So you’ve booked your space, you’ve got your exhibition area paid for, now all you have to do is make your stand good – no, great! The whole concept of a good ­– no, great exhibition stand is that it delivers more than the sum of everything else at the show, a great show cannot only be derived by the speakers, the content, the calibre of the attendees or by the venue alone but by how engaging and engrossing the exhibition stands are. It’s an awesome responsibility. Exhibition stands must be charming, pleasing, absorbing, likeable, attractive, captivating and enchanting whilst also encouraging participation – easy!

So: How does a company take its brand to the stand and literally stand out? How, as businesses do you show off your wares without looking cheap, or too shallow, or too arrogant? It’s a skill. Every exhibitor needs to demonstrate its ability to shine in their given market place but without looking like an over excited peacock, performing for a crowd. Being too overzealous can lead to the customer feeling threatened, unengaged and over all, just turned off. This is not just bad for future opportunity or lead generation at the actual event but it can have a long term damaging effect on your brand, with wider damaging business implications.

No performing peacock likes to shimmer his feathers, do the dance, and strut his stuff to hear the immortal words “No!” – “What do you mean NO?!” If you use your stand to show off everything you have and keep nothing in reserve, then how can you later perform the art of sales, or use the subtle negotiation techniques of gentle persuasion through tempting disclosure whilst maintaining marketing excitement and building to an irresistible crescendo. Once the consumer discovers you’ve given everything you’ve got already, you’re in danger of peaking too soon, no reason to call again, to talk further, no second chance.

Stands are about a brand extension, reaching out to people who need to hear about what you do, and extending your grasp in a subtle way to see if you can work together, not in a vulgar, fanatical and feverish fashion that leaves all involved exhausted and none the wiser!

The question is – how do you draw people in to your stand? How do you gain permission to take up their valuable time without making them feel uncomfortable? The answer – you provide an area for people just to be, to talk, to engage to have open conversations, to relax, without selling to them, but subtly suggesting how you might one day be selling with them/for them/ alongside them, to deliver their goals and objectives. Time is the most precious commodity anyone can give you and as a great man once said “Brand is the most important real-estate in the world as it’s the corner of someone’s mind”. So if you put your time, your thought, and your company’s honest brand values running inherently through your stand, the ethos of what makes your business great will echo and shine throughout your exhibition space.

The next year ahead at exhibitions, I will be more critical, I will be looking for different, and I will be looking for creative and innovative. The same qualities that I look for in every company I work and collaborate with. Design starts with a small idea and ends up delivering a memorable brand experience on a big scale.

The next exhibition stand I commission will be designed with thought, care and consideration, but not for what I need out of the event, but for what my clients need and rightfully demand – after all, stands at exhibitions are not only a financial investment, but an investment of your time and energy, so I will ensure I get my return on investment!

Here’s to the 2017 ideas – bring it on! Make sure you stand out from the crowd, for all the right reasons.

Susannah Schofield OBE

Business owner & Founder, and NED at Cohesion marketing by Design
– who happen to also be amazing stand designers!

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