According to The Center for Exhibition Industry Research, 83% of visitors at trade shows have buying authority; 79% of these use industry events to make purchase decisions for their business, and each delegate is likely to tell more than six people about their event experience.
These stats highlight the ongoing importance of event marketing for organisations in all sectors.
But if hosting a stand works for your business, it will also work for your competitors. Delegates spend an average of eight hours visiting 26 different stands at each event. Making sure they remember yours is essential. So how do you make your exhibition stand a showstopper?
1. Start with your story
It’s easy to cover an exhibition stand in vague brand messages and hope for the best. Doing so will make yours fade into the background for delegates.
Don’t be wallpaper. When planning your strategy and working on designs, focus on telling the story only your brand can tell, in the most eye-catching way possible. Stories are proven to make products and services more valuable. Story narratives are immersive; they require understanding and engagement on the part of the listener (in this case, the delegate) – which is exactly what you should be seeking to achieve.
Think carefully about how each element reflects and contributes to this story. Is your lighting dramatic? Do the construction materials in your stand reflect the story setting? Is your brand story presented simply and clearly, so delegates can tap into it easily? For pharmaceutical firm Amgen ESC, our exhibition stand expressed the benefits of the company’s Repatha drug via an immersive, innovative environment – putting delegates literally at the heart of the action.
2. Give delegates what they want
For the duration of the event, your exhibit is where your brand lives. So treat your stand as you would your home. Make it a place visitors want to spend time. Make them feel relaxed. Entertain them. And, where possible, offer the creature comforts other exhibitors have missed.
Offering free (quality) coffee and somewhere to rest are good ideas, as is offering desks with free, easy-to-use wifi. If your budget won’t stretch this far, ask yourself a simpler question: as a delegate, what type of environment would I want to see after a long day of walking, waiting and engaging in sales conversations?
Comfort is king: padded chairs are a rare beast in most event venues. Colour is equally important. White, minimal spaces have dominated the exhibit design world for the past decade. Many delegates find these spaces cold and clinical, however. Brands confident enough to use bold colour will stand out from the crowd – as our giant pink cube for Daiichi Sankyo proved at the ECOG World Congress.
3. Give delegates what they won’t expect
The highest accolade for any exhibit is to be the must-see: the thing delegates are still talking about at the end of their day, and recommending to others.
To truly break the mould, brand teams must think outside the box. Really outside the box.
What does your business do that visitors will be unfamiliar with, but unwaveringly interested in? What specialist tools would they enjoy getting their hands on? Think racing cars; Olympic bikes; even traditional team games. Doing so will help you offer a memorable experience linked to your brand and event strategy.
Go big. Most businesses simply incorporate the latest ‘must-have’ technology in their exhibition stands in a bid to stand out. Visitors expect this – and while using VR or AR technology might prolong sales conversations in the short-term, these technologies are often distracting. Given how common both are today, they’re increasingly forgettable too.
4. Offer exclusivity
Where possible, offer visitors experiences they won’t find elsewhere.
This is especially important for launch events where stands are used to present a product, service or concept not yet available for general release. Here, offer a never-before-seen preview. At all times, and for all stands, seek to provide delegates with a gift that they could not cheaply obtain elsewhere. Branded pens, USB sticks and mobile chargers are everywhere. What about an exclusive published report, or a bag of your own coffee roast?
Make the experience or gift on-brand, attractive and useful to encourage visitors to share photos on social, driving organic engagement with your brand.
5. Provide the warmest welcome (and have the most fun)
The most striking, innovative exhibition stand will not engage visitors if the human touch is missing.
Your event team is your secret weapon: the difference between leaving an event with a half-full database of cold leads or a calendar full of prospect meetings.
A lot of brands send their experts to events, thinking it impossible to outsource knowledge of their business. This might be true; but experts aren’t guaranteed to have the hospitality training to welcome delegates onto a stand. We regularly use specialist event teams to host exhibits and provide the first point of contact with visitors. If delegates prove interested in technical aspects of a product or service, we then connect them with an expert within the business.
If outsourcing is not an option, train your event team to talk confidently and knowledgeably about your product and service. Make sure they’re well-presented and dressed on-brand. And do what you can to help them make delegates comfortable and at ease at your stand.
Most important of all: let your team be human. Your exhibit stand is not a website or a glossy brochure. It’s a chance to make eye contact with customers and clients and to start building a relationship. No visitor wants to hear a sales pitch spoken at them. So go on: share a joke. Smile. And enjoy the event yourself. Delegates will warm to this, and you deserve it. You’ve worked hard to make your stand a success, after all.
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