We recently had the pleasure of attending the Royal Highland Show on behalf of Lactalis McLelland, a client who had asked us to review their consumer stand and proposition. Thankfully, it was a beautiful day so we thoroughly enjoyed the hours spent walking around the 280 acre site on the outskirts of Edinburgh!  But, what did we learn that might be useful to other exhibitors.


We talk in workshops about Horizontal and Vertical trade shows and this one was the ultimate vertical show with everything from huge farm machinery & equipment to livestock, car manufacturers to food & drink and even a Joules clothing outlet. So for exhibitors, it was crucial to think even more strategically about where their stand was positioned and how they attracted attention.

For some exhibitors it was more obvious about where to book space – logically for a food and drink brand you’d want to be in Scotland’s Larder with the foodies and if you’re exhibiting a huge piece of kit, you’ve pretty much got to go where the organisers can logistically fit you in. For the smaller businesses offering jewllery, toiletries, pillows and homeware it was much more difficult. There were a number of marquees hosting random selections of varied exhibitors which as a visitor was confusing. Exhibition fatigue soon set in for us as we trawled through room after room of similar but different offerings without really having any focus on what to expect. With around 200,000 visitors the potential on paper is massive, but the interests of those visitors will be vastly different and only a fraction will be true potential buyers of your product or service.


So what can you do if you’re considering booking space at such a massive event to help ensure the right visitors find you?

  • Think about and set some objectives – what is it you’re hoping to achieve from the show? Most exhibitors at consumer shows like these will want to sell, so a target sales number is a good start. But what else would help grow your business? Think about media exposure (book a space near the press office), if you want to gain a listing with a major retailer can you book space near their area to catch the buyers eye – think about who else apart from just visitors you might benefit from meeting at the event.


  • Use other exhibitors – talk with organisers about who else is on the plan. Which other exhibitors might help you sell more because of a common interest?  For example, if you’re selling pillows to aid more comfortable sleep, can you get the stand next to the toiletries supplier who sell lavender based oils and bath products to help people sleep.  Think about how you solve a visitors problem and who else on the floor plan has a complimentary product or service which can also help solve it.


  • Right Handed Corners – corner stand are always a good option offering footfall from two different directions. And research has shown that we naturally hang to the right so finding a space to the right of the entrance will attract more visitors earlier in their day (before visitor fatigue sets in). Also, booking space near food and drink outlets can benefit exhibitors, with visitors feeling refreshed and revived after a break and ready to engage again!


When it comes to attracting attention you’ve some BIG competition but if you know who your target visitor is and how your product or service adds value for them, you should be able find a way to make them stop and talk to you!

Sid the Chain Cow from Kev Paxton Blacksmith ( click for details Artfe) particularly caught our eye, along with his Jonny Cash sidekick. Stunning pieces of bespoke metal sculpture, of which there was nothing similar across the entire show, demonstrated the team’s passion, quality and expertise and enticed conversations with visitors about public displays and private commissions.

Appreciating as a small business you might not have the scale of Artfe’s exhibit but you will have your own Chain Cow to attract attention. Think about how you demonstrate the quality and passion you bring to your product or service, how it connects with the audience and how you disrupt their auto-pilot navigation.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when you’re planning your stand for a vertical show:

  1. Do the graphics I’m using clearly communicate what my product is and what problem it solves?  Remember, a visitor isn’t going to be expecting any specific product categories as they would at e.g. a food show, so you need to be sure you tell them quickly what to expect from you
  2. Am I  giving them confidence that my product is the best solution?  Whilst you might have some fans who have hunted you down, a number of visitors will be totally new to your proposition so how will you build their confidence that you offer the best solution to their problem
  3. Am I letting them experiment and learn? Is there a way you can help visitors try out and sample your offer so that they see the benefits for themselves.  This can be relatively simple with  food or drink  by offering samples, but more difficult with something like jewllery – for example could you offer to take a photo with them trying on a piece and show them how great it looks it them?

Vertical trade shows can offer massive footfall & immediate sales, but lack focus so working out how your proposition fits within the overall show footprint is a crucial early step. Many exhibitors at shows like this have generated great success but comment how easy it is to get lost in a very disparate set of stands and exhibits. As with any event, planning well ahead and grounding your offer in customer need will be the key foundations for success!

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