Downsizing design is currently the mantra in product demonstrations. Exhibitors have been forced to reassess their footprints and reconsider the best exhibitry components. This 4MP Guidebook escorts you through the new phase in product exhibitions.
The Current Trend
Many exhibitors are downsizing by reducing their exhibition footprint due to fewer event attendees and lower staff requirements. Others are maintaining their footprint but scaling back on the amount of exhibitry shown. This all translates to lower transportation, drayage, and labor fees.
The point is, when most exhibitors hit the road it will be with less product and less staff. The question is: what is the sweet spot to satisfying new and existing customers’ needs while downsizing your design?
What Goes and What Stays Home
You must choose exhibitry based on marketing objectives and attendee needs.
- What Is Your #1 Goal? For example, if your primary aim is to launch a new product, you would prioritize demo stations. If necessary you’d eliminate conference space.
- What Do You Want Visitors to Remember? Identify the sole thing you want visitors to remember about their experience in your booth. Often, the memory you want to instill is the name of a new product, a key message, or a positive impression of your staff or the brand. By pinpointing this aim you are forced to make sound decisions regarding your exhibitry.
- How Much Staff & How Many Attendees? What is the optimum floor density? According to the International Association of Exhibitors and Events, it is 28 sq. ft. per person. Based upon this, a 20ft. x 20ft. booth would limit occupancy to 14 people. It is important to determine how many attendees will occupy your space at once with staff. For example, if only three people will occupy the space due to density recommendations do you need a reception counter? And if only three or four staff are present do they need a sizeable storage area?
- What Do Attendees Need? It is time to ask hard questions to reassess each show’s unique attendance. Who’s going to the expo? What do they need and how have these needs changed since 2000? Determine how you want visitors to feel and what you want them to think and know about your brand or product. If you understand your ‘audience’ you can choose components that will facilitate face-to-face conversations.
- How Will Staff Engage Visitors? The whole point of trade shows or expos is to allow staff to interact with attendees. Visitor engagement and interaction are the top priority.
Looking BIG In A Small Space
Your space is going to have a small footprint but must still look spacious and inviting as opposed to cluttered and cramped.
Clutter prevents visitors. Maintain a light focus on your main message, goals, and products, and eliminate everything else.
Avoid dark colors and patterns.
Designers often use patterns and dark colors to elicit emotions and intimacy. But if you want to maintain a sense of openness within a small space, bypass the patterns and aim for lighter colors.
Incorporate Some White Space
Dense graphics diminish the size of your booth. It’s important to maintain some white space and not overfill your graphics with messages or text.
Maintain Your Sightlines
Attendees want to be able to see through and into your space, so designing clear, uninterrupted sightlines to key points of interest is paramount. Incorporating see-through walls and slatted dividers, make a smaller space appear larger.
Dispense With The Unnecessary
Take a close look at your exhibit elements and eliminate what isn’t vital to achieving your goals.
Face-to-face meetings are essential so you’ll need to set aside ‘pandemic-friendly’ meeting space. The enclosed conference rooms are out. Close-quarters meetings are not recommended at this time.
Paper and Other Items
Brochures, product cut-sheets, promotional literature, and any audio/visual items that do not support your main objective should be dispensed with, along with their stands, storage cabinets, etc. Replace these with a QR code that affords access to all of the promotional items.
Edible Gifts and Hospitality Setups
Due to the pandemic, most people do not feel comfortable with food service. You may want to reconsider hospitality and food giveaways. Prepackaged items and bottled water or other drinks may be more appropriate.
While you may want to have seating for discussions or presentations and demos, I recommend against lounge furniture that may entice visitors to linger in your space – limited as it is.
When selecting booth staff consider who will best serve the needs of both the company and the attendees. Bring your A-team and leave the rest behind. Bring your top-notch selling people mixed with product specialists. Have others ready for scheduled meetings via a virtual link.
Heavy and Cumbersome Equipment and Components
These items cost a lot to ship, unpack/crate, install, repack, and reship. Carefully look over such equipment to determine if it is truly critical to your objectives. Doing so frees up limited space and can reduce exhibition costs significantly.
Further, enhance your downsizing efforts by fully leveraging the components you DO bring to the event. Downsizing the design of an exhibition booth involves more than merely purging some equipment and furnishings. You also need to make smart choices about the remaining exhibitry and leverage the ‘keepers’ to their fullest extent.
Employ Dual-function Elements
Reception desks can be purchased with built-in demo screens and storage space. A three-sided wall can incorporate an interactive screen on one side, a product display on another, and a meeting space with a whiteboard on the third side.
Replace On-site Swag With an Online Store
In-booth giveaways can be substituted with a virtual swag store filled with branded items or gift-card codes attendees can redeem online.
Qualified visitors can view the store via a tablet, input their contact information and pick what they want. After the event, their gifts can be emailed or shipped to them.
Consider Traffic Flow
To make the most of your selected exhibitry, ask show management about any traffic flow changes or show-floor adjustments that could affect how you orient your booth. You don’t want to position your LED display in the opposite direction from which attendees will be approaching your space.
Effectiveness Is The Top Priority
Effectiveness trumps everything. If you can downsize your space and deliver on your goals and objectives, then you absolutely should. But if you can’t deliver an experience that represents your brand or showcases your products in the best light, then that event could be more detrimental than beneficial.
Mastering The Hybrid Trade Show (online and in-person simultaneously)
Now, a company can connect to prospects and customers wherever or whenever, which is truly an audience-centric approach. What this means for trade show participation is profound
Event planners will need to put on two events because the in-person experience is consumed very differently than one viewed remotely. For example, for online visitors, the length of time spent engaging in an event will be shorter compared to the typical in-person attendee.
Hybrid events will take what you learned from doing fully virtual events and allow you to create more immersive experiences for remote and live attendees and presenters. Attendees at hybrid events will be given the flexibility of how they can take in the event experience.
Pre-pandemic, hybrid shows were growing but slowly, now the COVID catalyst boosted adoption and acceptance. Additionally, hybrids leveled the field for smaller companies, which can now get attention by innovatively linking their real-life event and virtual platform.
Think. It’s not what I can’t do… It’s what I can do.
Post-pandemic, the world of exhibiting at tradeshows, expos, and conferences has profoundly and permanently changed. The new normal is smaller exhibit footprints but which incorporate more attendee interfacing through the use of the hybrid event tactics.
This Guidebook is one in a series, published by 4M Performance, that are intended to educate and inform all business-minded individuals, other Guidebooks include: