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  • Writer's pictureEleanor Loveday

How to bring your brand outdoors: a guide for more extraordinary outdoor events

So, you’re thinking about exhibiting at an outdoor event. Maybe it’s your first outdoor exhibition, or perhaps you’re considering how outdoor events can be more effective for you. Outdoor events can be hugely beneficial for brands, but they require a good deal of thought and planning.

Whether you’re new to events or a seasoned exhibitor, we’ve created the ultimate guide to outdoor events and exhibitions, to help you properly prepare and set up for success before you go.

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Helix Autosport custom outdoor exhibition stand at Goodwood Festival of Speed 2023.

Start with strategy

Any successful event should start with strategy. Before you begin planning your outdoor event, you should consider why you’re exhibiting, and what success at the event means for your business. Consider, why you’ve chosen this event over another? Having a clear picture of why you’re exhibiting will help you decide on key objectives that support your wider marketing. With clear objectives and a defined budget, your planning will be more focused from the start.


Planning for opportunity and the outdoors

As a rule of thumb, we recommend planning around 3 months ahead of your event.  

However, your timing might vary depending on the event, as well as the scale you’re exhibiting at. If in doubt, earlier is always better!

If you’re able to, visit the event before exhibiting.

You’ll be able to scope out who’s attending, what the competition is like, and the logistics of the show. If visiting the event itself isn’t possible, visiting the venue still might give you helpful insights too.

Consider the type of environment you’ll be in.

For instance, is it an open field, or a more enclosed space or marquee? Outdoor events will rarely provide you with a typical floorplan like an indoor trade show would, so seeing the space for yourself is really useful. Take note of the parking and access requirements, and where your stand will be situated. Having sight of the venue layout will help you be prepared ahead of the event.

Make sure that you speak to the organiser early to get all the information you’ll need.

Be clear about your plans and ask what the venue does and doesn’t allow so that you’re not caught out. For instance, will you need power routing, waste and water facilities, or specific health and safety permission? As outdoor projects get more complex, it can be worth considering an events partner to take on some of the technical detail. Beyond smaller scale pop-ups or portable equipment, exhibiting with a custom built outdoor structure is a step up in terms of responsibilities , spend and honestly stress. Before committing, it’s always helpful to consider fully the best approach for you and your business.

Adnams outdoor event kit concept, featuring outdoor branded pub pergola


What type of event display works outdoors?

There are many different types of exhibition displays that you might use at your outdoor events, from DIY portable displays to more complex custom exhibition builds. Here are some of the most common:

Pop-up/DIY displays

Pop-up displays are a low budget, simple option for an outdoor exhibition. They’re easy to transport, set up, and pack down, making them a popular choice for first-time exhibitors or those self-installing their exhibition stand. For outdoor events, pop-up displays might consist of event flags or banners that attach to a vehicle. At the most basic level, it might even be a fold-out table and some simple signage.

Adnams outdoor event kit pop-up tasting counters and literature holders

Gazebos and Event Tents

Along with your pop-up display, you may wish to invest in a gazebo or event tent. A gazebo will provide shelter at the event as well as giving your brand greater visibility. You can buy an affordable plain event tent off-the-shelf, or you might want to invest in a branded gazebo with custom-printed graphics. It’s worth investing in a good quality kit, and also remembering things like weight plates, ground pegs and a well secured canopy should the UK weather be, well, the UK weather. If attending a number of outdoor events, investing in kit that lasts overtime is a great way to extend exhibiting ROI!

Riddlesworth Hall school branded gazebo at outdoor fair exhibition

Product-Centred Displays

At some outdoor events, you might choose to let your product do most of the talking. This is particularly common at automotive events, where cars usually dominate the stand space and may be supported by branded flags or pop up banners. In this case, it’s probably less likely you’d need an event prof, but plenty of polish and prep to make sure your product shines.

Audi outdoor car display, with outdoor event flags


Event Trucks and Trailers

Trucks and trailers are a common set-up at outdoor events. They’re particularly favoured among food and drink brands, with food preparation, waste and water facilities often built in. Investing in a truck or trailer will come with significantly higher cost than an event tent or pop-up display, but they can often be a smart long-term choice for businesses.

If you have or are considering investing in a branded vehicle or trailer, it’s worth exploring any limitations on where you can take your new investment and what steps you might need to consider to exhibit with it. Often, with outdoor events it can mean protecting the ground from pressure from tyres using floor pads, whereas for indoors preparing a vehicle or trailer can extend to draining fuel, disconnecting batteries and meeting restrictions on size, height or setup space. If you need your vehicle to be as versatile as possible, check these limitations before you decide what to invest in. Often a good truck or trailer can also be used in combination with lots of the other displays we talk about in this guide too.


