expo stand company

and how to avoid making them.

Opinion piece by Mark Powell

Exhibitions are still THE best and most effective way for you to meet new prospects and generate business, but many exhibitors get it so wrong! From over 30 years of designing and managing exhibition stands here’s my top list of mistakes to avoid when exhibiting at a trade show. Hopefully you’re not guilty of any of them…


1.      Too Much Product

“But we sell 879 different widgets, in 17 colours; we have to take every single one!”

No, you don’t need to empty the warehouse and deposit it on your stand. Doing so will just make it look like a market stall, and cost you a shed load of money in transport and time. Take the best selling lines, and/or the new stuff; the rest can be shown with graphics, video, catalogues or a combination of the three.  Ever been to a restaurant with a 12 page menu and sat there for half an hour not knowing what to have because there’s too much choice?  That’s what you’re doing to your visitors on the stand with too much product.  Resist the urge and narrow it down!

2.      Go with the flow

This can often be linked to number 1, where a stand is so cluttered that it’s almost impossible for any prospects to actually step on to the stand.  Think about the visitor experience; make your stand inviting and easy to navigate and you will attract more prospects and do more business.  Identify the main aisles and approaches where more footfall will come from and make your stand most inviting and interesting from these sides.  A good stand designer will always start with the floor plan when working out where to put what.

3.      iPad Syndrome

Competitions.  We all love to win something, but will having a big flashing arrow pointing to the ‘Win an iPad’ sign really attract more prospects, or just more people who want a free iPad?  We recently had a client who (before he came to us) did just that – gave away an iPad as his competition prize at a show.  Quite a small show; over 500 entries; not one new customer.  For the next show I advised him to work out a deal on his core offering as the prize.  The result was less than 50 entries, with new business from those entries well into 6 figures.  Because he only had people entering who were interested in the prize, this qualified all the entries and made the follow up way more productive.

4.      “What if we train them and they leave?”

“But what if we don’t train them and they stay?”  You’ve shelled out thousands on your stand space, thousands more on your stand, not to mention all the surrounding promotional material, but have you trained your staff who will be running the stand?  All that money and effort rests on how your stand staff interact and deal with the visitors at the show.  Are they collecting the right information?  Are they properly briefed on what you’re offering at the show?  Do they know not to sit on the stand eating a sandwich whilst reading Facebook on their phone at lunchtime?  Train your staff well and they will protect and increase your return on your investment.  There are specialist exhibition stand staff training companies that can work with you to get your staff up to speed and ensure you make the most of every show.

5.      Let there be light!

Walk around any exhibition and you’ll see some stands making the mistake of not thinking enough about their lighting.  They’ve gone to the trouble of being there, building a stand and populating it with product and/or graphics, but they stand out like a ninja in a power cut because they have a poor or even no lighting scheme.  A few years ago we built a stand that was essentially a storeroom, reception desk and big items of product display.  Previously they hadn’t had any lighting on the stand; all we added from the previous year was a lighting rig.  We made the product stand out by lighting it well, and the result was more than 100% increase in sales from the previous year’s show, which was in the same position, same size, same layout, but no lighting.

6.      Less is More

Just like bombarding visitors with too much product, throwing too many words at them is also a no-no.  Clear, concise, targeted messaging is essential at any show, but you’ll often see stands where it seems the intention was to replicate a 50 page brochure around the walls.  Too much text is a big mistake.  Save it for the literature hand outs and keep text on your stand short and to the point.  Think ‘elevator pitch’ – you have seconds to grab their attention.  Visitors will not stand there for 20 minutes reading it, and likely won’t even see it from a distance if you’ve had to squeeze the font size down to fit it all in.  A large relevant headline visible from a distance and bullet points of your main features and benefits will grab the attention, then you can follow up with that 50 page brochure.

7.      Planning Your Power

Exhibition electrics are a constant source of debate.  “£400 to plug a kettle in?!”  Not planning your power requirements means you end up with one of two problems: either you order more than you needed and pay more than you had to, or you order less than you needed and have the hassle of having to order on site, with the added pleasure of paying a 20% late order surcharge.  Both cost you money.  A good exhibition design and build company will help you work out exactly what you need and work out the most cost effective way of doing it so that you only pay for what you need.  They can only do that though if you’re honest about your requirements, and don’t sneak in a previously unmentioned commercial coffee machine on the opening morning…  (Yes, that did happen once.)

8.      Missing Deadlines

This can be a very costly thing to do.  Electrical orders usually need to be made 4 weeks before the show, or you will incur a 20% surcharge on your invoice.  Drawing submissions (your stand plans) are generally around 8 weeks before the show.  These usually incur nothing but regular emails from the organisers chasing you for your drawings, construction phase plan, risk assessment & method statement for your stand, but some shows are now introducing a financial penalty for late drawings, so be careful!  Ordering graphics late with your stand builder will often mean an extra charge for express production, but even if it doesn’t, supplying artwork late for your stand means that the usual checks often are not possible, so mistakes aren’t spotted and you have to live with what you get.  So be organised and give yourself time to get things sorted.  Your stand company should organise the electrics and drawings, but they’ll need you to work with them so that they have the right information in time.

9.      Lack of Follow Up

THE cardinal sin of exhibiting.  You’ve had a great show, got loads of great quality leads, then fail to follow up properly after the show, wasting all that effort – and money – that you’ve invested.  Well thought out, persistent follow up is an essential ingredient to any show.  Many prospects don’t buy there and then at the show and you’ll need to keep in touch until they’re ready to buy.  Nurture the relationship you began to build at the show and don’t give up until they either say no or place an order!  I’ve known some instances of people placing orders several years after a show, because the exhibitor had stayed in touch and not given up on following up.

There’s obviously more than nine pitfalls to avoid when exhibiting, but if you start by avoiding these, you’ll be on the right track.  If you need any help in the meantime feel free to contact me or the team at Violet; we’re always happy to help.

Violet Exhibitions Ltd  |  Alpha House  |  Coventry Road  |  Fillongley  |  CV7 8ET      tel: 01676 248 498

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