away, does it have anything to do with your brand? Or is it just an added-on afterthought?
For example, if you’re a drinks company, it makes perfect sense to give out bottles of your product: people get to hold your branded bottle in their hand and try the drink you’re promoting. If you’re not a drinks company and you’re handing out free bottles of water to passersby, how does that help you achieve your objectives? Apart from giving you false metrics, what else are you actually getting?
The same approach should be applied to your design. Simply going for something which will help you stand out will seem incongruous - and possibly ridiculous - if it doesn’t fit with your brand or industry. If you’re using tech, does it serve a clear purpose which aligns with your objective? What about music? How about the look and feel of your stand - does it accurately represent your brand?
When it comes to your design, gimmicks and tricks may get people to stop for a few moments but cohesion and strategy are the things which make them stick around. If your stand is a seamless extension of your brand, people feel comfortable, they stay for longer, and they start to build trust.
It’s all about the experience
While a free pen or keyring will mean little in the moment and nothing a few days later, a memorable experience is lasting.
- You may like: A great event visitor experience starts with wayfinding
When you enhance your visitors’ experience or give them an unforgettable moment, you’ll stay in their thoughts. They’ll connect that positive memory with your brand - and they’ll tell other people about it. However, you can only do this if you know who’s coming and why. What do your delegates want to gain from the event? What drives them? What are their pain points and how can you help?
With so many options to choose from, it’s vital that the experience you offer makes sense both in terms of your audience and your brand. If you’re thinking about including an immersive experience or engaging with delegates through mobile apps, why? Doing it because others are doing it is not the right answer.
Like all other aspects of exhibiting, creating a memorable or positive experience needs to be carefully planned: it should be a carefully thought through tactic within a wider strategy. One thing’s certain, if you get it right, you’ll achieve infinitely more than you could with a gimmick or giveaway.
Attracting delegates to your stand is like a lot of things in life: getting someone’s attention for a moment or two is easy but keeping it is another matter altogether. If you have twenty visitors who stay at your exhibition stand long enough to engage with your ambassadors and learn something, it’s worth much more than fifty fleeting visits to pick up a freebie. By cutting away all the noise, focussing on your goals and making your brand the key attractor, you can draw people to your stand knowing they’ll leave with a positive experience, ready to continue the conversation.