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Writing an effective brief for an exhibition stand design

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Posted by , 19th September 2017

Writing a design brief: the Brightstars stand at Mobile World Congress

When it comes to creating an effective stand design brief, you really do have to start at the beginning.

Now about your design brief. It may seem like a stupid question but first ask yourself: why are you taking stand space at a particular exhibition? Do some research first and find out the relevant information. There’s lots available through the organisers and industry press that will give you an insight into previous shows, delegate attendance and show growth strategies that will help determine the appropriateness of a show.

With this information set your goals which will form the initial basis for your stand design brief, to go out to your agency (or multiple agencies) for tender. What do you wish to achieve from taking a stand at the particular show or event? Set realistic targets and then aim to exceed them.

Challenge yourself not to do what you always do but do it differently, achieve standout and better customer engagement. Budgets are of course, commercially important but use them as a guide to work to rather than a hard and fast line not to be crossed. Increased long term returns from credible solutions are more important to business success than minimising costs at the expense of effectiveness.

Design agencies must be in it for the long term

Choosing your suppliers is always a difficult task but it’s one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Who you partner with to design and/or build your stand will make a huge difference to the final outcome. When you find the right supplier, it can often signal the start of a mutually rewarding and exciting relationship for years to come.

Start well in advance of your next requirement where possible. Rather than just Googling “stand design agency” try to look for the proof in the pudding. Attend shows that are similar to your industry and see where you can spot quality workmanship from suppliers working with brands and businesses you aspire to emulate. Then choose suppliers with a track record of delivering exceptional results for their clients. Some of the things you should look for include:

  • Portfolios of previous work (including knowledge and experience at your particular show)
  • Client references
  • Recommendations from your peers or industry contacts

Once you have narrowed down your choices, find the agencies who align with your business and can deliver against your goals. It is imperative you take the time to meet them in person or at the very least on a conference call. How can you possibly maximise an agency’s input into your business if you don’t take the time to get to know them? Done right, preparation for an upcoming exhibition takes up a fair bit of time so it’s going to be far more rewarding if you like the people you are going to be working with and you can trust them to deliver.

Look to maximise value with agency proposals that deliver long term valuable results rather than the lowest cost solution.

Related article on stand design from Pete Allen 

Communicate your vision

I don’t think there is any fast and hard method to writing a stand design brief.

Cover all of the hard point requirements first. What you need in terms of client meeting spaces, product areas, delegate engagement, technology and so on. Include your business strategy and what you need to happen for the exercise to deliver the right results. Then add detail and try to give the agencies an insight into your company aspirations.

If you are approaching exhibiting in the right way you need to let these agencies into your business. Don’t just let them design for you, consult with them and use their expertise to drive the business to increased success through the face-to-face environment.

At 4D, we often work with startups at their initial stages when they are just taking their first space only stand at a show. The exhibition environment can be really daunting and at first glance, it isn’t always clear how to communicate a starting vision in a live environment. We worked with Brightstar (the interior of their stand heads this article), a previous client, from their first exhibition presence at Mobile World Congress through to acquisition.

Each year their stand grew and evolved and we added more experiences for their visitors. It wouldn’t have been possible to be a part of this journey if they hadn’t first been clear with us where the company was going and what its aspirations were.

Be clear when communicating with your selected suppliers. What are your visions and goals and let the experts share in them and show you what’s possible.

Have an open mind

It’s always tempting to fall back into the approach you have always taken at previous shows but if increased results is what you are after, something needs to change. Keep an open mind when reading through your proposals. Don’t dismiss a different approach or design on first glance. Think about the final vision and how this will feel, taste, sound or look to your visitors.

You can also evolve designs year-on-year, even if you are using the same amount of space, as we have done for ARM at Mobile World Congress shown below.

ARM's stands at Mobile World Congress

When presented with a solution from your agency look at how it delivers on your brand and goals not whether you personally like it or not. Be subjective about any proposal before dismissing anything because of personal preferences. Ask the agency questions on why it is the right solution and how it will deliver the results you need. Often, this may uncover a visitor journey or experience you wouldn’t have considered.

Design is fluid

The thing I think is most important to remember is that design is fluid, adaptable and should always be an exciting journey and not a take it or leave it destination. If nothing else, it is the first line of discussion that the final amazing solution can develop from.

Secondly, good stand design can be low cost but is never usually cheap. The very best of design will maximise your stand value by achieving exceptional brand and product exposure, engagements, ROI and long term brand loyalty.

Exhibitions are amazing, bold marketing opportunities that can deliver exceptional results. So long as you don’t hold back, there is no limit on what you, and your agency, can create.

Pete Allen of 4D Design

About the Author

Pete Allen is the founder of 4D, a specialist exhibition design agency founded in 1994. For over 20 years, Pete has worked with ambitious global technology, IT and telecom companies at shows such as Mobile World Congress.

Pete’s passion for the events industry lies in the variety and speed of projects and the ability to do amazing things in weeks instead of years, as is the case in his other passion of architecture. Pete’s knowledge, experience and enviable track-record at MWC allows him and the 4D team to provide exceptional experiences for targeted visitors and superb visibility, engagement and results for global brands.

Pete Allen can be contacted via LinkedIn.

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Posted in Design & Build  /  Experiential  /  Marketing  /  Stand Management

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