Having spent some time wandering around Offshore Europe, the biggest oil and gas industry exhibition in the continent, it interested me to see the lengths exhibitors go to trying to attract visitors to their stand.
You still see the old favourites like branded key-rings, coasters, stress-balls, carrier bags and pens but increasingly stands are offering services to entice passers-by to stop. Refreshments, confectionery, mobile phone charging stations, I even noticed one stand that had a cold meat counter and two people preparing rolls and sandwiches free of charge for anyone going past. Many stands have professional presenters complete with hands free headset inviting you in for a demonstration or to attend a seminar. One of the most striking stands contained a vintage mobile cinema showing films about their products and services at set times in the day. It looked great but I couldn’t tell how popular it was.
Video walls were very effective and really stopped people, they were a great use of space. I also noticed a couple of stands with Oculus Rift headsets and virtual reality tours. Not everyone was sure what they were but they impressed those that did stop to try them. The technology behind standard video and also virtual reality has become much more affordable in recent times, I expect to see more and more of this in the future.
There can be little doubt that offering a very good coffee, or a pastry, or simply a comfortable seat has value and as these events are about networking and meeting new contacts as much as displaying your wares they are handy tools to have in the armoury. That being said it was noticeable how many companies had bland, unremarkable stands, even some of the more expensive ones. It’s a specialist industry but even allowing for that too many exhibitors didn’t make it clear what they actually did. Others did the opposite and crammed as many images of products as they could into a small space, leaving you bewildered and confused.
Undoubtedly the best stands were those that clearly communicated a strong benefit or sales message to anyone passing. This almost always required fewer words and fewer images, something striking with a message that resonates. It’s not complicated but it’s hard to get right. To often stands displayed too many messages but no feel for the culture or personality of the company behind them far less what they actually produce or supply.
For a lot of B2B companies’ exhibitions are essential, they are also time-consuming and expensive. All the more reason to spend a little bit more time ensuring your stand is working as hard as your staff who are on it.