Sadly, I missed it. But the other day at Ecobuild a group of eagle-eyed marketeers went on a guided tour of the Ecobuild exhibition.
Led by Rick Osman of Highwire Design for CIMCIG - the Chartered Institute of Marketing's construction interest group - they scanned a selection of exhibition stands looking for the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Rick then published a very useful and diplomatic guide - the CIMCIG Walkabout Notes (PDF) - which highlighted how many companies could increase the effectiveness of their stand by simple adjustments of the display material.
It's an excellent read. Some of his top tips include:
- Ensure your stand gives clear and unambiguous messages about who you are and what you do (no matter how well known your brand might be).
- Make information readable from the aisle, always keep words above waist level, and provide pictures of case studies.
- The display should be rooted in the product itself and its benefits.
- Ensure well-stocked brochure holders.
- Consider use of good, large explanatory drawings and plenty of examples.
- Avoid any rubbish on your stand (busy-ness and activity should not degenerate into messiness).
- Never eat on your stand.
- Don't create a fortress by putting large displays/counters/products at the front of a stand which act as a barrier.
- Don't put videos at the back of your stand and then stand in front of them!
- A4 is far too small a size to be an exhibition poster.
For professional services companies, Rick's advice is spot on:
"For consultancies and similar companies, the lesson is the same as for a product supplier - tell visitors who you are and what you do, and rather than displaying actual products use the benefits of using the consultancy and ensure this is backed up with case studies."
Of course I'm not as diplomatic as Rick. So when I did a bit of a tour of the exhibition myself each day, I will admit that I was struck even more by the lack of human engagement by some of the exhibitors:
This stand (see above) looks busy but actually the people on it are the guys from the stand next door, picking over the marketing materials and samples on display. The stand itself was entirely un-manned every time I passed it during the three days of the exhibition.
This stand (see above) just made me sad. Maybe he was tired out from a flurry of new business enquiries and decided to have a quiet sit down for an hour or two. But never have I seen a company representative look so bored, lonely or dejected. If you see him next year, please buy him a coffee and stop for a chat?
In contrast, I'm breaking all rules of impartiality and giving the People Make The Difference Award to my client Inbuilt (see above), who put on a series of free '20 Minute Briefings' talks on their stand. Even the youngest consultants there had the gumption to stand in front of a crowd of strangers, put on a microphone and launch energetically into a presentation on some critical aspect of sustainability in the built environment. Every day, every hour, they'd put on a show - even if, at first, there was just a single person in the audience.
So by all means invest in a fantastic stand and the best brochures money can buy, but don't forget that it's your people who make exhibitions commercially successful. There's some great advice on all aspects of exhibition marketing, particularly the people bit, at this website - Exhibition-Stand-Training.com.