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  • Writer's pictureAlex Cosham

What is an Exhibition Stand?

It might seem simple, but sometimes that's the best place to start. That's why we're considering simple questions like this in a series of articles that help us get 'back to basics' when it comes to event marketing.

Marketing can get pretty noisy and those holding the reigns can be pretty busy, especially when it comes to planning live events. Going back to basics now and again can be refreshing for even the most experienced of marketers and brand managers. So we invite you to come back to basics with us as we explore the simple strengths of events and how to keep them successful in our modern marketing mix.

Looking for a quick answer? Jump to the section you're interested in:

'Why go back to basics?'

Over the years events have evolved, and us with them, now bringing a wide range of new technologies, features and techniques into the industry. No doubt these enhancements have helped events remain successful and gradually more sustainable. But in order to make the most of these evolutions, we believe understanding the basic strengths and structure of events is fundamental. After all there's a reason that despite the rise of digital channels, we're now seeing a renaissance in all kinds of events, from networking to workshops and seminars to exhibitions and trade shows. All of which share the same basic benefit, bringing together customers with the people behind brands and business.

This is where exhibition stands can be a potent tool in creating the right space for connection.

So, what is an Exhibition Stand?

Generally, an exhibition stand is quite literally a 'stand' or space within an exhibition in which a business 'exhibits' or share it's products, services or brand with visitors. Typically any of these stands or spaces will involve some degree of graphics and messaging to suit the needs of the organisation exhibiting. Some may have more elaborate displays or product demonstrations, whilst others might emphasise networking or a competition or game.

One thing you could take from this general description is that exhibition stands are malleable. True. They can adapt to suit a range of sectors, budgets, products, styles and so on. The challenge brought about by this definition (or lack of one) however, is that all exhibition stands are not created equal, and this generalist stance might leave you wanting more nuance when it comes to planning budgets and the right route for your brand.

Stick 'exhibition stand' into Google and you'll see what we mean.

Chances are you'll be met with quite the mix of different images and ideas of what an exhibition stand could be, from complex custom creations to punchy pop-ups. None of them are necessarily 'wrong' or 'right' , but they do demonstrate the varying scale of stands at your disposal. So why is it important to understand this scale of exhibition stands? Well hopefully by helping you better understand what we and other 'event profs' might mean by the terms 'exhibition stand'; 'modular' and 'pop-up', it'll help you more confidently navigate your own event planning and better decide on the scale of exhibition stand that's right for your brand, budget and business objectives.

A Scale of Stands: Types of Exhibition Stand

Portables & Pop-Ups

Starting with portable displays and pop-ups, these are great options for those just starting out in exhibitions or looking to keep budget smaller. These types of display excel in smaller spaces and can be a great way to stretch budgets into the world of events without it stinging too much. Most systems operate in a similar way, combining a simple and often single section hardware unit or base with a stretchable, rollable or magnetic graphic. This setup makes them largely self-installation, easy to store and transport and suited to shell schemes and small stand spaces.

This style of exhibition stand really deserves another scale all to itself, but to keep it simple, portables will typically range from things like: 'bannerstands'- rolling graphics inside a small cassette, though to 'pop-ups' using a collapsible framework and magnetic graphic panels all the way to linkable seamless event displays and illuminated lightboxes. There are literally hundreds of portable displays on the market, and as with exhibition stands as a whole, not all are created equal. We'd always advocate the 'buy nice or buy twice' philosophy, as well as considering aspects such as reusage and replacement of graphics to minimise the environmental impact of smaller displays which sadly are often viewed as 'disposable'.

In our experience, small can still mean striking, with the impact of these displays often in savvy use of stylish design, brand and messaging.

Modular Exhibition Stands

A modular exhibition stand uses a selection of pieces or ‘modules’ to create an exhibition stand skeleton. These pieces can vary in style and size, but tend to be quite similar in how they work, often using aluminium bars, posts and connections to provide structure. This is then finished with a variety of graphics and features to complete a modular exhibition stand. Think Lego or K’nex, just a little bigger, with the common thread of reusability built into these systems. As you might imagine, these stands start to push both price and complexity higher, making them better suited to those with a predictable event calendar and some experience of exhibiting.

If you'd like to learn more about the different types of modular exhibition stands, including options for self-build and managed installation, you can explore more on our modular exhibition stand page here or feel free to ask us about a particular space or exhibition stand system you had in mind.

Custom & 'Custom-Modular' Exhibition Stands

As the name might suggest, custom exhibition stands are where brands turn to make things more bespoke. In the purest form a custom stand is built from scratch, created anew at each event. These spaces typically have a bigger footprint and a bigger budget. Construction methods can vary given their bespoke nature, but many use a collaboration of timber engineering, aluminium architectures and modular systems to create the stand structure. These spaces are then dressed with unique graphics, AV kit, furniture and the finishing touches that create some truly striking spaces. But these spaces do come at greater cost, and in more ways than one. With a want to preserve more of our client's budgets, be kinder to our planet but retain customisation and impact for brands, the custom-modular exhibition stand comes into it's own.

The 'custom-modular' exhibition stand acts as an ideal hybrid of modular reusability and custom impact. Drawing together an inventory of carefully crafted architectural elements, we can create stand structures from a shared inventory. Not only does this save clients on material costs and often unnecessary repeat fabrication, it saves wasteful practices harming our planet too. Retaining an ability to craft custom graphics, brand features and finishing details for each exhibition stand also means that economy doesn't mean boring when it comes to translating brands to the right exhibition stand.

Want some inspiration for your exhibition stand? Explore our exhibition stand portfolio for ideas.

Which exhibition stand is right for me?

Hopefully by understanding a little more about the types of exhibition stand available, from pop-ups thought to full custom creations, you'll see the ability to scale a solution to suit you. In reality, events are a far more accessible marketing channel than you might think as long as they are planned effectively. Our advice would be to start with your overall marketing strategy and ask the key question, what part do events play in my marketing? Are they top of funnel brand awareness builders, mid funnel conversation facilitators or even for bottom of funnel sales or subscriptions? What's the bigger picture events are helping achieve for your business?

From here you can ensure events are a considered part of your marketing mix in service of a proper business goal. Next comes planning a budget based on your objectives using your new knowledge about the scale of exhibition stands to help get things started.

If you're just getting started with events or want to brush up your event planning prowess, we've collected up some top tips to plan more successful events for you to explore here.

Or if you wanted to discuss your event plans, exhibition stand ideas or design, or perhaps just ask our advice about making events a part of your marketing - we're always happy to have a chat with our team combining expertise in events, marketing and design to give well-rounded and unbiased advice.


Did you know?

We also offer refreshingly simple consultancy services across brand, marketing and creative, offering you honest and expert advice at the strategic stage as well as the tactics of events and other marketing communications.

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