What to consider when planning an exhibition stand

By Kelly Oldham | October 13, 2021

When exhibiting at an industry event and/or accepting a speaker slot, it can be an incredibly stressful process. There are so many elements to think about, even if you’re just creating a small stand. Improve the odds of seeing a return on investment (ROI) for your business, whilst minimising the pressure on your employees, by being well organised and knowing what is expected.  

A well-respected and established event organiser running a trade show will likely have a clear system and offer lots of advice on the best times to have parts of your plan in place. Unfortunately, not all events are created equal. We’d advise researching the organisers as well as the show, before committing to booking. A poorly organised show can add stress to your team, particularly if there are snagging issues, but you may still decide that that event is a perfect platform for your products or services.  

Below is a list of the various parts of the process that may be relevant to you, which is based on our experience as a PR & marketing consultancy. We regularly attend construction and industry events in addition to having organised stands for us and for clients. 

Before you book  

Have a plan before you plan 

When you take part in or attend a lot of events, you realise how important it is to know what to expect before you even register your interest. Things to consider: 

Your budget  

Can you afford the expense? What do you have already that can be repurposed? With a smaller budget, is a smaller stand a better choice or can you save money by doing a lot of the work in-house? Having a budget will also help you make smarter decisions about what you need and what you can do without. 

People 

How many people will you need and for how many days, to ensure adequate cover and breaks? Also factor in time for set up and breakdown of the stand, whether you need drivers, who is manual handling trained/physically able (if lifting/carrying is involved), and skill level required. Having a mix of experience is helpful as you may need senior members to answer harder/technical questions. Staffing will need to be included as part of your budget allowance in some cases, but certainly will need to be considered when their absence affects the general running of the business. 

Key people 

Assign one key person to oversee all aspects of the project, from booking through to reporting after the event (they don’t need to complete all tasks, just be responsible for the timing of them and reminding people when things need doing). Check all scheduled annual leave for anyone involved in the project – you don’t want to find out the assigned graphic designer is on holiday the week before you need to submit your banner to the printers. 

Processes 

Have a clear process to follow that any member of the team can pick up and know what needs to happen next, if they must take over from the key person selected in the beginning. This process ideally should also include a schedule for meeting deadlines, including lead times for any orders. 

Suppliers 

Have all suppliers you use (eg. Printers) or plan to contact for quotes in an easily accessible document with contact numbers, account managers, costings, and estimated turnaround times. You will need to add these deadlines into your checklist/plan. 

Brief 

If you’re working with a PR/marketing consultancy like us, or outsourcing to a stand design and installation company, you will need to create a brief for what kind of stand you’re looking for. This will need to include:  

  • Booking confirmation which includes details of size of space and what is included.
  • Budget. 
  • Deadlines. 
  • Points of contact (your assigned person who is managing the event process and the event organiser). 
  • Brand guidelines (colours, fonts, logos). 
  • What you want to achieve/your goals. 
  • Target audience. 
  • Key messaging. 
  • Previous examples (if you’ve had stands created before) or examples of what you like the look of (you may also want to consider including what you don’t like and why). 
  • Any ideas you have on things such as theme, what you want to include/already have. 
  • Any additional information that may be helpful. 

What does success look like?  

Before the event, perhaps even before you book the event, your team will need to discuss what you feel the ROI should look like. We have a blog that covers relevant measurements, but these may include:  

  • Collecting leads 
  • Sales 
  • General awareness 
  • Traffic to the website
  • Bookings for CPDs
  • Downloads
  • Attendees to presentation 

This will determine how you approach your strategy for the event, as you should treat it like a campaign, with a report issued a set period afterwards to assess its value to you and your business. 

Time to book! 

Alright, you’ve done the work in the run up to registration opening and now it’s time to accept the invite. From our experience, it’s essential to be really organised from the very beginning. If you have a shared area with your team, it’s best to set up a folder and file that’s easy to access by anyone who may be involved (or who may need to take over, if your assigned person has to handover). This is where all important information is stored, from booking confirmation and invoices through to contacts. You want to make it as easy as possible to find whatever might be needed, so you should organise these into sub-folders for types of documents (eg. ‘stand’ may include plans and hire contracts and ‘admin’ may include event booking confirmation, stand specifications, and legal documents). 

What to have in your event pack: 

  • Booking confirmation for the event.  
  • Know who is your event organiser’s point of contact/account manager, if you have any problems or questions. If you’re dealing with an event planner/organisation for the show or exhibition, have these contacts and what they’re responsible for logged within your important documents pack/folder.  
  • Details in writing of what your stand includes (ie. carpet, electrical supply, frame, branded boards etc) or who to contact, if you need to order these. 
  • Measurements of the stand and all furniture/fixtures (very helpful when designing the stand). 
  • Event brochure/task list which should have details of what is expected by what date, who to contact with what, who is responsible for completing each task, and a list of recommended suppliers. You’ll also need this to be stored somewhere safe and add to your plan, so you stay on track. 
  • Confirmation/contracts for orders/hire equipment (and check the details are correct, such as them being delivered to the right place at the right time) and what the process is if there’s a problem or you need extra of something during the event (eg. water). 
  • Contacts for all orders/hired equipment (and be sure to have this with you during the event in case there are any issues). 
  • Stand plan/design (be mindful of location, orientation, and whether it has walls, a frame or is an ‘island’ stand as this will affect how you lay out equipment and furniture. You will also need to understand where things like sockets are positioned and how many sockets there are as this will determine where you can lay out electrical equipment). Or make sure the company designing your stand has all this information. 
  • Be clear on the event schedule (times you can set up, when you need to leave, opening hours, how early you can get there/leave, what the procedures are for entering/leaving, how to have items delivered during the event, if needed).  
  • Risk assessment. 
  • Liability insurance. 
  • Graphic designs (eg. banner, literature). 

