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Enhancing your booth can help you to stand out from the crowd

19 Sep 2008

Designing a booth that hits the mark at a trade show can be the difference between making the right impression and getting lost in the crowd. OLE speaks to Steve Lindsey of Prime Events Solutions to bring you advice on how to make the most of your booth and help you to stand out from the rest of the exhibitors.

Steve Lindsey is director of Prime Events Solutions Ltd, which provides event and exhibition management support to show organizers and exhibitors. Having previously worked closely with UK Trade and Investment coordinating UK pavilions around the world, he now turns his expertise to managing roadshows, conferences, bringing companies to exhibitions and managing their booths. Prime is also the UK representative of Messe Stuttgart, notably for the VISION and LASYS events.

What key points should you consider in order to get the most out of your booth?
It is important to remember that it takes about three seconds for a visitor to walk past your booth. In that time you need to show them exactly who you are and most importantly, what you can do for them.

The first thing to consider is the function of the booth. If you are launching a new product or service you should allocate a demonstration area or a flatscreen to deliver a specific message. If, however, you are there solely to take in leads, you need dedicated counters from which you can do this. Finally, if you are looking to meet and entertain clients, then you could set aside a lounge area, perhaps with a fridge or a bar.

The second thing is to build high. This is a guaranteed way to gain attention and is a lot more cost-effective than taking up extra floor space. Additional height allows you to place graphics at a higher level, which makes you more visible throughout the event. This high structure can also incorporate a storage area, a rotating feature or plasma screens.

The third point is branding. If a company doesn't have a strong identity, it's very difficult to make it stand out. Blue and white are always seen at exhibitions because they are popular corporate colours, but if you can dare to be different, then you are more likely to stand out and be remembered by visitors. Try to ensure that personnel wear a uniform, ideally to mirror the branding.

The final point is using imagery to grab people's attention. Many times it can feel as if you are reading an encyclopaedia at a booth because companies try to provide too much information. This is not going to draw people in. Visitors are looking for a clean, sharp image with a simple statement of who you are and what you do. One thing to remember is to never use the bottom half metre of the booth from the floor upwards because this portion is never seen.

Does the size of the exhibition have a bearing on booth design?
Different exhibitions are used by companies to gain different results. For example, at shows like Photonics West, the average exhibitor has a good understanding of the marketplace. This means that the booth space is often used as a meeting and lounge area for discussions with clients. If, however, you are going to a brand new market in China for example, you will need to change the function of the booth to promote your product range to a new audience.

How do you make the most impact?
First you need to focus on marketing before an event: read the manual for any free promotional opportunities; get yourself into the show catalogue; send out press releases; include the name of the show and your booth number on your website, e-mail signatures and even stickers on outgoing mail. I will admit that some booth locations are better than others, but it is extremely rare to have a bad position. It usually comes down to poor preparation or lack of pre-show marketing.

Keep the booth design clean, simple and open. Don't make the mistake of overloading your booth with all of the products that your company can offer. Visitors just want to see what's new and cutting edge. Some of the most effective booths are the ones that don't have any products on show at all.

How do you make the most out of a small booth?
It's not always the case that the bigger the booth the bigger the impact because genu-ine quality visitors will not be fooled by this, it's your products that they've come to see. Whether your space measures 9 or 100 m2, the approach is the same – keep things to an absolute minimum. The more furniture, products, multimedia messaging and literature that clutters up your booth, the more mixed messages you send out. Tables and chairs are not essential, especially if you have more than one person manning the booth. You can always take your visitor to a local cafeteria or restaurant.

What are some of the big lessons that you have learnt along the way?
The biggest mistake that I see is companies failing to plan ahead. Exhibitions can be expensive. However, by booking early you can often take advantage of a discounted rate. This not only applies to floor space, but also to electrical services and carpets. 80–90% of exhibitors will either pay the normal rate or a huge surcharge on-site because they have not read the deadlines in the exhibitor manual. By booking early you can get a preferential location and once you have your booth number you can start marketing. Show organizers often offer the opportunity to upload press releases in the months leading up to the event, but only 10–15% of exhibitors do this because most are not aware that it is available. Done correctly, exhibitions are one of the most cost-effective forms of marketing.

• Steve Lindsey can be contacted at steve@prime-events.co.uk. For more information, visit www.prime-events.co.uk.

• This article originally appeared in the September 2008 issue of Optics & Laser Europe magazine.

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