Position proposition

Monster exhibition stands are mere memories and compact is the word of the moment – Stand Out analyses the stand design and build market…

The Facts 2011, published last month by Vivid Interface, proved an interesting and insightful read… according to the analysis, the average number of exhibiting companies at trade shows increased by two per cent between 2009 and 2010, and while this is a true reflection of change for these like-for-like shows the study does look at a relatively small sample size.

On the other hand, the average number of exhibiting companies at consumer shows declined by a very small 0.7 per cent between 2009 and 2010.

Andy Pearce is director of Exhibit 3sixty, a company formed in 2008 with business partner Alan Craner. The company offers both modular and traditional stand fitting as well as modular shell scheme for shows up to 2,500 square metres. Historically, Pearce says that the split between modular and traditional stand construction was 50:50 but over the past 12 months he has seen this swing 70:30 in favour of the modular approach. Modular systems can be adapted and reconfigured to suit any space or exhibition and so are a popular option with end users. A modular display can literally grow with a business or campaign, creating a fresh but easily identifiable and consistent brand message time and time again.

According to Pearce, stand design is important but with budgets being tight it is key to capture all of a clients needs with a cost-effective yet stylish approach.

Bryan Marriott, managing director of Expose Designs, agrees with the trends witnessed in the FaceTime research current business opportunities stem from trade events with custom build enquiries and “shell scheme tart ups” paying the wages.

Expose Designs, which has just moved into larger offices in Billingshurst, is seeing demand for 6m x 4m and 6m x 3m stands.

“The days of the monster stand have gone,” explains Marriott, who owns the business with his daughter Hayley. “We’ve worked on Britain’s Next Top Model, but that’s mainly shell scheme. Dealing with companies direct is the way forward. There are some good agencies out there but there are also some rogues that take the money and the margins. By dealing with a stand builder direct, the end user or organiser gets as much as they can for their money. Budgets are so tight these days, you’re lucky if you get a pen or a T-shirt.”

Maja Kenney, owner at Black Iris Exhibitions, agrees with Marriott – the trend is leaning towards custom build. There’s a desire to reuse stands.

Marriott is set to work with IFSEC, GITEX in Dubai and EIG in Milan in September whilst Kenney is preparing for BAUS in Liverpool in June. Kenney recently worked at Healthcare Innovations at ExCeL and UKRO in Manchester. The stands were different in size – 6m x 3m island and 4m x 3m open three sides – and the venues and shows were very different. The client wished to use the same stand at both shows but didn’t want to use a modular system. Black Iris designed a clean, modern and curved stand to give the client a background to display their equipment on, one that was eye-catching at the same time. From the beginning, the brief stipulated that they stands had to be reused. Stand space sizes communicated early on in the process allowed Kenney and her team to give the client a higher (three metre), more imposing stand at ExCeL and a smaller, 2.4-metre high wall for the second show.

Says Kenney: “Compact is the word of the moment and that’s directly related to budget. Five figure budgets are more common but there are still those brands that look to build for under £10,000.

“Organisers get more value for money if they let the creative team have free rein with the designs. For example, we are pitching to work with a client who produces underground pipes and they would like to incorporate their product into the display. We’ve made their pipes into a display product plinth upon which their products sit.”

Ideas such as these demonstrate custom build’s strengths. But there are cheaper alternatives for those looking to have an exhibition presence.

Clip offers Shell-pac graphic panels, honeycombe panels, which can be stuck directly onto shell scheme walls – Octanorm, Sodem and Modul Classic Systems – with double sided Velcro. It’s a cheaper option for organisers with smaller budgets, but is success at a show the result of stand design or position?

Lloyd Mason, area manager, JMT Indisplay, says that creative design, lighting and a mix of furnishings are vital elements of stand design but the golden rule is “to bring the party to you and inspire”.

Grand Slam Events argues that you can get away with a “slightly dodgy looking stand”, but if your placement on the show floor is wrong the rest doesn’t matter.

Pete Allen, managing director of 4D Design and Display, describes the argument as a grey area.

“It’s down to the value of design,” he says. “It’s not in my power to get a good position in the hall but it is in my power to create a stand that will have the effect you want on a visitor. Whilst you may strive to get a good place on the floor, a bad stand design may mean you get overlooked anyway, and you cannot affect what others are doing in the hall.

“A visitor will gravitate to where it’s all happening. Design plays a role in levelling the playing field and achieving goals. But it never ceases to amaze me that organisers are still rolling out hall plans set out in the 70s. It’s not very often that you see something different but Ecobuild created corner to corner aisles at their last show, creating good vistas and not just a bunch of rabbit hutches all in a row.

“My experience is that it doesn’t matter where a client is in a hall if they get the message right, seeing an opportunity and capitalising on it. You have to understand the space, see what it can do for you and that’s not a design issue. Stand design and build shouldn’t be seen as a physical build. It’s more than that. To get noticed you need to be noticed.”