What to have ready before the event:  

  • Register for exhibitor/speaker badges (which often need to be printed before the event). 
  • Vehicle registration/booking system (especially if needing to bring in large equipment/hire HGVs etc). 
  • Banner(s). 
  • Any additional branded material, such as the stand itself, name board, literature, etc.  
  • Any videos or slides (these need to be created and tested before the event). 
  • If you’ve accepted a speaking slot, ensure the speaker is assigned early and has sufficient time to go through material and slides before the event. 
  • Test the timing of presentation slides and, where possible, allow time for questions. 

Items to think about adding on the stand: 

  • Literature such as flyers and business cards. 
  • Water for visitors but primarily for those supervising the stand. 
  • Items for visitors, such as sweets or small gifts (helps attract foot flow). 
  • Have a secure place, like a locked cabinet, for employee belongings and to put away visitor gifts (the edible kind may ‘disappear’ after you leave as fitters and delivery crews may be tired and hungry after a long, stressful day). 
  • A system for collecting contacts/enquiries or book a CRM scanner (and know how to use the system – it should also be GDPR compliant). 
  • Have spare USB sticks that contain important documents such as presentation slides and/or videos for the stand. 
  • Stationery. 
  • It is also helpful to think about taking along miscellaneous items, particularly when considering the comfort of your staff and how long they’ll be there. These may include tissues, hand sanitiser, masks (can be branded), hand lotion, surface wipes, paper towels (in case of spillage), first aid kit (should be a first aid station on site at the event also), and snacks. 

What to check before the event: 

  • That any recommended/partner suppliers for the event are for the hall/event you’re booked at and not the next one over. If you have a problem during the event or need to request something, you don’t want to be traipsing around the entire complex trying to find the right customer service desk. 
  • Have sufficient cover for the stand to allow for breaks and if it’s busy.  
  • Contact numbers for all people covering the stand, in case there are any issues. 
  • There may also be new protocols in place, such as the restrictions and proof of vaccinations/testing that came in for 2021’s exhibitions. You will need to familiarise yourself with these and ensure anyone attending for you is compliant. 
  • If using TVs, check the specifications to ensure they have USB ports (or relevant connection for the system you intend to use), otherwise you will need to make alternative plans, such as bringing along a laptop and HDMI cable. 
  • Ensure those supervising the stand understand where your space is located and what the plan is. This will also include what the provisions are and how to claim back any purchases, such as lunch and beverages (if this isn’t being provided). 
  • You may also want to think about ensuring one of the team has a credit card for emergency purchases, such as last-minute equipment or if there’s been an error made that needs to be quickly rectified.  

Things to consider when promoting:  

  • Branded graphic templates for when images are sparse or want to post on social media with quotes/thoughts about the event/speaker slots. 
  • Have you taken advantage of any marketing opportunities offered by the event? 
  • If you’re creating a news release, who is doing this and when does it need to be distributed, for maximum exposure?  
  • What is the social media campaign looking like and who is taking charge of this? 
  • Who’s taking pictures during the event?  
  • Has someone been assigned to live tweet?  
  • What are you tracking and how is this being reported at the end of the event?  

It’s a wrap! 

Once the banner is packed away and you can finally relax, there are a couple of jobs you will need to attend to.  

  • Action any queries or requests received during the event, including adding contacts to your CRM (again, ensure a GDPR-compliant process).  
  • You should receive a survey a week or two following the event – be as honest as you can be as this should help to improve things in future, if you feel there were areas that didn’t work as smoothly as you would have liked. 
  • Collect data, such as reports from places you distributed your news release, social, and landing pages on the website. The event may also send you a report of foot traffic and presentation attendees.  
  • Discuss with the team what you felt worked well and didn’t work so well so you can improve your own processes for next time.  
  • Compile your internal report to assess how successful you felt the show was.  
  • Take advantage of early booking for your next event! 
Tips: 
  • Have a clear sign off process for all elements, such as who needs to see graphics and who has final say on what goes to print. Decide on how long people have to make comments/amends and stick to your plan as closely as possible so you hit your deadlines! 
  • Build in a sufficient cushion within the schedule so that you have time to rectify issues and/or make amends to things such as banners and other collateral.  
  • A couple of weeks before the event, check you have everything. Go through your folder and make sure you have all orders, contracts, plans etc. You also need to make sure everything is paid for and going to the right place/that they have all the details they need. 
  • When items are delivered – check them! Errors sometimes happen but you don’t want to find out on the day you set up the stand that something isn’t right or you haven’t received a complete order. If you’ve built in the cushion, you have the time to fix problems. You don’t want to be rushing last minute as this will be more stressful and make it harder to fit into other people’s schedules (printers, for example, may be trying to hit an event deadline for everyone else too). 
  • When ordering equipment, set it up, test it and know how to use it before the event.   

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