We’re currently working with a client who’s exhibiting at an event with over 3,000 exhibitors and 150,000 visitors. They were asking us for some advice about how they can stand out at a crowded show but also make sure they attract the most valuable prospects. That’s a big old question to answer, but as we were mulling over their options we happened to be wandering around the recent Caravan & Motorhome Show in Birmingham. It really brought home the challenge of  making an impact in an industry where your product has to be the hero of your stand, but your product probably looks pretty similar to all your competitors.


Before you do anything – define your proposition! As you can probably imagine, the Caravan & Motorhome Show was a lot of white walls (why are most caravans white?) and for the un-educated visitor (like ourselves), every stand looked pretty much like the one before it. Some exhibitors tried to differentiate themselves with after-sales care, finance deals, added features and extras or competitions to win membership of relevant associations, although not all of them communicated this very well through their graphics and collateral.  There is a crucial point here for all exhibitors in understanding how you add value for your customers and being really clear on how you’re different from your competition. But once you’ve nailed your value proposition how do you bring it to life in a meaningful and exciting way?

There is tons of advice out there from exhibition design agencies, event organisers and other sources and most of it is violently agreeing about how you create a high impact stand regardless of budget. Stand design is however a hugely subjective area and what you love, your colleagues might hate so be prepared for some battles ahead. We can’t possibly do justice to everything you need to know about stand design in one blog post, but we’ve tried to collate some of the best  headline tips on the web to help you if you’re currently designing the stand for your 2019 trade show campaign:

  1. Start Early & Make Sure It’s Aligned – Display Wizard have some great advice in their series of blogs, including leaving plenty of time for planning as ”great stands don’t happen overnight”.  They’re also in agreement that trade shows are most effective as one tactic in a much wider marketing plan that points towards an aligned overall vision. Clarifying what your top-line marketing message is going to be and how you’ll communicate it across press, social and direct marketing will help inform the decisions you make and keep the branding consistent and recognisable for visitors. (Display Wizard)


  1. Be Engaging, But Be Brief  – if you’ve spent time nailing your proposition you’ll        find this much easier to do but ideally  communicate how you add value for a            visitor in no more than 6-10 words on your graphics boards. Monica Orrigo of          Handshake suggests using a phrase that can be understood in 3 seconds – why not     try it out with friends or contacts not in your industry and see how quickly they       ‘get’ what you’re trying to say.  If it’s more than 5 seconds re-think how you’re    saying it! Research suggests that visitors will form an impression about your stand, and your business in 1/10 of a second and you never get a second chance to make that first impression!


  1. Create An Experience – we often use Charity Water as a great example of creating an emotional and memorable stand experience. Their aim was to register more  donors for their charity which helps provide accessible, clean water in developing    countries for people who have to walk miles every days with heavy containers. They built their stand to replicate this experience, albeit on a smaller scale, with visitors challenged to carry heavy containers across a short distance to experience what their beneficiaries have to ensure every day. This brilliantly brought to life the problem they were trying to solve and inspired empathy in their target audience.  Think about whether you can create an experience that will clearly articulate your message and resonate with your audience. Click here if you’d like to read more about it 

Charity Water

    4. Avoid Tech For Tech’s Sake – there is some amazing tech on the market that can                help enhance the visitor experience including virtual reality, augmented reality,                  touch screens and many more. They have been used fantastically when they help              emphasise a point about the features or benefits of your proposition, or if the tech is         the actual product you’re selling. Unfortunately though, we have too often seen tech         deployed just because the exhibitor thinks it’s cool, or more disappointingly because         the agency have persuaded an exhibitor to use it because they’ve bought it and need         it to pay for itself.  If you’re thinking of incorporating tech into your stand ask                     yourself firstly how does that explain what benefits we bring for the customer and            secondly, is this the best way of communicating that? And don’t forget, people go to            trade shows to talk to people, not screens!


5. Train Your Team – you might not think your team are an integral part of your stand        design but whilst your stand is what hooks a visitor, it’s your team that identifies                their value and establishes a business relationship. So often we have seen stands that        look sexy, inviting and enticing only to be let-down by a squad who are on their                  phones,  eating their lunch or blatantly not interested in talking to visitors. You can’t          really blame them if no-one’s taken the time to help them understand what you’re              hoping to achieve, how the stand works and the sort of visitors you’re looking to                connect with.  How your squad perform is one of the single biggest factors in the                success of your show yet over 85% of companies don’t offer any training. So ask                  yourself can you really get the true value from your stand investment without                    engaging with your team?

As we mentioned at the beginning we can’t possible do justice to the big, meaty topic of stand design in one blog post but we hope we’ve given you some food for thought and ideas to start from.  We recently recorded a great interview with Tim Christian of leading stand design agency Project :: 4. He shares his years’ of experience and emphasises why your squad are the key to maximising your stand plans – check out the Podcast episode here .

If you’re still struggling for inspiration why not drop us a line at proextra@12th-man-solutions.co.uk and we can share our stand design template with you to help you work through the key elements in making your stand engaging, relevant and memorable!

Happy Designing!

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