Adnams outdoor event bar design

Outdoor Bars and Pop Up Shops

If you want more space to welcome your customers into, you might opt for a bar-style setup instead. And bars aren’t just for booze – this style of display could work for anyone who’s selling in high volumes at the event, or it could be used as an alternative way of displaying product or hosting a hospitality area. You could even create a reconfigurable outdoor bar made of collapsible counter units, allowing you to re-use the bar at different scales. A bar will take longer to set up than many other types of display, and may require professional build support, adding to cost. However, they can be an inviting and effective way of connecting with customers, especially when paired with staffing and a strong sense of brand and hospitality.

Adnams outdoor pop up shop design concept


Outdoor Exhibition Stands and Brand Spaces

At the top end of cost and complexity, you may choose a custom outdoor exhibition stand. These are often more common at an indoor exhibition, as outdoor events can bring extended considerations of how the structure is anchored or how it resists wind and weather. While there are additional factors like this to bear in mind, bigger builds have the potential to deliver bigger benefits to brand impact. These spaces can extend from hospitality and private meeting areas, all the way to product demonstrations or brand experiences complete with games and interactions. When it comes to outdoor, the sky is literally the limit, but it’s always important to work within the practicalities of the venue, organiser, and of course budgetary constraints of your event. 

Helix Autosport outdoor exhibition stand at Goodwood Festival of Speed

Budgeting for outdoor events

The cost of entry can be lower for outdoor events, especially on a more local level making them an appealing way of exhibiting for many businesses. However, if you don’t know what to look out for, the costs can quickly rack up. Use your advanced planning to get the most out of your budget and avoid panic-spending. Speak to the show organiser in advance for clarity on what is and is not included. As your installation or outdoor space gets more complex, it’s also important to unearth hidden expenses like ground scanning or the routing of essential services which should be included in your budget for the event. If you’re new to an outdoor event, speak to your events partner who should help you understand the costs associated with outdoor events and how to manage them.


Respecting the great outdoors

Naturally, exhibiting outdoors brings with it different considerations than indoor events.

The golden rule is to leave the venue as it was when you arrived, so ensure you’re providing bins for yourselves and customers (especially if you’re serving food or drink). You should be mindful of the environment that you’re exhibiting in, including your impact on it, and its impact on your event. Accept that this may bring additional challenges. For instance, think about the terrain – do you need to prepare for uneven ground?

Prepare for unpredictable weather.

We all know that going to an event in the British summer doesn’t guarantee you good weather, so make sure you’re ready for all eventualities. Make sure that your stand is waterproof. Most outdoor event equipment should keep you dry, but it’s worth checking before you invest in a new display. If you’re not under cover, it’s probably worth investing in a gazebo, or at least making sure that your display won’t be damaged if it does rain.

Ensure that your stand is sturdy and won’t take off in the wind. You can invest in some sandbags or weights to keep portable event equipment firmly on the ground – after all, you’re exhibiting, not doing a flying display. Robust equipment can mean more weight for you to transport to the event, but it’s a worthwhile precaution.

Riddlesworth Hall School outdoor gazebo and event flags


Staffing for success

Make sure that you and your team are appropriately prepared, too. Bring clothing and supplies for all weather eventualities, and wear comfortable shoes. You may end up having to walk or carry equipment for a distance, and standing up for a long event can be uncomfortable if you’re not used to it.

People can be the make or break for a successful event, so look after them. Plan a rota, and allow for plenty of breaks. Not only will it keep the team fresh, but it will allow everyone time to explore the event and network too. Curate a team of strong, informed communicators, ensuring that the expectations of everyone are clear and the objectives of the event shared. Encourage openness and enthusiasm too – personal connection gives a greater depth to your leads and makes visits far more memorable.


Branded Graphics & Visibility Outdoors

Generally, outdoor events will be in a bigger area, with a very different layout to an exhibition hall. Your brand will need to be even more visible – that means brighter and bigger than it would be indoors. This will be particularly true if your stand is far away from other parts of the venue. Consider how your display plays at different distances and how branding is visible from further away, ideally at height in simple distinctive fashion. Events are a place for simple messages, with outdoor no exception, so keep graphics clear and concise for maximum impact.

It can be valuable to explore ways to extend the reach of your brand into wayfinding signage or messaging in other parts of the venue. Perhaps there is an opportune sponsorship package or brand collab to consider with fellow exhibitors? Extending your reach at any event is helpful and encourages maximum footfall, with multiple touchpoints pointing your way.

Helix Autosport outdoor exhibition stand graphic


After reading our guide, we hope that you now feel better prepared to exhibit at outdoor events. And if you need support with your event, we’re all ears. Get in touch and talk to us about your exhibiting plans today.

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