Exhibition stand design that puts delegates first: A guide

October, 16 2018

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Big signs, bright colours, lots of noise, even smells – sometimes an exhibition can be a little overwhelming for delegates. With hundreds of businesses competing to grab their attention, how do you make your stand, stand out? By putting their needs first.

It might be tempting to follow the latest exhibition stand design trends, or show off what your business can do with snazzy lighting, eye-catching installations and the latest tech, but without the delegate focus, your message will fall flat or, worse still, you won’t have a message at all.  

1. Who are your target audience?

To make sure your exhibition stand really puts your target audience first, you need to know as much as possible about them. Take time before the event to develop your awareness of their needs. Conduct your own market research by interviewing existing customers of yours and analysing sales data. Write a description of who they are and what they value.

This is where your customer persona comes in extremely handy. Creating personality profiles crystallises your understanding of your customer, bringing them into much clearer focus. Use all of your demographic information to drill down into what a delegate might need from you, but also what else is going on in their day-to-day life. To really attract them to your stand, you need to understand the main challenges they face at work. What are their pain points? Who do they have breathing down their neck? Understanding the pressures around how and why they might choose your product or service is essential, and will allow them to feel a deeper connection to your brand.

2. What do delegates want from your exhibition stand?

If you have a great product, chances are you're tempted to let it speak for itself. To be clear, delegates don’t actually care about your product; they care about themselves and their problems. Your customer research should tell you exactly what they’re occupied with or worried about.

Use your exhibition stand design to shift the spotlight away from your product and on to the problem you solve for the end user. What can your product do for them? How can it relieve their stresses? Your stand (along with the messaging, visuals, pitch - your whole brand, really) has to be designed with this in mind, focusing on the value you can offer. Keep things interactive, as 74% of consumers are more likely to buy a product following an engaging experience.

3. Making delegates comfortable?

As well as being visually enticing, you want your stand to make the people that visit your stand feel welcome enough to stay for a while. Whether you offer places to take a break or network, complimentary drinks or tasters, or the chance to make something or play games, give your exhibition stand a relaxing atmosphere. It’s not all about selling, but in the retail sector, relaxed customers have been proven to be willing to pay more. The point is, a relaxed delegate is a happy one; you want to leave a positive impression and they’re more likely to hand over their card.

An event is a unique opportunity for your business to come across well in person, so take advantage of that, too – engage all five of their senses in a way that traditional marketing on paper or a screen can't. Adding a textural element, a pleasing sound or homely smell to your exhibition stand will make it linger in your people’s minds for much longer.

4. Build a good team

Whoever you hire will directly influence the experience people have of your exhibition stand. They will be the public face of your brand and control that vital human interaction with your visitors. While putting your brand and all your hard work into someone else's hands is a bit of a scary thought, it needn't be.

Take the time before the exhibition to invest in finding staff with experience and the right attitude. You know best the brand values that you want your staff to embody, so take time to find the right people. Train them in the core values and aims of your brand. And while your front line team welcome people and deal with browsers, it can also help to have at least one senior member of the team around, to conduct any substantial discussions, if necessary.

5. Technology isn't always necessary

It’s tempting to have the latest must-have gadget as part of your exhibition stand design, but that sort of thinking often leaves a very important person behind - the delegate themselves.

Fewer than 20% of professional conference organisers believe that VR, AR and AI have a significant impact on events. So concentrate on the ways you can have meaningful interaction with your the people that visit the stand. When used well, tech can be great, but being able to tell the right brand story starts with having the right people, and creating the right space. Tech is too often a gimmick, and when everyone has a VR headset, it doesn't differentiate your stand at all.

6. Make it memorable

Events now cater to the needs of informed, exacting delegates, rather than to brands, so going in for the hard sell can jarr, putting a people off your brand for good. Instead of designing your exhibition stand around the hard sell or information gathering (‘how many business cards did you get today?’) focus on the user experience and the long term positive impact on your brand. Offer the all visitors a truly memorable experience: perhaps they can learn something new or be helped in another way.

An exhibition stand that is only trying to sell can feel like a passive experience for a delegates that will have been swamped with pitches all day. Enhance the active, engaging ways your brand can interact with people face-to-face: try a live demonstration, entertainment or a competition.

7. Use data wisely

As well as avoiding the hard sell, avoid the 'hard push’ for data, too. Attendees are digitally savvy and increasingly data savvy, too: they can tell when they're about to be asked for their details, which could put them off your carefully considered exhibition stand design.

Offer visitors to your stand an incentive for sharing their data with you, such as entry into a great competition or access to exclusive online content, but make sure that data is not the only objective of your stand. Make it worth their while to give you their details, by filling any email follow ups with personalised, relevant content. And be sure to brush up on GDPR regulations around gathering data at events.

8. Draw up some honest conclusions

During the research and design process you hopefully set out some clear goals on what you’d like your exhibition stand to achieve. When the event has finished, take time to look back on these. Did you achieve them? Did all the separate elements come together to work towards your overall goal? Gather your team and get feedback on your exhibition stand design. Pick their brains on how effective the stand was at connecting with people, what created the most engagement and what could be improved. Revisit your customer profile to consider what improvements could be made, and write up a report of your findings that you can refer back to next year.

Exhibition stand design that seriously puts delegates first feels organic and natural when done well. Always put yourself in their shoes, and consider the exhibition stands that you’ve been drawn to in the past. Know your target audience, make them feel comfortable, and don’t feel the need to overdo it.

What should your exhibition stand look like? Try our web app to find out.

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